Newsletter English

Issue no 615 27th July 2012

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Top story

  • In this Nigeria mobile money special, there are two views of the market. Emmanuel   Okoegwale, Principal Associate, MobileMoneyAfrica identifies lack of clarity over current regulation and lack of focus on the agency network as key obstacles. In a country as large as Nigeria, the geographic spread of agents for internal remittances will be crucial. Russell Southwood took the temperature from the point of mobile money provider Paga when he talked to its CEO Tayo Oviosu.

    It’s been a year since mobile money providers in Nigeria were licensed and approved. The providers are a combination of financial institutions and independent providers. Despite the completion of the first stage of the process, the policy debate about who can take part and why continues. The policy framework of the Central Bank of Nigeria allows mobile money providers’ partners to sign up customers and mobile network operators can be partners. The industry deserves a clearer interpretation to ensure some level of certainty that must surely be the purpose of having a regulated industry.

    One of the factors contributing to a successful mobile money space is the regulatory climate. Recently UNCTAD called for uniformity in mobile money regulation in East Africa to boost financial inclusion.

    Around Africa, mobile money services are moving from being an alternative channel to becoming the main channel for providing basic financial services and payments services for the banked and unbanked. Adoption is growing at exponential rate in East Africa and some parts of Southern Africa. Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Zimbabwe are new frontiers. Recent studies showed 43% of Ugandans and 24% of Rwandans use mobile money services while Ecocash, a runaway success in Zimbabwe has ambitions to become the biggest bank in Zimbabwe.

    Some weeks ago while in Accra, the local TV stations showed mobile money services commercials back to back throughout the duration of my stay but the reality on the street is far from the glossy advertising. Agent’s outlets are difficult to locate and widely spaced out. Agents have an inadequate knowledge of the service and are not sure if the service can perform other functions aside from sales of airtime. There is a shortage of customer education materials and poor agency monitoring and oversight.

    Nigeria seems to be following the same pattern so far. Providers seem to think that all services should be like M-Pesa without considering the particular needs of the local market, its culture and patterns of internal migration. They have yet to provide the density of agent outlets required to make the services a success.

    In all the countries where mobile money had been a success, investment in agency network has been paramount followed by technology and marketing. These are the top three expenditures for providers. In Nigeria, with certain notable exceptions, it seems marketing is the largest expenditure, followed by technology and lastly, the agency network.

    A mobile money provider, just like a remittance company, has its strength in the spread and availability of the agency network. That is why international remittance providers do not try to win customers by talking about the security of their platforms. They win customers on the basis of service point availability that translate into the provider’s coverage footprint. Understanding the pattern of remittances between large cities like Lagos and other states will be crucial.

    It is early days and there is not much primary data but it may be that local conditions will mean that something much more like a person-to-person channel will be successful and this may redefine the idea of how mobile money providers work.

    The industry is still grappling with the glaring lack of knowledge where only a few of the licensed providers seems have good understanding of the task ahead. Is it a miserable future for mobile money in Nigeria? In the Indian model, micro finance payments seemed to be the driver. In Brazil, it was the extensive use of Government payments. In Kenya it was money transfers and later bill payments. What will be the Nigerian model? Only time will tell.

    Paga targeting 15 million users in three years but acknowledges that there are big challenges ahead

    Paga was launched in April 2009 but because of the lengthy licensing and approval process did not enter the Nigerian market until February 2011. Six banks were licensed and nine third party, independent providers. The most visible of these have been Paga itself, Stanbic, UBA, Transact and TETS.

    When I asked Paga CEO Tayo Oviosu about users numbers in the first week of July, he turned to his laptop and pulled off the then current figure of 128,384 users up from 100,000 at the beginning of June 2012. It aims to have 600,000 customers by the end of the year and believes it needs 1 million to be really successful. According to Oviosu:”We’re trying to be realistic about how the service will grow. We need a critical mass of agents. But we think we’ll get to a million users next year.” Beyond that he believes growth will spike upwards with it reaching 15 million in three years time. Total market? 30 million, he says.

    It currently has 850 agents in 19 cities across Nigeria. By the end of the year, it will have 1,500 agents and wants to double that in the medium-term. 90-95% of all transactions are done through agents.

    The average transaction is between N3,500-4,000 (US$22-25) and the primary services used are money transfer, bill payment and airtime purchase. It currently has 32 merchants accepting bill payment on its service including DStv, Guaranty Trust Insurance and Dealday.com. Currently there are a number of e-commerce apps and sites in Nigeria but thus far there have not been efficient payment systems.

    Paga is using its latest marketing campaign to grow people’s awareness of how to use the product and are also encouraging agents to do their own promotions in the cities they are located in.

    One of the obstacles has been the fact that the telcos felt very bruised at being excluded from the provider model and it took them a while to come back into the conversation:”It’s about churn reduction for them and therefore the development of these services remain in their financial interest. The current system allows everyone to participate and benefit.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

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

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

    Two experts discuss the challenges of mobile operators as brands:

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

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

     

telecoms

  • The raging price war among Kenya’s mobile operators is far from over. Just a day after Safaricom lowered its rates in a one-month promotion, Telkom Kenya has followed suit by introducing a daily flat rate of Sh5 that will see its subscribers make unlimited calls and send Short Message Service (SMS) within its network to increase voice traffic.

    This is a three-month offer that will allow Orange subscribers make unlimited calls and SMSs after paying the Sh5 daily subscription fee as opposed to the current Sh2 for on-net calls and Sh1 for SMS. Users will also enjoy free 10 short messages daily to rival networks.

    Mickael Ghossein, the company’s chief executive, said the firm is targeting new subscribers with the offer. “The promotional tariff targets entry level subscribers as well as mobile customers keen on quality and affordable voice services,” said Ghossein.

    The offer comes as industry regulator statistics show that Orange market share by voice has remained constant at 0.8% between September and January. In the Safaricom offer, subscribers will now pay Sh4 for calls below 60 sec, Sh3 for calls between one and two minutes, Sh2 for calls lasting between two and three minutes and Sh1 for calls running for more than three minutes.

    Communications Commission of Kenya report indicates that in the first three months of the year Orange subscribers made calls amounting to  19 million minutes within its network against 35 million minutes to rival networks. It also comes a day after Safaricom, which commands 77.3% of the voice marketshare, lowered its tariff for calls taking more than a minute within network. Airtel and yu have 13.2 and 8.7% market share respectively.

  • The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has been given two months to crack the whip on telecom companies sending unsolicited messages to their customers. The ultimatum was issued by MPs on the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) committee during a meeting with UCC last week.

    MPs Odonga Otto, Mariam Nalubega, Vicent Bagire and committee chairperson Paula Turyahikayo noted that sending unsolicited messages tantamount to "invasion of privacy."

    "Telecom companies need to be regulated. Even at midnight they send messages about winning Boda Bodas or joining some kind of lottery. This is an invasion of privacy which can lead to law suits," Otto said.

    Atiku Bernard (Ayivu) said networks of different service providers normally drop calls or suffer interruptions in the network, but don't fail to deliver unsolicited messages. The MPs want UCC to revoke licenses of repeat offenders saying the messages are used to defraud unsuspecting innocent customers.

    According to the Executive Director of UCC, Godfrey Mutabazi, UCC is in the process of drafting new terms for service providers in an attempt to improve telecom services in the country. "We are equally concerned about this issue. We shall be meeting stakeholders next week and later on the public about changes into regulating telecom companies," Mutabazi said.

    Mutabazi said UCC has imported quality of service and monitoring equipment to help monitor and enforce quality benchmarks like number of blocked and dropped calls.

    As a member of the International Telecom Union, UCC has a set of minimum acceptable standards that telecom service providers adhere to. Mobile phone users have repeatedly complained about these messages by service providers in form of news alerts, lotteries or sales promotions. These messages sometimes lead to unexplained deductions of credit from mobile phone users. UCC is mandated to effectively regulate the communications sector in order to facilitate growth of communications services for sustainable development.

  • Peter Gatkuoth Gey, state minister of Communications listen attentively when Amare Teferi (PhD), marketing manager of Tecno Mobile explains how the company employees assemble the mobile apparatus at the inauguration of the company last week. Tecno Telecom Ltd is eyeing its fourth stage of expansion, which could enable it to export to African markets from Ethiopia.

    Tecno entered the Ethiopian market in 2011 as part of its Africa strategy, which started in 2007. It began with assembling mobile devices in its factory located near Dreamliner Hotel along Gabon Street, with a monthly capacity of 60,000 units, employing 85 local and seven expatriate staff.

    A year later, the company abandoned its factory at Gabon Street and relocated to Gofa, a second phase expansion, which saw its capacity grow to 200,000 units of mobile devices a month.

    Tecno also assembles parts and accessories and is working to add local content to its devices. The new factory has four assembly lines, but only two were operational when the factory was officially inaugurated on July 17, 2012.

    The other two lines will begin assembling soon, according to Levi Girma, a minority shareholder in Tecno's local venture and vice president of the Information & Communication Technology Association.

    Tecno, which now employs 300 local and 15 expatriate staff, is planning further expansion projects, which could boost its assembly expansion to 400,000 units a month and the number of employees to 600. That is when it expects to start export to other African countries, according to Levi.

    Tecno is one of three, out of 23 licensed, that have actually commenced assembly. Four other companies are said to be in various stages of development, according to information from the Ethiopian Investment Agency (EIA).

    Smadl, another Chinese company based in Shenzhen, which began operations in Ethiopia in July 2011, with its factory around Gerji, has a assembly capacity of 3,000 devices daily, using two production lines. Currently, it assembles 11 models and employs around 100 local employees.

    On the other hand, Tana Communication Plc is a locally-owned assembler, which began assembling at the same time as Smadl with its factory in Bahir Dar,the regional capital of Amhara Regnal state With its three assembly lines, it has the capacity to assemble 4,500 to 5,000 devices daily. The company produces two mobile phone models and a fixed wireless apparatus.

    Tana targets lower-class families with its S309 and S319 models, which support FM radio and Amharic language text and sell for 400 Br.

    Tecno launched the Carlcare Service Centre for maintenance of its models, with a branch in Piazza and more to follow in Mercato, as well as other regional towns, such as Bahir Dar, Gondar, Jimma, Hawassa, Dire Dawa, Adama, and Dessie, before the end of 2012. There will also be collection centres where the mobiles will be taken to service centres.

    Its competitor, Smadl, also has service centres in Addis Abeba, Jimma, Adama, and Bahir Dar. In addition to trying to enhance production capacity and open service centres, the assembling companies are trying to outwit each other by introducing new software. While Smadl has antitheft software that will inform the owner in case a device is stolen, Tecno, together with Afmobi, is developing software to enable instant messaging without being a smartphone.

    Palmchat, as the software is dubbed, will be included in Tecno model phones and will enable online chatting and free text messaging, instantly, through the Internet. A distinguishing feature of the Palmchat is that it enables direct connection with friends in close vicinity who are also using Palmchat, according to Arif Chowdry, director of the Operator Department at Tecno.

    The competition between the assembly companies is based on finding a market competitive edge. Since technology is already out on the market from big brands like Nokia and Samsung, localisation and price competitiveness is the trend, according to Yalemzewed Negash, an expert in communication engineering.

    While both Tecno and Smadl have devices that can operate in Amharic, Oromiffa, and Tigrigna languages, Tana is opting to compete pricewise, by offering its models for 400 Br, with FM radio and Amharic texting included in the package.

    The Tecno Mobile App Challenge, a competition for application developers hosted by Afmobi, opened for registration on July 12, 2012. Tecno has set aside a 300,000 Br prize for the winners to be announced in September.

    There will be six winners in total, one for the platinum prize of 50,000 Br, two for the golden prize of 25,000 Br, and three for the silver prize of 15,000 Br. If the winners turn out to be from universities, the institutions will get the same rewards as the winning developers.

  • Umeme recently launched bill payments by Mobile Money together with real-time bank reconciliations, meaning that customers will be able to avoid disconnections caused by delayed payment reconciliations.

    The instant payment solution launched under the banner 'Touchpay Solutions', was unveiled by the ICT Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, in Kampala recently. The mobile money payments will be made through both MTN Uganda and Airtel Uganda, as well as nine partner banks. They include Bank of Africa, Barclays Bank, Centenary Bank, Citibank, Crane Bank, DFCU Bank, Post Bank, Stanbic Bank and Standard Chartered Bank.

    Rugunda said "Touchpay Solutions" was a result of a partnership that would improve service delivery to a wide range of customers. "I am extremely pleased that a utility company that is at the core of our economic development has reached out to other companies driving our economy to find common ground for the common good.," Rugunda said. "Think for a moment about customers in Rakai who had to travel to Masaka to pay their bills.

    Umeme Managing Director Charles Chapman said 'Touchpay Solutions' was designed specifically to ease the customer experience with the company, and would encourage more customers to connect to the national grid.

    Chapman said that previously when a client paid in the bank it would take a couple of days before such a payment would be reconciled with Umeme accounts and sometimes this delay would cause disconnection of power a thing he said would not happen with 'Touchpay Solutions'.

    Umeme Chief Financial Officer Selestino Babungi explained that "Touchpay Solutions" would involve payments at banks both over-the-counter and through the ATMs as well as payment by internet and phone banking.

internet

  • UbuntuNet Alliance announces that the research and education community in Zambia joined their global counterparts on Tuesday, 17th July 2012 when a team of Engineers from ZAMREN, ZESCO (the Zambian power utility company), TENET and CEC-Liquid Telecom completed installing a cross-border link between TENET and ZAMREN. With an initial capacity of 1 STM-1 (155Mbps)between the ZAMREN Network Operating Center (NOC) at the University of Zambia in Lusaka and the TENET node in Johannesburg, the link, going via Zimbabwe, forms the first research and education cross-border link in Africa.  The circuit is extended to the UbuntuNet Router in Mtunzini via the SANReN network in South Africa then uses capacity made available by TENET on the SEACOM submarine cable as onward connection to the UbuntuNet Routing Hub in London, which further connects to GÉANT – “at the heart of global research networking.”

    Commenting as soon as the link was completed, Tusu, the CEO of UbuntuNet Alliance said, “This is history in the making - the first, authentic NREN cross-border link in sub-Saharan Africa, if not the whole of Africa!”  Echoing the theme, Bonny Khunga, the CEO of ZAMREN said, “We are very happy to be the first NREN to install a research and education cross-border link in Africa.”

    In 2011, the Netherlands government, through The Netherlands Initiative for Capacity Development in Higher Education (NICHE) programme, approved a four-year project with a total value of € 2,250,000 to undertake a project called the “ICT Capacity Building Support to Strengthen Higher Education and Research in Zambia.” NUFFIC awarded the tender to implement the project to the University of Groningen, which formed a consortium with VU University Amsterdam, Radboud University and UbuntuNet Alliance. Under this project, ZAMREN is supported in terms of ICT infrastructure (including network equipment) and capacity development.
    Zambia Information and Technology Authority (ZICTA), has also provided funding of € 350,000 for the last-mile connectivity of the three public universities to the national backbone run by the ZESCO.  ZESCO has given ZAMREN a lambda light path (1Gbps) on its fibre network to facilitate the national research and education network.

    The ZAMREN link between Lusaka and Johannesburg has been made possible through a partnership between the research and education community with CEC-Liquid Telecom, a telecommunications company with optical fibre network in most of the Southern African countries.

    Currently, the University of Zambia and the Copperbelt University are connected to the ZAMREN NOC. Mulungushi University will be connected in due course as will other research and education institutions.

    Khunga said that the capacity of the link between Lusaka and Johannesburg will be upgraded according to demand.

    ZAMREN is the 4th NREN to connect to UbuntuNet Alliance infrastructure after TENET, KENET (Kenya) and TERNET (Tanzania). This now means that researchers, lecturers and students in Zambia will be able to participate fully in global research and education networking activities. With the ongoing implementation of the AfricaConnect project more cross-border links will follow.

  • Africa will now have its own Internet domain name; dot Africa, in the next 18 months.
    This is after the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) completes its evaluation for over 500 applications from various Registry Operators across Africa who have shown interest to run and manage the domain name.

    ICANN, which is the global company responsible for allocating Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and managing the systems, will give its final decision in the first quarter of 2013.

    Kenya Internet Governance Steering Committee chair at the Ministry of Information Alice Munyua said the name will help market African investors to the outside world through the Internet.

    "Dot Africa is a top level domain name, similar to what we have here in Kenya, dot ke; like the way we use gmail.com, yahoo.co.uk and so on. So this is going to be a very new top level domain name that identifies Africa as a whole region," said Munyua.

    The successful applicant is required to release details on how individuals and organisations from various parts of the continent can go about registering with the name.

    Legal and Policy Manager at South African based company UniForum, Neil Dundas, sought to defend his firm after the African Union (AU) endorsed it to be selected by ICANN.

    He instead said ICANN has the final word and that whoever wins will be monitored for five years and if proved incapable, the management will be given to another domain Registry company from any company in the continent.

    "We have tried our best to work with the African stakeholders including the African Union Commission, to ensure that South Africa is not seen as a monopoly on this," clarified Dundas.

    He said Kenya is going to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the initiative, due the rapid increase in the use of Internet especially by the business community to sell their products and services online.

  • Airtel has launched its 3.75G mobile internet in Malawi and Madagascar, which offers fastest information transfer. According to a statement released by Airtel, the launching of the 3.75G is an upgrade from the current third generation (3G) data service in the two countries.

    Airtel Malawi managing director Saulos Chilima said that the upgrade to 3.75G would enable the company provide the fastest data speeds in the country. Airtel will offer maximum internet speeds of up to 21 megabits per second (Mbps) from the current maximum of 7.2Mbps and the improved technology will allow users to make video calls, fast download of information and data. Chilima said that this data service being offered from the 3.75G network infrastructure is the widest, largest, the best and most affordable in Malawi.

    Airtel has invested US$5.2 million to upgrade its network infrastructure to 3.75G.
    The company's 3.75 G network upgrade comes just a few months after Airtel Malawi was awarded the best mobile data operator accolade in Southern and East Africa in December 2011 by the African Telecom People .

    Speaking during the launch in Blantyre, Minister of Information and Civic Education, Moses Kunkuyu described the upgrade as a revolution to mobile internet users as they will now access information on their handsets and other mobile devices even faster than before. Kunkuyu said the issues of internet are no longer a luxury, but a necessity.

    "Internet is proving to be focal points of any aspect of development in the world hence the need to make it easily accessible through such latest technologies which improve internet speeds even in Malawi," he said.

  • Tanzania’s state-owned fixed line PTO Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) is looking to strike deals with neighbours such as Mozambique and landlocked Burundi, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia, to sell them internet bandwidth on its National Information Communications Technology Broadband Backbone infrastructure (NICTBB). As part of a strategy designed to maximise the potential of the country’s backbone network, TTCL’s marketing manager Mr Nicodemus Mngutu is quoted by local paper the Business Standard that the carrier sees the sale of internet bandwidth as a vital commodity, adding that TTCL is banking on the resilience of the network (it enjoys a reliability rating of 99.8% compared to the region average of sub-70%) to develop fresh revenue streams.

    In an interview, Mngutu said: ‘Now that the NICTBB has reached all border points of the country, and that we have already illustrated capability by getting the USD6.7 million contract to supply 1.244GB of internet bandwidth to Rwanda for ten years, we are eyeing more markets of the inland countries which can take advantage of our complete network.’ The TTCL man went on to say that landlocked neighbours in particular face an uphill challenge in securing access to low cost international connectivity. ‘This purchase of bulk international capacity on regional and international networks will significantly boost our vision to make bandwidth available to such markets,’ he said.

computing

  • Small to medium enterprises have been urged to utilise new information technology software in order to improve business efficiency. Pastel (South Africa) product manager Alfred Nhira said most companies in the country, especially the smaller businesses, were using antiquated technologies. He was speaking at a recent IT seminar hosted by Omni Africa.

    "Most of the software programmes that most companies are still using are now outdated, inasmuch they are costly to maintain and difficult to use as well as susceptible to being broken into," said.

    "This therefore has a very large bearing on the performance of the company since a lot of time will be wasted on unnecessary procedures." Participants at the seminar praised such outings as they went a long way in curbing unnecessary and avoidable losses due to failure to adapt to a fast moving technological world.

    "This is a great wake-up call for us as businesses, sometimes it is not about that you have doing the job right but accepting that something can do that even better and accepting change even at a higher cost," said one participant. Nearly 150 participants attended the event.

    Omni Africa chief executive officer Munyaradzi Mazhande said the company was likely to hold a similar seminar before the end of the year. Last week's event was the third of its kind by the company having successfully hosted the first one in Bulawayo last year and another one earlier on this year.

  • ON the heels of the global software contest powered by Microsoft Corporation which held in Sydney, Australia a fortnight ago, the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) has flagged off this year's edition of the National Software Competition, in collaboration with the Cross River State Government.

    In addition, ISPON also named immediate past EVC of NCC, Engr. Ernest Ndukwe the "Distinguished Knowledge Ambassador" for the software contest whose grand finale will hold at the National Software Competition and Conference slated for October.

    It would be recalled that last year's contest, which held at the Tinapa Resort in Calabar, was also sponsored by Cross River State Government

    Describing Ndukwe as a knowledge champion in ICT whose leadership of the telecoms regulator, NCC re-awakened the nearly comatose communications profession and industry in Nigeria, ISPON President, Chris Uwaje while flagging off the national software competition told journalists that Nigerian IT professionals and youths have in the past decade recognized the potentials of software as a dynamic tool to change the world with and resolve the many challenging ambiguities associated with life and development.

    Optimistic that the event will actualize potentials of Nigerian software initiative, he recalled that last year's competition unexpectedly threw up Abia State Polytechnic as winners of the national software competition cup, adding "and that is some of the lessons learned from ICT knowledge development process. That is, anything can happen -- all nations have equal chances to emerge winners," he explained.

    Meanwhile, Governor Imoke who was represented at the press conference by his Special Assistant on ICT, Henry Asor noted that national software policy engineering was important in achieving Vision 20-2020 and the mission of re-branding and transforming Nigeria.

    Chairman, Open Media Group, Engr. Ernest Ndukwe, ISPON President, Mr. Chris Uwaje and the Personal Assistant on IT to the governor of Cross River State, Henry Asor jointly present the trophy for this year's National Software Conference and Competition, TINAPA 2012.

    Incubation and development of software, he said, was imperative for enhancing productivity, creating new jobs, enabling more efficient businesses, producing higher quality of goods and services, and leading to greater innovation for the creation of wealth.

    He said that the theme for this year and the apointment of Engr. Ernest Ndukwe as Distinguished Knowledge Ambassador were both significant and timely as it seeks to promote conscious national awareness on the imperatives for developing Nigeria's indigenous intellectual property in the software knowledge space.

    "It is our belief that this knowledge conference and competition adventure will unleash the currently suppressed ideas and creativity of Nigerian software professionals and the entrepreneurial spirit and skills of our teeming youths, as well as create the platform for beneficial networking and business attractions.

    "Cross River State Government is happy to partner with ISPON and other industry players to raising the bar for quality of the conference and ensuring a memorable, beneficial and sustainable experience," he added.

    In his response, Engr. Ndukwe expressed happiness for the honour done him by ISPON, and promised to work with the software group in preparing youth for global challenges.

    His words: " I am excited with this honour. I will work with ISPON to see these youths are encouraged for global challenges. I am very passionate about youth empowerment. What is most important now is capacity building; I haver always hoped that Nigeria can lead other African countries in IT capacity building. It is important to replicate the success of telecommunication in the software arena.

    Speaking further, ISPON president, Chris Uwaje said the Cross River State Government is committed to raising the bar for quality of the conference and ensure a memorable, beneficial and sustainable experience.

    "One of the key factors behind last year's success was the quality and range of individuals and organisations spread across Africa, Asia and the Americas. This enriched the Round table Interactive sessions and breath-taking presentations. The central challenge for 2012 is how to improve on the milestone and success of last year's conference and competition. This is why we have completely re-strategized and revamped the entire branding, speaker, panel of judges, and faculties.

    Theme of the contest and conference, Cloud and the Future of Software Nigeria, Uwaje said, addresses the overriding mission of ISPON national software conference/software competition for tertiary institutions geared towards promoting conscious national awareness on the imperatives for developing Nigeria's indigenous intellectual property in the software knowledge space.

    It also aims to harness our collective IT potentials, resources, capacity and capability as a national priority for global competitiveness, he added. "We want to assure all the participants of an inspirational experience. This, amongst other things is what informed the selection of the current theme which is designed to explore some of the most critical challenges of the software profession and industry namely: software in the cloud and what Nigeria must do to survive," he said.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • United Nations officials in Nairobi have denied that a Sh800m contract for Internet services in Gigiri is being improperly awarded.

    UN Information Director Nasser Ega-Musa has now advised, "A contract has yet to be awarded and... at all stages this procurement action will have complied with UN Regulations and Rules and as a result the successful vendor will have submitted a timely bid that was subsequently subjected to a rigorous and comparative technical and financial evaluation."

    Seven bids were recorded at the opening bid on February 2 by the UN Procurement office with five bidders in attendance. Access was not among them. "On 6 February, 2012 it was discovered that two additional bids had arrived at the UNON Security Gate prior to the bid closing time, but the individuals delivering them were not allowed in by the UNON Security Officers. The bids were subsequently presented at the Security Gate and forwarded to Procurement Services on 3 February, 2012," he explained.

    Ega-Musa said the additional two bids were forwarded for evaluation which was completed on June 15. Seven companies tendered and were present when the bids were opened on February 2. They were KDN ( Altech), Frontier Optical Networks (FON), Emerging Markets Communication (EMC), Jamii Telecom, MTN Business, Safaricom and Telkom Kenya (Orange).

    Access Kenya Group Communication Manager Kevin Keya has insisted that they submitted their bid properly on February 2, 2012. "Access Kenya Group tendered properly for the fiber internet link within the specified period and we are waiting for the communication from UN like the rest of the companies. What our team did not do is to go for the opening of the tender bids on February 2. However, they were submitted as per instructions. So far we have no official communication from UN that we have won the tender," stated Keya.

    However their rivals are still unhappy about the participation of Access. "The tender details specified that bids had to be submitted to the Procurement Office by 2pm on February 2. The bids were then opened at 3pm. Seven companies managed to submit their bids in time. The fact is that Access was not compliant," said an official of one company. "The tender documents clearly state that 'delivery of tenders to any other UNON office other than stipulated will not constitute delivery'. Access should either be disqualified or the tender should be cancelled and re-advertised," said the official.

  • South Africa-based Vodacom Group has reported consolidated revenues of ZAR17.02 billion (USD2.08 billion) for the three months ended 30 June 2012, up 9.3% on the corresponding year-earlier period. The carrier’s domestic unit, Vodacom South Africa, accounted for ZAR14.01 billion of total sales (up 3.5% year-on-year), with international operations generating a further ZAR3.10 billion (up 46.2% y-o-y). In operational terms, Vodacom South Africa remains the firm’s largest unit by subscribers, with 37.661 million customers reported at the end of June, of which figure 30.970 million are classified as ‘active’. Of the latter figure, 25.284 million are pre-paid users. Elsewhere, Vodacom units in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Lesotho all increased their active subscriber bases in the three months ended 30 June. Tanzania grew its user base 18.4% to 10.27 million users, whilst Mozambique weighed in with 2.70 million customers (up 31.5%) and Democratic Republic of Congo contributed 6.24 million subscribers (up 47.0%). Finally, Lesotho grew its mobile base to 966,000, an annual rise of 37.6%.

    Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys commented: ‘Overall this was a good quarter with a particularly strong performance from our international operations supporting group service revenue growth of 8.7%. The connectivity revolution is well underway with close to 16 million customers actively using data, up 43% from the prior year. In South Africa, one of our key advantages is the size and reach of our network. Given the increasingly competitive environment, quality and capacity both set Vodacom apart and give us the means to compete with targeted value promotions. As an example ‘Vodacom4Less’, ‘NightShift’ and more recently ‘Power Hour’ tap into excess capacity on our network during slack periods and translates this into very competitive prices for our customers. Other customer groups are driven by entirely different things such as compelling data promotions and have benefitted from the reduction in the average effective price per megabyte of 26%’.

  • Nedbank, the financial services partner in Vodacom’s M-Pesa mobile payments initiative, says it is “disappointed” that the service hasn’t taken off as fast as it had hoped for but it remains committed to the venture and will introduce new products and streamlined services soon in an effort to grow the active user base.

    Nedbank chief information officer Fred Swanepoel says there are about 1m M-Pesa users in SA, but he says the active user base is “disappointing”.

    Vodacom has enjoyed far faster growth in M-Pesa in Tanzania. By the end of June, Vodacom in Tanzania had 3,6m M-Pesa customers, an increase of more than 120% over a year ago. M-Pesa contributes more than 70% of Vodacom Tanzania’s total data revenue and 12,3% of service revenue.

    In Kenya, where M-Pesa was pioneered by Vodacom sister company Safaricom, the service continues to enjoy strong growth in a market where banking institutions are not well developed.

    Despite the relatively poor performance of M-Pesa in SA, Swanepoel says Nedbank “remains committed” to its partnership with Vodacom and hints that there will soon be improvements to the service to help grow demand among consumers.

    Anton de Wet, Nedbank’s managing executive for client engagement, says the bank plans to introduce a prepaid bank card linked to M-Pesa accounts “fairly soon”. It also plans to allow M-Pesa users to withdraw cash at any of its point-of-sale devices in retail stores. They can already use the bank’s ATMs to withdraw cash.

    De Wet says he thinks M-Pesa hasn’t been as successful in SA as it has in other markets because of the country’s “regulatory framework”. But, he says, “you will see announcements fairly soon that make it easier to register for M-Pesa and also to bridge this completely virtual world of pure mobile with a linked prepaid bank card.”

  • Nedbank, the financial services partner in Vodacom’s M-Pesa mobile payments initiative, says it is “disappointed” that the service hasn’t taken off as fast as it had hoped for but it remains committed to the venture and will introduce new products and streamlined services soon in an effort to grow the active user base.

    Nedbank chief information officer Fred Swanepoel says there are about 1m M-Pesa users in SA, but he says the active user base is “disappointing”.

    Vodacom has enjoyed far faster growth in M-Pesa in Tanzania. By the end of June, Vodacom in Tanzania had 3,6m M-Pesa customers, an increase of more than 120% over a year ago. M-Pesa contributes more than 70% of Vodacom Tanzania’s total data revenue and 12,3% of service revenue.

    In Kenya, where M-Pesa was pioneered by Vodacom sister company Safaricom, the service continues to enjoy strong growth in a market where banking institutions are not well developed.

    Despite the relatively poor performance of M-Pesa in SA, Swanepoel says Nedbank “remains committed” to its partnership with Vodacom and hints that there will soon be improvements to the service to help grow demand among consumers.

    Anton de Wet, Nedbank’s managing executive for client engagement, says the bank plans to introduce a prepaid bank card linked to M-Pesa accounts “fairly soon”. It also plans to allow M-Pesa users to withdraw cash at any of its point-of-sale devices in retail stores. They can already use the bank’s ATMs to withdraw cash.

    De Wet says he thinks M-Pesa hasn’t been as successful in SA as it has in other markets because of the country’s “regulatory framework”. But, he says, “you will see announcements fairly soon that make it easier to register for M-Pesa and also to bridge this completely virtual world of pure mobile with a linked prepaid bank card.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom has launched a new promotion Wakenya Tuongee with discounts of up to 75% on their calling rates.The customers pay Kshs. 4 for the first minute of their call, Kshs.3 for calls between 1 and 2 minutes and Kshs. 2 for the calls that last between 2 and 3 minutes. Calls that last for more than 3 minutes will be charged at Ksh. 1.It runs from the 24th of July to 23rd of August 23 2012 and will only apply to Pre-Paid customers making Safaricom-to-Safaricom calls from 6am to 6pm. Customers will be required to subscribe to the it by dialing *777# to enjoy the promotion which will be charged on a per second billing basis.

    - Airtel, launched the 'Super 10' product and the 'Smile with Airtel Volume2' on Monday July 23. The double launching which attracted over 200 Airtel retailers also had winners of past promotions conducted by the telco in attendance. The product was named Super 10 because of its added value. With this product, subscribers can now buy just 10 units credit for just Le 400 and out of that one can make two Airtel to Airtel calls and send one SMS and also for any 10 units bought under the super 10, you'll receive 20 units.The product is a permanent offer. Despite all the goodies of the new product, subscribers will be able to do the 'Me2U' top up system under the new product.  The subscribers will automatically be enrolled for the promotion with only 400 units in a week.

    - Vodacom's M-pesa has launched a new offer that enables its users to receive 1,000/- bonus airtime every time they purchase Luku through the e-money service. Vodacom Tanzania said that the new airtime bonus on purchase of Luku would be available for use for two days, including the day of the recharge, and will be used for on-net calling and national SMS services. The offer aims at enticing customers to use the service, which he described as fast and secure, in not only sending and receiving money but also paying utility bills.

    - According to The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) at the end of June 2012, Rwanda has 4,759,130 wireless subscribers, up from 4,453,711 three months previously. The regulator had previously projected that the number will increase to more than six million by the end of the year, although at the current growth rate this appears unlikely. The country’s newest operator, Airtel, added 55,000 customers in May and a further 55,000 in June, outstripping its rivals MTN (46,000 net additions in June) and Tigo (38,800 net additions in June).

    - Telecoms Networks Malawi (TNM) Limited has announced that it will be increasing base tariff by an average of 19.5% from August 1, 2012.

Digital Content

  • ELECTRONIC tax registers will soon be connected to a central server at Kenya Revenue Authority headquarters to help in real time monitoring of transactions for fraud detection.

    KRA commissioner general John Njiraini said on Friday that the authority is in the process of setting up a system that will remotely transmit ETR data to a central device, a move which will also reduce the need for a large workforce normally used to conduct inspections at various businesses. "The main problem in management of ETR is monitoring who is using it and when or which machine is connected and which is disconnected," explained Njiraini.

    There have been cases where some retailers opt not to use the registers sometimes; only connecting the machines when an inspection by the authorities is imminent. "The usage of ETR machines has not been as good as we would want," added Njiraini. KRA in 2006, directed that all those supplying taxable goods or services should install ETR machines at their business premises to record sales and store tax information at the time of sale.

    The move was made to improve collection of value added tax under the domestic taxes department. When the issue was first introduced in the 2004 budget speech, KRA clashed with traders on the mandatory requirement to install ETRs with the business community engaging it in a series of legal battles and demonstrations opposing the use of the machines.

    KRA which is faced with the task of collecting higher revenues for the devolved government system, plans to launch its new corporate plan on Friday which will among other things establish the tax gap in the country. Tax gap is the difference between taxes owed and taxes paid. With a central monitoring system, Njiraini said, traders whose ETR machines show abnormal shift in transactions or long periods of non usage will have to explain their activities and may be liable for penalties.

    The use of ETR among other measures have strengthened the domestic tax revenues which are always the highest compared to other tax departments every year. Data released by the tax authority on Friday for the last financial year 2011/2012 show that domestic taxes collected stood at Sh464.9 billion accounting for over 50 per cent of all the taxes collected over the period which was a total of Sh707.4 billion. Indirect domestic taxes which include VAT however dropped by 3.7 per cent over the previous year's collection to stand at Sh130.8 billion.

  • Cameroon plans to send daily emails and text messages to electricity customers asking if they have experienced power cuts, in a bid to get a handle on its crippling blackouts, officials said Wednesday. (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

    Cameroon plans to send daily emails and text messages to electricity customers asking if they have experienced power cuts, in a bid to get a handle on its crippling blackouts, officials said Wednesday.

    Customers in Douala, the economic capital, who sign up for the new programme will receive an email or SMS every day asking: “Did you experience power cuts yesterday, and if so, how many and for how long?”

    The programme, due to launch in October, will be “a kind of permanent survey”, its backers said. The project — known as Feowl, for “fuel owl” — is being funded by journalism watchdog group the International Press Institute.

    “In economic terms, it will be a godsend for companies, which will be able to precisely analyse the risk of power cuts before deciding what neighbourhood to set up in,” said one of the project’s organisers, Nicolas Kayser-Bril.

    “For journalists and civil society, it will bring a new element to the debate” on the southern city’s frequent power cuts, Kayser-Bril said.

    Despite its huge potential to produce hydroelectric energy, Cameroon has a massive power deficit that causes frequent blackouts, undermining the economy.

    Workers broke ground last month on a 201-megawatt Chinese-backed hydroelectric dam expected to become operational by 2017. –AFP

  • EVERYBODY is wondering what is happening in the Nigerian internet market. Surprising, more than 40 million Nigerians are on the internet and most of them use mobile applications. A lot of these people also shop online. They understand that online is convenient as it offers freedom to make sound decisions and options for window shopping.

    It also offers them wide contacts and the chances of being cheated is limited as compared to the ordinary market.

    With these wide opportunities, several online shops owners want to reap from the internet benefits. And one of the online revolutions likely to upset things is the auto markets in Nigeria. This is what the American born Nigerian, Mrs Oluwatomi Hodonu, 30, general manager of Cheki.com.ng and her marketing manager, Stanley Ezeani, told Vanguard in their office at Lekki, Lagos.

    Oluwatomi returned in January 2011 to Nigeria from the United States where she was born. She has insurance background but is now into online auto market. Shwe said: "Cheki is basically an online company where we do buying and selling of cars. So as consumers, you can go on line and look for cars that you want without having a middleman. You can check the cars, research on the cars you need and it can be sold to you.

    So we actually want to be a marketplace for cars where if you want to sell a car or you want to buy a car, you go to Cheki website. If you want to buy electronics, where would you go? Which market would you go. You would say Alaba. But in the next couple of years, when people say I want to buy a car, what they will say is check Cheki, go online.

    The company began about a a year ago in Nigeria. It has over 40 staff capacity. It has firm roots in Kenya where it is East Africa's top online auto car dealer. Oluwatomi studied communications, legal practice, economics and government in the university. She was also in a marketing company. When she got married, her husband asked her to return to Nigeria. She said: "He wanted me to come home.

    So I came to Nigeria. Before I moved to Nigeria, I had the opportunity to come and be the head of the marketing team in Nigeria." In the US, Oluwatomi interacted with Nigerians and through them got to know much about the country. In US, there was nothing that I didn't know about Nigeria because my parents and I went to the Redeemed church.

    So there are Nigerians everywhere. I went to college there and we had African Students Association. In America, those associations were mostly Nigerians. So, we also had Nigerian students associations, a place we joined together, talked together. So most of my closest friends are still Nigerians."

    So, how do they buy cars in US? "Abroad," Oluwatomi said: "If I want to buy a car, I go to auto checker. Auto checker is something like Cheki. Everybody abroad knows auto checker because before I go to the dealership, even if I want to go checking the car, I still will go to auto checker to get the average price because I am a female, which Cheki does for females.

    Also, I go to auto checker to check the location the car is. So, if I want to go the dealership, I went online. How much the automatic costs. How much the manual costs. And so there is nothing like because I am a female, they will cheat me. So because of the online experience I have, because I have already done all my home works online, I call the dealers. Even as I am a female, they will still treat me the same way.

    This is what we want to do in Nigeria also. So if you want to buy a car, you don't have to go call a friend or call somebody that you want to buy a car, can you send it down to me? If you check on Cheki, we already have prices if you are ready to import. These are people who are selling cars abroad. You can also contact us."

    At the mention of cars, Ezeani explained how the website works. "They are like classified advertisement. They send pictures of the cars down and we help them sell these cars through Cheki. It doesn't really matter where you are. What matters is that you get what you want.

    Some people call from abroad. They want to buy. They say they check online and pay for the car. Cheki is more like the palm for auto market in Nigeria where everybody can sell or buy cars. All you have to do is come in and upload your car. We charge to upload cars. And it is subject to the car you want to upload. The more the cars the lesser the price."

    Online sales, he added, reduces the stress of traffic, the middleman who adds extra to the cost of cars. "Online, you have dealers who sell the cars. You are sure of what you buy. You are sure these cars are secured. You see cars depending on the kind of cars you are looking for. You see a place you can search for a kind of cars you are looking for."

    Oluwatomi opened the site, began to browse and Ezeani continued: "When we were setting up the portal, we took cognizance of the challenge of the Nigerian website. With that, we built a structure that can allow easy upload, even the pictures. We have over 10, 000 to 15, 000 car inventories.

    The website can open, not just from your laptop, it can open on the mobile version as well. You can actually search from your phone. The speed is convenient enough compared to other normal websites in Nigeria with such normal pictures."

    "You can search for whatever car you are looking for. Let's say you want to buy a corolla. You go to Toyota. The search process is made easy. For example, you are searching 2010 brown Toyota corolla. You connect your search to what you want. You have options.

    You can put in your budget also. So, if I am looking for something not more than N3m....You see, the website is fast...you see the classification. Whether it is new or tokunbo, Nigerian used. If you click on the car, it will tell you where the car is locate," Tomi took over.

    "In Nigeria, most people park their cars somewhere and say 'Buy Me'. But the only person that will see that car is the person passing that way. But we have avenue for you to check it up. You don't have to go Berger. I don't know where Berger is," she added.

    Dealers may their own websites Ezeani said, adding, "What Cheki does is to bring potential buyers and sellers together and make sure there is no problem between them. We make sure there is physical verification of the cars. The cars are in existence.

    Before transaction takes place, both of them must meet each other to some point. At the point of physical verification, you see the car.

    You know who is buying the car. And before cars are uploaded on Cheki, we make sure that we see these cars. So we also go out to check these cars. We have over 700 dealers in Nigeria. We have one on one relationship with them."

  • Dar es Salaam — The much awaited Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTS) that is aimed at ensuring and monitoring the movements and safety of cargo started operations on July 1 this year after a three months trial.

    Speaking exclusively to East African Business Week in Dar es Salaam last week the Acting Director-Taxpayers Service Mr. Allan Kiula said that ECTS, a system which is being overseen by Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) has been on trial in order to prove its capability and safety of consignments in Tanzania.

    He said the ECTS was introduced after many complaints about the delays and check-points experiences being undergone by traders in delaying their transit consignments in the country.

    "We have had specific time of traders carrying these consignments to reach these check points, failing which a fine was imposed on such traders considering also that there were delays in documents clearance in these checkpoints which were delaying both the traders time and affecting their businesses," Mr. Kiula said.

    He said with the effective and smooth operation of ECTS from July 1 this year, will mean that consignments will be delivered on time while the security of such consignments will also be improved.

    Mr. Kiula noted however when asked about the high taxes some industries in Tanzania are complaining off as one of the reasons making Tanzania unfriendly to business in the region, said claims were due to a wrong perception being planted in the minds of some business men and investors which needs to be reversed.

    He said the government of Tanzania was trying the best to make sure that it creates an environment that will be conducive to business people especially investors coming in to invest in the country by making reduction of VAT from the previous 20% to the current 18% which is what other EA member states charge with an exception of Kenya which has a 16% VAT.

More

  • - Samsung Electronics SA has appointed Matthew Thackrah to the newly created position of deputy MD, just weeks after the sudden resignation of MD Deon Liebenberg, who left the Korean consumer electronics giant to take the reins at Telkom Business Mobile.

    - Ghana’s President Mahama has extensive experience in communications. He’s been involved in the deregulation of Ghana’s telecoms sector and has been an advocate of e-government and competition among Internet operators.

    -Executive reshuffle to clear hurdle of Telecom’s takeover of Leo

    Government-owned incumbent PSTN operator Telecom Namibia’s managing director Frans Ndoroma has resigned as CEO of state holding company Namibia Post and Telecommunication Holdings Limited (NPTH), in order to satisfy one of the conditions of Telecom’s proposed takeover of cellco PowerCom (Leo) stipulated by the Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC). Patience Kangueehi–Kanalelo has also resigned as NPTH company secretary to satisfy the NaCC’s conditions. Ndoroma will remain as MD of Telecom Namibia; Christa Muller assumes the role of acting CEO of NPTH.

    Final approval for the merger is still awaited from the independent telecoms watchdog, the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN), which, as reported by The Namibian newspaper, took a board decision on 7 June stating that the transfer of Leo to Telecom Namibia is subject to a legislative amendment to the Post and Telecommunications Companies Establishment Act of 1992, which makes way for a partial privatisation of Telecom via which not less than 25% of shares must be sold. The CRAN has, in principle, conditionally approved the transfer of Leo’s telecoms service licence, electronic communications network/services and spectrum usage licences to Telecom as the sole shareholder; Telecom must submit a formal application for the transfer of licences before the transaction is officially considered, while it may file a petition against the condition regarding its partial privatisation within 90 days of its issuance. If its takeover of Leo is not approved, Telecom will look to set up its own GSM/W-CDMA-based mobile operator, separate from its struggling CDMA-based wireless division, the company has stated. However, it has also pointed out that disallowing the merger would make it difficult for Telecom and fellow market struggler Leo to each find the capital to invest sufficiently in order to compete effectively in the small Namibian market with the runaway leader, MTC. Telecom claims therefore that the merger is pro-competition rather than anti-competitive.

  • Managed Services World Congress 2012
    18 – 19 September 2012, Maritim Pro Arte Hotel, Berlin, Germany
    With Managed Service business models evolving in new and exciting directions, it’s time to reassess the market and your place in it. Managed Services World Congress – the biggest global MS event – is the perfect place to bring leading players together and address these issues. With a 50% operator audience, and 65% CXO / Director level attendance, there is no better opportunity to meet new and existing clients. It’s a must-attend event for anyone looking to maximise the value of their technology, their networks and their brand in today’s evolving MS world. FREE PASSES FOR OPERATORS. For more information visit here:

    Broadband World Forum

    16 – 18 October 2012, Amsterdam RAI Convention Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    The event, now in its 12th year, is the most respected in the regions Telecoms calendar and the comprehensive agenda includes breakfast briefings, 3 co-located summits,  keynote plenary sessions and a choice of 4 tracks for delegates each day as well as the world class exhibition area. For more information please click here:

Issue no 614 20th July 2012

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Top story

  • Mobile number portability schemes in Africa have not yet been a real success. There are a variety of reasons, including multiple phone ownership. But Ghana’s NCA has been running a scheme for a year now and has done a review of how well it has worked. Russell Southwood looks at the winners and losers.

    The National Communications Authority (NCA) introduced Mobile Number Portability (MNP) on 7 July 2011. It allows Ghanaian mobile customers to move from one mobile service provider to another whilst retaining their entire mobile number. This kind of ability to move from one operator to another is essential to getting more competition, particularly in markets where one operator is dominant.

    What usually makes MNP schemes fail is the time taken to port the number to the new operator. At the inception of MNP, customers were promised a maximum porting time of 24 hours. Very quickly, the average time to complete a porting request reduced to 5 hours, 21 minutes in the first month of MNP operation, and subsequently to 2 hours, 37 minutes by April, 2012.

    By June 2012, average porting time had dropped to 1 hour, 24 minutes. The most recent data available to us today shows typical porting times between 2 to 22 minutes, with average in the range of 7 to 8 minutes. This means that a request can often be submitted and the entire process completed while the customer is at his new network’s premises.

    Mobile customers who wish to change networks without changing their number need only bring their mobile phone (with SIM) and an ID to a shop or agent of the network they wish to join. It is important, however, for the customer to understand that they will be leaving their current network. Any remaining credit in that account will be lost, and their old SIM will stop working. Customers are also reminded to copy any contact numbers they have stored on their old SIM, though it is usually possible to do this even after porting was completed and the SIM deactivated.
    NCA has received complaints about agents in the field, acting on behalf of various mobile networks, misinforming or deceiving customers regarding the porting process.

    One of the biggest problems has been phone agents trying to mislead customers. For example, they have tried to tell customers that they can have the same number on both networks or that the networks have merged. Worse, agents have been charging switching customers for a new SIM when that is not needed. It does not say much either for agents’s honesty or for their ability to help customers with technical issues.

    Regulator NCA, which is responsible for the scheme, has set up a complaints procedure for those who are unable to get their number ported. Web site:  Email: complaints@nca.org.gh Phone: 030 701 1419 Facebook: MNP Ghana (group page)

    In the first year of MNP operation, 370,107 mobile numbers have been successfully ported by customers in Ghana. This represents 1.6% of the total active mobile numbers in Ghana. The success rate of porting requests in the first year was 75%.

    Whilst all operators gained and lost subscribers, the biggest net loser was MTN which lost 125,361 subscribers, 1.13% of its overall base. The biggest net gains were recorded by Tigo (68,230 net new subscribers) and Vodafone (43,492 net new subscribers).

    African mobile subscribers have proved extremely reluctant to move from their existing provider, particularly the dominant provider. Even in those countries where Quality of Service surveys show the dominant provider has below average service quality, consumers rarely act on this information. Until now, the main reason has been the fear of losing the number that most people contact you on. With MNP that barrier has now been removed.

    However, like all major changes, it will require a major consumer awareness programme on radio and television before consumers take advantage of this new route to getting best service.

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

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

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

    Two experts discuss the challenges of mobile operators as brands:

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

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

More

  • Managed Services World Congress 2012
    18 – 19 September 2012, Maritim Pro Arte Hotel, Berlin, Germany
    With Managed Service business models evolving in new and exciting directions, it’s time to reassess the market and your place in it. Managed Services World Congress – the biggest global MS event – is the perfect place to bring leading players together and address these issues. With a 50% operator audience, and 65% CXO / Director level attendance, there is no better opportunity to meet new and existing clients. It’s a must-attend event for anyone looking to maximise the value of their technology, their networks and their brand in today’s evolving MS world. FREE PASSES FOR OPERATORS. For more information visit here:

    Broadband World Forum

    16 – 18 October 2012, Amsterdam RAI Convention Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    The event, now in its 12th year, is the most respected in the regions Telecoms calendar and the comprehensive agenda includes breakfast briefings, 3 co-located summits,  keynote plenary sessions and a choice of 4 tracks for delegates each day as well as the world class exhibition area. For more information please click here:

  • Google Apps Developer Challenge

    You can participate in the Google Apps Developer Challenge by developing new applications built using the Google Apps and Google Drive APIs. The sections below provide information about the types of applications you may enter, as well as the contest information and dates. Developers may submit their apps to one of three specially-designated competition categories beginning June 5th at 12 AM GMT. An application may only be submitted to a single category.
    Competition Regions:

        Sub-Saharan Africa
        Middle East and North Africa
        India
        South East Asia
        Latin America
        United States, Europe and rest of world

    Entry Categories:

        Enterprise / Small Business Solutions
        Social / Personal Productivity / Games / Fun
        Education / Not for Profit / Water / Food & Hunger / Health

    Criteria

        Effective use of the Google Apps and/or Google Drive APIs
        Originality of concept
        Relevance to region
        Polish and appeal
        Indispensability: Is the application compelling and/or essential?
        Use of other Google platforms and APIs

    Competition Timelines

        June 5th: Competition begins
        July 25th: Submissions window opens
        August 24th: First round submissions due
        September 13th: Semi-Finalists announced
        October 25th: Updated Semi-Final Apps re-submitted
        November 12th: Winners announced

    Judging & Awards

    First Round:
    By August 24th, all apps entering the competition must be submitted for judging. At most 10 apps from each of the 3 categories in all 6 regions (at most 30 apps total per region) will move to the semi-finals. Applications will be evaluated and ranked by a team of Google-selected internal and external judges. On September 13th, the apps moving to the semi-finals in each region will be announced.

    Semi-Finals:

    Those developers whose applications are selected for the semi-finals will have about one month to improve their applications (add features, improve stability, performance, etc). By October 25th, developers in the semi-finals will submit the final versions of their apps for judging via this website.

    At the end of the judging period, all applications in each region and category will be evaluated and ranked by a team of Google-selected judges and announced on November 12th.

    Awards:

    Prizes will be distributed as follows; all prizes are in USD:

    Round One: All teams that make it to the semi-finals in each category in each region will be awarded Chromebooks.
    Round One: In order to encourage participation from women and highlight innovations from women in the developing markets, we are adding an additional prize. If a Semi-Finalist happens to be an individual or a team consisting solely of women, that team will be awarded an additional prize of $1000 USD.
    Round One: Any university team made up entirely of student or staff of a university (identified by the university domain email address) that makes it to the semi-finals will get $1,000 .
    Semi-Finals: 1st prize in each category in each region will receive $20,000. This means that there will be a total of 18 grand prize winners
    Semi-Finals: If any team from a university wins the competition in any of the categories, the department to which the members of the team belong will win $18,000.

    Results

    Information about the winning developers and Apps will be posted to this website on or around the following dates:
    Semi-Final Round: September 13th
    Winners: November 12th

telecoms

  • As health practitioners, politicians and entrepreneurs from all walks of life gathered in London for the Family Planning Health Summit, the rest of the world commemorated World Population Day on July 11th 2012 with this year’s global theme being “Universal Access to Reproductive Health Services”. The focus of the family planning summit was to invest in family planning in order to reduce maternal deaths and improve womens and girls' health. I hope that the conference created momentum and was able to highlight this need to invest in family planning which will in turn make it a lot easier to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) 4 and 5. Target 5b of the MDG’s is to “Achieve Universal Access to Reproductive Health by 2015".

    In Uganda more than 4 out of every 10 women wish to access modern contraception to plan their family but cannot. They have an unmet need for Family Planning. Family Planning alone would reduce the country’s maternal mortality ratio by 33%. Uganda also has one of the highest teenage pregnancies in Africa. According to the UDHS 2006, one of every four pregnancies occurs in a teenager. By 15 years of age, 24% of girls and 10% of boys are sexually active (debut 16.6 for girls and 18.1 for boys). Yet only 11% of sexually active young people are using contraception. Uganda also continues to have one of the highest birth rates in Africa and one of the fastest growing populations in the world.  This no doubt poses new challenges – more so in areas such as education and health care delivery given the youthful population of  – 70% under the age of 24, 56% under 15 years.

    In partnership with Program for Accessible health Communications and Education (PACE) , Text to Change is using SMS and Interactive Voice Responses(IVR) to reach out to women as well as check with service providers to find out which women are using family planning. The project is being carried out in central, western and Northern parts of Uganda.

    The IVR are pre-recorded in four languages, three of which are local (Luo. Runyankole and Luganda) to cater for a bigger majority of the women who are unable to read or write but who can easily follow the prompts on a phone and listen to instructions on how to access family planning services in a language that they are comfortable with within their community. SMS is usually used to back up the voice and it interactive, informative and incentive based to encourage more people to use their phones to access these services. According to the project beneficiaries, this has been a service that has not only added value to their lives but has also empowered them.

    In 2011, PACE’s ProFarm franchise enabled more than thirty thousand women to receive long term family planning method (Inter Uterine devices and implants). A total of approximately 1488 have been reached by mobile phone through voice and SMS.

  • Zantel Tanzania has set aside $70 million (Tsh 110.74 billion) investment plan to expand its network to the rural areas, a move which is expected to increase competition among the mobile phone operators in the country.

    The progress comes at a time when other mobile phone operators including Vodacom, Airtel and Tigo Tanzania were recently quoted by the local media as saying that they intend to expand to rural areas, seeking for new market to boost their subscriber base.

    Zantel's Chief Executive Officer, Ali Jarsh said that their rural areas investment plan aimed at boosting wireless communication technology, 3G, mobile broadband and internet services networking. "This will see Zantel earn 20% market share in the next two years from the currently 7%," Jarsh said, which his mobile phone company currently have two million subscribers.

    Jarsh said that the two year's investment plan would also enable the mobile phone operator to rope in six million subscribers in Tanzania. "We are expecting the investment would enable Zantel to achieve its target of controlling 20% market share in the next two years, equivalent to the increase of 13%," he said.

    According to him, Zantel has already invested over $150 million (Tsh 237 billion) in the mainland since started operation in the country. "We have charted out strategies, to make sure that we narrow the market gap with other competitors in the mobile phone industry as well as internet services," he explained. Besides network expansion plan, the mobile phone operator which mainly based in Zanzibar said that it has also reduced the tariff to enable its subscribers to enjoy calling each other with affordable rate.

    The mobile phone's chief commercial officer and senior vice president for the Etisalat Group, Ahmed Mokhles said that the offer was designed to offer maximum value over voice, data and SMS and reducing prices of making calls.
    "Apart from free calls and reduced tariffs in SMS, we are now offering free 50MB for internet users in a move that aims at taking the telecom industry to a new level," he said.

  • Econet Wireless and Telecel, two of the country's three mobile phone service providers, last week refuted claims they are overcharging customers. Representatives of the companies appeared separately before the Portfolio Committee on Media, Communication and Information Technology to give evidence on the state of their operations. They said their tariffs compared favourably with those prevailing in the region.

    The companies' representatives also said they were incurring huge costs in acquiring back-up power as a result of the load shedding by Zesa. Econet CEO Douglas Mboweni said running generators was costing them US$15 million annually. On the tariffs, Mr Mboweni said it was a myth that they were overcharging.

    "It is far away from the truth and if you go to South Africa the voice calls are no less than 30 cents unless they are running a promotion of some sort," he said. Mboweni said other service providers in the region also charged rates ranging between 30 cents and 32 cents. He said the power outages were also bringing an added cost.

  • Farmers across the country will through mobile phones access up-to-date market information to help them fetch premium prices. Industry, Trade and Marketing Deputy Permanent Secretary Dr Shaban Mwinjaka said in Dar es Salaam over the weekend that farmers have bight future through improved returns on agricultural activities.

    "The programme will significantly impact on agricultural productivity, increase household incomes and improve the livelihoods of the communities," he said. The project already implemented in Shinyanga Region as a pilot project is funded by SEACOM and Dar es Salaam-based application services provider NURU Infocomm.

    The region has for a long time faced by challenges of land and environmental degradation leading to poor agricultural productivity and poverty. Dr Mwinjaka said, "The mobile technology will increase farmers' bargaining power in both the local and foreign markets in the neighboring countries--Kenya, Uganda and Zambia-that have expressed interests to adopt the programme."

    Apart from linking farmers to potential markets through short messages, the project will also provide information on weather patterns and availability of inputs.

    SEACOM Tanzania Limited Managing Director Anna Kahama-Rupia said her firm will assist in training of farmers participating in the pilot project in Shinyanga region ahead of a wider rollout across the country.

internet

  • Northern Mali, which comprises about two-thirds of the national territory, has been de facto cut off from its central government since first the Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (Mouvement National pour la Libération de l'Azawad, MNLA), then the Islamists, drove the army out of their territory, in a military defeat that precipitated the March 22 coup d'état in Bamako.

    Meanwhile, politicians are caught in a power struggle between the junta, led by Captain Amadou Sanogo who is still close to power, the constitution-designated Acting President Dioncounda Traoré, and the Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra who was appointed during the transition.

    Three and a half months after the fall of the north, there has been little progress: the Malian army is unable to get back on its feet and northern citizens are on their own against the Islamists, who are free to impose their version of Sharia or Islamic law. Online the evidence of this is mounting: a couple beaten and forced to marry  [en] for having a child out of wedlock, a citizen flogged for smoking in public, and women forced to wear the niqab.

    The humanitarian situation in the north continues to deteriorate, with a food crisis, gas shortage, cholera epidemic, and a desert locust plague all occurring. Many have no choice but to flee. Already an estimated 200,000 have been made refugees and 120,000 have been internally displaced due to the crisis, though these numbers are suspected to be higher.

    Those who remain are not sitting on the sidelines while the Islamists impose sharia: on the ground, tension is rising. Women were the first to take to the streets. In all the northern cities, the young have taken up the protest. On June 26, a demonstration against the killing of a local government official resulted in several injuries.

    On Facebook, the calls to action grow in number on the page of the Northern Citizens' Collective (COREN, Collectif des Ressortissants du Nord) or on the page Tu es du NORD et Tu es 100% Malien (You are from the NORTH and you are 100% Malian).

    These pages allow the sharing of information, like Mahamane Allimam's story below, especially as the media has limited access to the region (the following Facebook personal posts used with permission):

    I live in Timbuktu. Trips and negotiations will only give AQIM [Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb] time to recruit and torture people. Last week an AQIM car killed the water distribution company's guard. A 72-year-old man was whipped.

    Facebook is where many journalists get their information from, but on Facebook, what prevails are incisive, if not downright aggressive, comments—towards the junta, the government, the rebels, the Tuaregs, the international community, and Sarkozy.

    The latest salvo: the government's announcement of the creation of a special 1200-man brigade to secure national institutions, a move seen as assuring the return of the acting president, who has been recovering in France since he was attacked on May 21.

  • MTN Nigeria has started making use of the West African Cable System (WACS) cable by launching a range of services running on the high-capacity submarine cable. The services are managed by MTN Business and will provide high quality, low latency Internet access to wholesalers such as ISPs, Internet bandwidth resellers and carriers, as well as mobile users across the country.

    MTN Nigeria has started making use of the West African Cable System (WACS) cable by launching a range of services (image: WACS). “MTN has the unique advantage of a pre-existing extensive terrestrial Internet Protocol (IP) and broadband backbone infrastructure, enabling us to deliver high grade and highly available Internet capacity to anywhere and everywhere in Nigeria,” said Babatunde Osho, Chief Enterprise Solutions Officer for MTN.

    Osho added that the making use of the WACS cable will allow Internet users and businesses to boost their current Internet connections, as many businesses require more bandwidth, compared to a couple of years ago.

    According to The Vanguard, “the 17,200 km submarine cable system which MTN was said to have committed over $100m, takes its course from Europe through West Africa to South Africa.

    It has 15 established terminal stations along its route, including Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Republic of Congo and Namibia. Incidentally these are countries where MTN has roots.”

computing

  • Exams in Zimbabwe to be marked electronically for first time ever
    Zimbabwe’s secondary school examinations will be evaluated using the electronic marking technology for the first time ever, even as the country takes strides to completely computerize its education system.

    According to Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec), it plans to adopt e-registration for the examinations come next year. Explaining the new system, the acting director at Zimsec, Esau Nhandara said it will cover two subjects namely Mathematics Paper 1 and Integrated Science Paper 3.

    “The candidate’s responses to the examination are scanned and displayed on the computer screen. Each marker is allocated a question or part of a question to mark. On the same screen, side by side, is displayed the expected answer (marking scheme) showing where the marks should be allocated.

    “The marker’s task is simply to compare the candidate’s response to the mark scheme and award marks accordingly,”Nhandara explained.

    Zimsec project manager, John Maramba added that the e-marking programme is designed in such a way that markers who will err during the process will be automatically barred from progressing any further in the process, until a supervisor authorizes them back into the system.

    “Their supervisors are the only ones who can authorise the marker after satisfying themselves that the marker has mastered the contentious sections of the mark scheme,” he said.

    The information gathered on the system is afterwards submitted on a CD to the Zimsec regional offices where accuracy of the details will be checked -- before forwarding to head office.

    According to Nhandara, the new electronic system has already received a go-ahead from officials in the country, following a pilot test conducted with the assistance of British based Data Research Services (DRS).

  • Two decades on, Dadaab is home to many resourceful refugees who feel unable to return to Somalia Mohammed Bashir Sheik was four when he arrived at Dadaab refugee camp with his mother and sister 18 years ago. The family, along with tens of thousands of others, had fled the civil war in Somalia, looking for refuge over the border in north-east Kenya. His mother died when he was 14 and he grew up in the care of his sister.

    "Survival in the camp was particularly tough after my mother died. The ration of 6kg of maize, 300g of oil and 400g of beans to last each person for 15 days was hardly enough," he recalls.

    So far, Sheik's story chimes with the typical picture of a refugee. But that is where it ends. Meet Sheik aged 22. He has never left Dadaab, the world's largest refugee complex, but that has not stopped him learning how to create and host websites, set up a small business and teach others how to use computers.

    When he is not out interviewing people for a newspaper produced in the camp, he can usually be found in the Hag youth information and communications technology (ICT) laboratory, in a corner of Ifo2 camp, an extension of Hagadera, one of the three camps that make up the sprawling Dadaab complex.

    Two girls clad in buibui (the black shawl Muslim women wear to cover their heads) type on a mobile phone as they engage with friends on Facebook. The scene could be straight from downtown Nairobi, east Africa's ICT hub, except that this camp is 500km from the capital. The nearest town, Garissa, is 120km away - a three-hour journey on off-track roads. Visitors driving to the camp are asked to hire armed security guards for the final leg from Garissa, to ward off possible attacks from the Islamist al-Shabaab insurgency.

    But for now worries are banished as three young boys tap happily on the keyboard while Sheik teaches them how to navigate the computer. The lab is the culmination of his passion for technology. He learned how to use computers through mobile clinics brought to the camps' schools by NGOs.

    Unable to study beyond form four (the final year of secondary school), Sheik found computers offered him access to further education. He learned fluent English by chatting online, and friends he made across the world taught him further computer skills. One friend from Australia taught him basics via Skype. "It's funny that I have not met my friend in person," he says.

    A visiting journalist suggested that Sheik get a dotcom domain to enable him to design websites and earn a living. His clients have included community groups, schools and international organisations.

    "I borrowed $300 from a friend to buy a domain from a US-based company and was soon in business," he says. For web design he earns about $800 per project, while web hosting can bring in up to $300 per month. He receives this in cash, usually through third parties such as community leaders and NGOs. He has also set up a shop in a makeshift canteen in the camp, where he sells groceries and stationery.

    Computers have given Sheik - now a father of four - a means to support himself and his family. Now, he is passing on these 21st-century survival skills to the next generation. "I'm happy today that my life is testimony to how knowledge can transform whole communities not just individuals," he says.

    Sheik set up the internet hub two years ago with friends after a Danish NGO invited youth groups in the camp to submit business proposals, with a $12,000 prize for the best one. "Ours was the winning proposal, and we decided to invest the money in the project to help young people acquire computer skills."

  • As a young child, Nada Lakhal first learned to use a computer so she could email her parents whenever they left town on various trips. Since then, the 16-year-old Tunisian's technological capacities have widened considerably as she has passionately pursued the study of robotics, engineering, computer science, programming and math in school and through clubs.

    But after a three-week stay in the United States with other teenage girls passionate about technology, Lakhal has added to her knowledge of applied technology and made many lasting friendships with both her fellow participants and American students. "I see that I already gained lots of friendships, lots of knowledge, life skills," Lakhal said. "It's an experience, after all, and I'll never forget it."

    Lakhal was one of 25 teenage girls from North Africa and the Middle East brought to the United States to take part in the State Department's three-week TechGirls technological education program. As part of TechGirls, Lakhal and her peers took intensive technology courses at American University in Washington, met with business and government leaders, and experienced American culture through tours of the capital and meetings with American teenagers.

    With a passion for all things technological, Lakhal hopes to choose a profession that requires the use of technology and will give her the chance to create new devices and services. "I really want to continue working in this field. I want to invent things, make new things," she said. She dreams of one day winning the Nobel Prize.

    Aside from advancing the field of technology, Lakhal said, new inventions can also spark great social change. One only needs to look at the role Facebook played in the recent Tunisian revolution to see the power of social media, she said.

    Through TechGirls, Lakhal was introduced to app creation (the development of computer applications), the Java language and other technologies that will broaden the skill base that may someday earn her a Nobel Prize, but she also met many girls her age with whom she has developed lasting friendships.

    "I'm so glad I'm here, and I think it will be a very good experience for all the other girls," she said, reflecting on her experience with participants from North Africa, the Middle East and the United States in the course of the TechGirls program. "All the other girls from the next generation, hopefully, will [come] here and have so much fun."

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • MTN's Swaziland subsidiary is seeking SZL850 million (US$100 million) in compensation from the state-owned telco, Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) stemming from a dispute over MTN's monopoly on mobile services.

    SPTC -- which also owns a 41% stake in Swazi MTN -- launched its own mobile service in breach of their joint-venture agreement last year, although it was then forced to shut down the service following legal action by MTN.

    Swazi MTN is now seeking compensation for both the act of breaching the agreement, and the losses that it claims it suffered when customers signed up for SPTC's own wireless service.

    Previously, MTN had said that it did not object to SPTC launching a mobile service, but not while it is a shareholder in Swazi MTN as well. The government has looked at moving SPTC's stake in the local MTN network into a separate holding company to get around that issue.

    However, it has been noted by the Times of Swaziland newspaper that the compensation claim is identical to the value put on SPTC's stake in the joint-venture, suggesting that MTN may use the lawsuit as a way of breaking the joint-venture agreement.

  • StartMe.co.za, a new start-up, claims that South African entrepreneurs who have struggled to secure finance via traditional means such as bank loans can now take advantage of its new funding mechanism.

    The brainchild of South African entrepreneurs Ben Botes and Lourie Nel, StartMe is an Internet-based funding portal which enables small investors to network and pool resources to finance projects, businesses and other ventures.

    Specifically, the new venture says this involves raising capital by receiving small investments from a large cross-section of people in an Internet community, otherwise known as crowdfunding.

    The crowdfunding concept – raising small monetary stakes from a large group of investors, particularly through online communities and social networks – derives from “crowdsourcing”, whereby organisations ask the public, usually via the Internet, to do jobs typically done by their employees. The term was first coined by Jeff Howe who wrote a book on it – Crowdsourcing: Why the power of the crowd is driving the future of business.

    “While South Africa has an abundant supply of finance, accessing it can be cumbersome and challenging, particularly for the budding entrepreneur. Coupled to this, angel investment is still a relatively new concept in South Africa, with few high net worth individuals actively investing in new ventures,” said Botes.

    “The biggest issue facing entrepreneurs today is funding their ideas to fruition. Approaching banks requires that the entrepreneur follows certain eligibility criteria such as credit worthiness, security etc. This can lead to delays in getting the business off the ground and the potential of losing first-mover advantage. With StartMe the entrepreneur can raise money in just a few months to expand their business or start their business from the crowd,” the company lead said.

    “Our platform seeks to secure financing for projects in South Africa in a variety of areas, including music, cinema, visual arts, design, fashion, innovation and technology. The landing of our platform in South Africa is part of our strategy to become a regional player in Africa as Africa presents an amazing talent pool and the growth of social networking and electronic commerce have grown significantly over the last few years within the continent,” Botes concluded.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - FNB’s Cellphone Banking customers are now able to do banking on Facebook. This first in banking innovation in South Africa, enables the bank’s customers to access certain banking services while on Facebook. To access banking through Facebook, customers need to link their Facebook profiles to their Cellphone Banking profile. Once linked they can access the “FNB Banking on Facebook” application via Facebook which will allow them to check their balances, purchase prepaid products including airtime, SMS and BlackBerry bundles.

    - Former Kampala mayor Al Haji Nasser Ntege Sebaggala has sued telecom giant MTN Uganda Limited, claiming it has infringed on his copyright by using his speeches as ringtones without his authorization.

Digital Content

  • The Kenyan government’s health department, the Ministry of Health (MoH), and the United States Embassy have partnered in a project focused on pulling down the increasing cases of cervical cancer in the country.

    The two have received a contingency plan from a group of IBM workforce aimed at subduing the rising cases of cervical cancer.

    The plan recommends measures including use of district health information software to capture and analyse data on cervical cancer. Other recommendations include establishment of national reporting standards and requirements for health facilities to report cases.

    IBM country general manager for East Africa Anthony Mwai told The Standard that leveraging the existing HIV care and treatment to include cervical cancer screening is a resource-sharing model that will ensure more women can access cervical cancer diagnoses as well as improve their treatment outcomes in the short- or long-term.

    This is primarily what the IBM looks to achieve by using data to create intelligent systems that add value to life.

  • During the Arab Spring, a lot of the footage coming out of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya wasn’t taken by the major news networks but rather ordinary citizens armed with cellphone cameras. The footage spread on sites like YouTube and Facebook, creating global support for the burgeoning movements.

    The problem, of course, is that we’re not the only ones who can see the footage. Repressive governments can see it too, making video a bit of a double-edged sword. To that end, YouTube is launching a new face-blurring tool that will instantly blur out the faces of everyone in a video.

    Basically, all a savvy protester has to do is enter YouTube’s video enhancement tool and click “Blur Faces.” They then get a preview of the new blurred-out video, which they can save as a new copy. The original video can then be deleted, and the updated video can be shared without fearing for the safety of the protesters featured in it.

    YouTube says there are still a few kinks in the system, mainly that “it sometimes has difficulty detecting faces depending on the angle, lighting, obstructions and video quality.” Still, the fact that YouTube, by far the world’s biggest video-sharing site, is implementing this technology before anyone else is good news for democracy activists.

  • Security for mobile phones and laptops in the country will be enhanced after the introduction of a technology that will track the gadgets when lost or stolen. The technology uses software known as mobisecurity which is able to track mobile phones and lost laptops and computers. The device gives the exact location of the thief.

    Dr Joseph Buberwa, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chairman of RenewEarth Technologies Ltd, told 'Daily News' that the new technology will also safeguard details saved on the stolen mobile phone, laptop or computer.

    The Mobisecurity software, will however, work on original mobile phones, such as those made by Nokia, Samsung, Blackberries, iphone and not imitations of these makes or the Chinese made phones. "The Mobisecurity software can only be installed in cell phone from original manufacturers and not imitations or Chinese cell phones, and this is because of the operating systems in the original phone," he explained.

    Original cell phones, have android, Symbian, Blackberry and Windows operating systems, which would work well with the security software. Once installed into the mobile phone, laptop or desktop computer, the security software, will require the owner to identify five numbers that will be programmed with the software's in a way that if it is stolen, a message will be sent to the five numbers.

    Once installed, the owner of the phone also gets an account with RenewEarth Technologies website with a username and password. The account will have all the details in the cell phone, which can be accessed if the phone is stolen. "For a mobile phone, once the thief changes the simcard or chip a text message alert is automatically sent to the five numbers.

    The message will show the new user's number and exact location within five to ten metres of the thief," Dr Buberwa explained. With the new user's number, the owner of the phone can block, shut down the phone or have it make siren sounds without stopping or listen in on the conversation of the new user."With the software you can also have the phone send you text messages going out and coming in, of the thief or person using your stolen phone and block the functions of the phone," the CEO explained.

    For laptops and desktop computers the Micro LNTS or Lost Notebook Tracking System software installed helps track it. When stolen and once the thief or new user logs onto the Internet the software instantly identifies the IP of the computer and sends this to the email address of the owner.

    "The software remains undetected and works quietly in the background. It will also help track the user through your web account and it will also identify the location of the thief or new user," he explained. With the security software one can retrieve backed up data on the stolen laptop or Desktop, shut the computer down or block the new user from using it.

    RenewEarth Technologies plans to get into partnership with local dealers across the country, who will sell the software to the public. The local dealers including owners of Stationeries, Internet cafes, Computer shops will use Information and Technology experts trained by RenewEarth.

    In the first phase 10,000 young experts in IT will be trained across the country, on how to install the software on mobile phones, lap tops and desktop computers, who will work with the identified local dealers. "This will be the first phase. We will continue training more young experts, who will be working with the dealers to install the software on mobile phones, laptops and desktop computers," Dr Buberwa noted.

  • Although there has been phenomenal growth in cellphone ownership and use in Africa, not everybody has a smartphone and mobile broadband access through 3G or Wi-Fi remains patchy. Google is rolling out a slightly low-tech e-mail solution in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.

    As long as you have a basic mobile phone with voice and SMS capability in these three African countries, you’ll now be able to do all your emailing by text message through activating a simple setting on your Gmail account.

     “Gmail SMS automatically forwards your emails as SMS text messages to your phone and you can respond by replying directly to the SMS,” says Geva Rechav, Product Manager of Emerging Markets at Google. “You can control the emails received by replying with commands such as MORE, PAUSE and RESUME. Additionally, compose a new email as an SMS and send to any email address recipient—who will find your message in the right email conversation thread.”

    The service itself is free, although users will have to pay their network provider’s SMS charges. It is not clear where else will eventually be able to use the service, presuming it is successful in the three initial countries.

Issue no 613 13th July 2012

node ref id: 25358

Top story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

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

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

    Two experts discuss the challenges of mobile operators as brands:

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

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

     

telecoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

internet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

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

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

Digital Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More

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

  • Innovation Prize for Africa: Call for Proposals

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

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

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

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

Issue no 613 13th July 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

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

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

    Two experts discuss the challenges of mobile operators as brands:

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

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

     

telecoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

internet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

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

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

Digital Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More

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

  • Innovation Prize for Africa: Call for Proposals

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

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

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

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

Issue no 613 13th July 2012

node ref id: 25358

Top story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

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

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

    Two experts discuss the challenges of mobile operators as brands:

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

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

     

telecoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

internet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

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

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

Digital Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More

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

  • Innovation Prize for Africa: Call for Proposals

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

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

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

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

Issue no 613 13th July 2012

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Top story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

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

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

    Two experts discuss the challenges of mobile operators as brands:

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

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

     

telecoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

internet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

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

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

Digital Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More

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

  • Innovation Prize for Africa: Call for Proposals

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

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

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

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

Issue no 612 6th July 2012

node ref id: 25308

Top story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

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

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

    Two experts discuss the challenges of mobile operators as brands:

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

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

telecoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

internet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The figure represents 2.67% of the Mauritanian population.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

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

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

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

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

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

    The chief of media relations and public information, Hassan M. Jama “Heiss”, said he was “pleasantly surprised” with the news, flatly denying the acquisition.

    “Lately, the Somali media have been circulating various versions of Dahabshiil’s takeover of Telcom Somalia and that their staff have been laid-off,” he said in a statement.

    “Dahabshiil wants to make crystal clear that these rumours are far-fetched, preposterous and far from the truth. Dahabshiil has no affiliation nor interest in the affairs of Telcom Somalia,” he said.

    Hassan furthermore stated the company was committed to making a real and sustainable difference to communities in need.

    “The community has known Dahabshiil for its customer-focused-service, trustworthiness, and its commitment to wide range of community programs,” Mr. Heiss stated.

    He finally said that Dahabshiil stands ready lend a supporting hand through a wide range of initiatives, to communities wherever they might be.

    From its humble beginning as a small funds transfer company in Burao, Dahabshiil has evolved into an international success story – operating in 144 countries, with over $300 million annual revenue just 40 years after its inauguration by Mr. Mohamed Saeed Duale.

    With strong roots in its native Somaliland, Dahabshiil operates 24,000 branches worldwide and over 2,000 staff.

    Telcom Somalia is regarded as the oldest telecommunication service operator in Somalia and controls about 34 percent of the market. It provides wireless services including mobile and internet and local and long distance telephone.

  • EAC countries need to harmonize mobile money regulations to allow the expansion of such services in the region, a UN body has said.

    The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said the EAC is a world leader in mobile money transactions hence the need to study how laws governing such services are evolving.

    In a report titled Mobile Money for Business Development in the East Africa Community, UNCTAD notes: "The EAC is a world leader in offering mobile money services and hosts more than one quarter of all known such systems in Africa," says UNCTAD. "Africa has taken the lead in mobile money implementation, with about 60 mobile money services already in place, a quarter (16) of which are in the EAC. Three of the EAC platforms now have more than 1 million active subscribers. M-Pesa, operated by Safaricom of Kenya, is currently the most popular platform."

    It is because of this rapid development in mobile money systems that UNCTAD feels a robust legal framework with a regional outlook should be put in place. "Steps are needed to address concerns related to consumer protection, registration and transaction limits, regulatory collaboration and interoperability, meaning interconnection between telecommunication networks," UNCTAD says.

    "The report recognizes progress made by the EAC Task Force on Cyberlaws in preparing regional guidelines on electronic transactions, electronic signatures and authentication, data protection and privacy, consumer protection and computer crime. One option to increase regulatory collaboration around mobile money would be to undertake similar work to promote harmonization in the area of mobile money services, the report says."

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - AppChat mobile voice network operator is set to revolutionize South Africa’s telecom sector with its promise of affordable local and international calls.
    AppChat promises per-second billing for daily off-net calls other than in-bundle and out-of-bundle billing rates. According to John Holdsworth, the founder and CEO of the MOVO, the firm will cut the calling costs in SA by 50 percent. Holdsworth told TechCentral he will achieve this through lean operations and instead of circuit switched operations, AppChat will use mobile VoIP in partnership with Cell C.

    - SOMTEL Subscribers can now select multiple ring-back tones depending on who is calling or what time they receive a call, this was revealed during a press conference held at the company Headquarters . Speaking during the press conference SomTel head of marketing and sales Mr. Nassir Haji saleban Abdi accompanied by the Managing Director of SomTel Mr. Awil Salah and Mr. Farah Mohamed Elmi head of finance, said Danan allows SomTel users to preview new ring-back tones on the Web, upload their own voice clips, update their profiles, and perform other self-service activities.

    - Nigeria - The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) have partnered with Airtel in providing public health information for Nigerians.  As part of the arrangement, Airtel will provide dedicated lines for citizens to call in to NACA or NAFDAC. Citizens also receive text messages and alerts on issues of public health concern.

Digital Content

  • Second-year students at the Makerere University College of Computing and Information Technology (CIT), in Uganda, have invented a hand-held pregnancy scan-like machine called WinSenga.

    The machine, which consists of a funnel-like pinnard horn similar to the one used by midwives, can be used to scan a pregnant woman’s womb or detect problems such as ectopic pregnancy or abnormal foetal heart beats.

    “We called it WinSenga to relate to traditional birth attendants,” the team said.
    The students- Aaron Tushabe, Joshua Okello and Josiah Kavuma, said the project was carried out under the tutelage of Dr. Davis Musinguzi, who works with UNICEF as a health systems consultant. The team also call themselves Cipher256.

    The pinnard horn part of the machine while connected to a smart phone is pressed against the abdomen of the pregnant woman. The smart phone screen then displays data on the location and condition of the foetus.

  • A mobile developer in Botswana has come up with an app set to frustrate music piracy specially through file sharing. This move, he says, was motivated by the fact that African musicians lose billions of shillings a year to piracy and copyright-related issues.

    Itumeleng Garebatshabe, the developer, said the new mobile application will make it hard for sharing of music files from one device to another via bluetooth.

    Garebatshabe’s firm Intelligere Media built the application that once users install on the phone, keeps the songs intact in the application on the phone memory. The songs cannot be shared or transferred afterwards.

    According to Intelligere Media, the mobile digital application cannot play a song that is not on the smartphone. The developer believes that this will help fight music piracy, which has been detrimental to Africa’s music industry for long.

    A report in Kenya claims from 10 songs played, nine are pirated. The pirates earn billions of shillings a year even as the artists and the government lose an estimated KSh4 billion annually.

    The Kenya Copyrights Board, its legal counsel Edward Sigei, recently asked the Kenya government to introduce stiffer penalties to pirates -- apart from the 10-year jailterm for offenders and the KSh800,000 fine.

    Sigei was quoted by the Daily Nation as sayingt the fine should be "increased and the sentence lengthened.”

    Although religious places and non-commercial activities are exempted from paying the penalties, Sigei wanted the board to be empowered to ensure premium content providers paid more to the artists.

    According to Garebatshaber, this new app is well oiled to reduce and even end music piracy.

    He said: "the  Mobile Digital Album Application only plays a music album from an internal player within the phone and as smartphones become commonplace in Africa by the day, this app will help revolutionise music on the continent”.

    Presently, Intelligere Media claims the US$10  priced app has received over 1,000 downloads across the world.

  • Globacom has introduced a service that allows subscribers, especially job seekers send their Curriculum Vitae (CV) or resumes to prospective employers through Short Messaging Service (SMS).

    In a statement, the company said the service, Glo Job Express, is a new feature of Glo Messenger which allows subscribers send their CVs using regular SMS by sending the keyword CV or REG to 2034 to start.

    Glo Messenger is an SMS to email/Instant Messaging service that was launched to enable non- Internet users send and receive emails on Yahoo, MSN, etc, directly from their mobile phones via SMS.

    Globacom’s Head of Value Added Services, Mr Samson Isa, explained that with Glo Job Express, a subscriber sends CV via SMS. This is delivered to the recipient such as the employer or recruitment agent as a regular mail with pre–composed job application or cover letter in the body of the email with the sender’s CV as an attachment.

More

  • Vodacom’s Pieter Uys resigns
    South African mobile operator Vodacom announced today that CEO Pieter Uys would be stepping down from his position, which he has occupied since 2008.
    Uys will remain in the position of CEO until March 2013, after which Shameel Joosub will take over.

  • ASP.NET & MySQL Developer Finance in Motion GmbH
    Vacancies: 1
    Location: Anywhere, Kenya
    Deadline: 30 Sep, 2012

    Job Description: Finance in Motion develops its core business tools in-house and is currently looking for an experienced programmer and business analyst to strengthen its internal software development capacity. The candidate will be working from his home office and will liaise frequently with colleagues based in Nairobi and with the head-office based in Frankfurt.

    These will be the duties and responsibilities:

    Liaise with the IT manager and with the operational departments to collect specification and produce technical description for the software development projects.
    Recommend on the most appropriate technologies to be employed for secure and scalable web solutions.
    Provide leadership, methodology and example when managing the development of new software modules for the company.
    Provide high quality code in line with company coding guidelines and thorough technical documentation on the modules developed.

    Qualifications / Skills:
    NET development. Preferred language VB.NET, but C# is welcome, too
    Good experience in database design and development. Preferred platform: MySQL
    Experience of collaborative software development in teams: source control, versioning, with tools like SVN or Visual Source Safe
    Proven track record in all phases of the software delivery life-cycle, from technical specification, to development, roll-out, documentation and support
    Minimum of 5 years of professional experience in software development
    Creative, responsible and self motivating attitude

    Besides above formal qualifications, it is equally important that our team members show a high commitment to development finance and international cooperation. We are a young, multicultural team and enthusiastic about what we do, convinced that a strong and dedicated team is the key to success. We promote free thinking to generate results that will contribute to developing inclusive financial systems in transition economies and developing countries.
    Apply for this position:

    Send a resume to it.jobs@finance-in-motion.com

    Nokia contest targets East African music lovers

    Phone maker Nokia has launched a competition aimed at promoting her smart phones among youth in East Africa.

    Dubbed “Don’t Break the Beat” the campaign is linked to the Nokia Asha range of mobile phones, centres on a competition to find ‘the definitive rapper, also known as a cypher, among the youth in East Africa.’

    “The search will be conducted in cities and towns across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, with a number of auditions and elimination rounds in each country to determine the national finalists. This will culminate in early September with the East Africa battle to determine the overall champion who walks away with the title and a whopping 250,000 Kenyan Shillings,” said Angela Githuthu, Marketing Activation Manager for Nokia East Africa.

Issue no 611 29th June 2012

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Top story

  • There are now several online and mobile music TV platforms that have started in Africa. Some like Iroko Partners started with Nollywood film and went into music, whilst others like Spinlet have started with music and could easily go into TV programming. Orange has thrown its hat into the ring with entry of its minority-owned Deezer platform into Africa. Sylvain Beletre, Senior Research Analyst, Balancing Act talks to the key players.

    African mobile operators are still stuck in the SMS way of thinking about content: it’s the stuff that the aggregators turn up with at their doorsteps. In the main, they don’t drive developments and they make it hard for others to use their platforms. Procedures are slow and the financial splits are awful.

    The future of mobile content in Africa has two big bits: either it will be international brands that secure market share and then localise (Like Facebook and You Tube) or it will be local operators who seek to compete both within and outside the content. Music will be one of the key drivers of the coming mobile content war.

    Whatever its successes and failures, Orange is a mobile company that has a lot of commitment to content, through its Pay TV operations and more recently, through its launching of music streaming service, Deezer, which is now coming to Africa.

    Over the past few years there have been several online music services in Africa including radio stations streaming. Nigeria’s Spinlet , a mobile music management and storage service launched at Midem in January 2012 and iROKING  is a free music Nigerian music streaming service that came out of Iroko Partners (Nollywood Love). Also Google’s initiative to have local servers on the continent for You Tube has put a large number of African countries within reach of free local music videos.

    On 12 June 2012, Deezer, a European and international music streaming service aimed at encouraging the growth of legal online music offers announced that it was now joining Africa’s digital music armada in two high potential African countries: Mauritius and Ivory Coast. There are the first countries to launch Deezer’s service in the Middle East and Africa region. It plans to rollout in about ten African countries in total with Orange, which is a minority shareholder. Currently it offers 18 million tracks from 2,000 different music labels so it has content in depth and it has 1.5 million premium users.

    As part of its new content strategy, Orange is currently only one of two operators to offer a large scale unlimited music streaming service: Deezer Premium bundled with its broadband internet tariff plans in Mauritius and Ivory Coast. It seems that only Spotify has actually set up a similar agreement with Telenor. Since 2010, Orange and Deezer entered a new phase in the evolution of legal online music offer and are helping to develop them on all available digital media.

    Set up in August 2007, Deezer launched the first internet and mobile offers integrating Deezer Premium+ in France in 2010 and then in the UK at the end of 2011. Deezer now has over 23 million users with 6 million unique visitors per month in France only. Each week, Deezer sees its number of subscribers driven from Facebook increase by 20%, excluding France, said Deezer’s CEO.

    It has a number of different approaches to the business model. There is:

    *   Deezer free of charge financed by advertising with 5 hours limited access time;

    * Deezer Premium at 4.99 Euros per month with unlimited access and extra benefits; and

    * Deezer Premium + at 9.99 Euros/month available to mobile phones and an offline mode (no internet and 3G+ network required) once music is downloaded.

    Contributing to the multi-screen and music everywhere revolution, the Deezer Premium+ service is available on all forms of devices whether it is PC, mobile, Wi-Fi walkman, IP channels, IP TV, or tablets.

    The advertising-free, premium services also deliver an editing app (Deezer Mix) and helps optimise listening quality.

    All three options provide access to web radios and 18 million music tracks from 2,000 different labels, including majors like Sony BMG, Universal Music, Warner Music International and EMI.

    Deezer wants to hit 200 countries (but not including the USA and Japan) noting that by January 31, 2012, Canada and Latin America would be added to its roster, with Australasia to follow the month after. Today Deezer is available in 88 territories.

    Competition on these online music platforms is intense both at a global and international level. The best know platform is Apple’s iTunes but access to the platform in Africa is limited by the limited number of people with access to an international credit card. Furthermore with the exception of the iPhone, Africa seems to have hardly registered in Apple’s overall emerging markets sales strategy. China seems to have been more attractive.

    It competes with global services like ShareTheMusic  a free and global MP3 service with 100,000 unique tracks; GrooveShark  which offers 15 million tracks to 20 million users globally; Guvera, a new breed of online music download and streaming service and Pandora, Spotify and many more.

    By comparison, Swedish Spotify offers 15 million tracks, has 10 million users including 3 million paid subscribers but is available in less than 20 countries, though it does have the USA sewn up – a country Deezer has no immediate intentions of touching. However, Spotify and Pandora are not present in all countries and have little visibility in Africa.

    Within the African region, Nigerian music platform Spinlet announced plans to roll out its music app to global users a week ago. It has global distribution rights for 1 million tracks, primarily for African record labels and is clearly eying the diaspora markets already captured for Nollywood movies by Iroko. It is available in 72 contries with a free streaming and pay per download offers for its African music catalogue. 22 of these countries are in Africa where it will start offering international content in December of this year.

    Spinlet is supported on the most popular smart phones including Android, BlackBerry and Symbian 3 and is available for free download via the Android Market, Blackberry Store, and Symbian Platform. Within Spinlet, users can remotely store, manage and listen to music from anywhere using their mobile device. Spinlet promotes social sharing with an interface that allows users to create accounts, make playlists and share their favorite titles using social-networking sites, such as Facebook with their friends.

    This has given Spinlet the clout to sign digital distribution agreements in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and other African Countries. Spinlet offers an array of multi-national, award winning music and has signed hundreds of artists and labels to the service. Additionally, any music rights holders can upload their music for sale on the Spinlet platform.

    "Spinlet launched with our main goals being to create a revenue stream for artists with a legitimate outlet for sales and to fight the piracy markets by making to model readily available to music lovers including a free streaming service and downloads that are priced at an affordable level" said Eric Idiahi, Spinlet Chairman.

    "The presence of online and mobile music services can easily have a negative effect on traditional mediums. At Spinlet we have created a model that supports them by creating strategic partnership agreements with radio and television stations that benefit each medium and most importantly benefit the content rights holder by showcasing their music and increasing awareness and sales of their tracks" added Mark Redguard, Spinlet CMO.

    More can be found here

    To date, iROKING  free music online platform has 35,000 tracks in its catalogue dating from 1963 to the present day and 75,000 registered users in total. It also manages over 70 artist’s You Tube pages with more than 100 million views in the past 12 months. Its deal structure is 60/40 in favour of rights owners, the complete reverse of what the mobile companies are currently offering.

    It monetises and protects artists’ content for among others: P-Square, 2face, Bracket, Flavour, Omawumi, Timaya, Duncan Mighty, Lynxxx. The company has significantly reduced piracy of Nigerian music content to near zero.. iROKING also audio ID's digitally fingerprint sound recordings on Youtube to ensure rights are protected and also publishes Nigerian music content to the iTUNES/ Amazon stores for diaspora consumption (paid downloads etc).

    iROKING is present globally servicing the local (Africa) and Diaspora markets (Europe, US, Canada etc). The company has also launched mobile applications for its music solution on the iOS, Android, Windows and Symbian (Nokia) mobile handsets. The application allows access to thousand of the latest Nigerian tracks and stream songs over Wifi or 3G. The iROKING Mobile Application features include: Favourite selected songs; Create playlists and share them via Twitter or Facebook; Integrated ‘offline’ functionality where you can listen to your favourite tunes offline.

    So what about paid options to listen to music, do you have any (like Deezer premium)?:”Download economics at present do not work locally. iTunes/Amazon for diaspora users is currently the most viable option in terms of downloads. Mobile money is in its infancy. Premium SMS is exploitative. A subscription model is the model of choice however digital subscription culture is not yet tested. Our sister platform iROKOtv is testing this come July 1st 2012. For now we stream content for free. We pay license fees to large artists for exclusive partnerships. The freely available nature of Nigerian music content on sites like 4shared, Hulkshare, etc. stifles any move to charge the online audience. Critical mass audio ads and monthly subscriptions will come online. For now Youtube ad revenue is our primary source of income”.

    Apart from these above two solutions, other smaller African music entrants on the web include “Musique Kabyle”, djindo , afrique-music  streaming  websites, a growing number of local radio stations and a few informative web portals.

    With Deezer, Orange clients in these two African countries can now enjoy their favourite music anywhere and at any time and share it with their friends easily and legally explained Axel Dauchez, President of Deezer, but right now a broadband internet tariff plan is the sine qua non condition to gain access. With Deezer, “African music and artists will be more powerful than they are today” added Dauchez.

    Ms. Laurence Le Ny, Music Director at Orange Group explained that Deezer will partner with local providers of quality music content to enrich Deezer’s catalogue. Deezer signs non-exclusive agreements with rights owners and will have local bureaux in Africa to set up deals with local music content aggregators, music labels and even the small and unknown independent producers, Laurence Le Ny added. “We are working closley with the marketing and technical teams of our local subsidiaries in MEA countries in order to find the best way to integrate Deezer Premium into our mobile offers” Le Ny concluded. This should also benefit to local African musicians and producers.

    If it works out well, Deezer could potentially offer Deezer Premium across the whole continent, perhaps even independently of any operator partnership.

    The Middle East will apparently be following suit shortly with Orange/Deezer tie-ups, as will more countries across Europe and Africa.

    In France, Orange includes Deezer Premium in several of its broadband offers and Deezer Premium + in mobile offers such as Origami Jet and Origami Star. Deezer Premium is also available as an option for 5€ a month for broadband services and Deezer Premium + for 10€ per month for mobile services. This could happen soon in some Africa countries once networks are capable of supporting large music files and once legal and commercial barriers are cleared off.

    The content revolution towards unlimited legal music consumption is under way and Africans have started enjoying it. This will help combat piracy further on the continent but the question remains as to how well these online solutions will contribute to financing the African music sector.

    The only barriers for paid music in Africa are credit card payment and broadband capacity. Mobile money could be the answer to the first one and improved infrastructure is the answer to the second.

    The online music services partly rely on the explosion of smartphones and demand in emerging markets, especially Africa, Asia and Latin America. In a process of recovering from a decade of contraction, the music industry needs to generate new revenues and online access seems to be the way forward.

    Some of these new online players have managed to cajole hitherto reluctant record labels, scalded by cannibalizing their CD sales since the rise of digital audio services into signing deals. Today, the trend seems to be more about selling the music experience rather than selling records.

    African Voice ARPUs will continue to drop. Competition has already driven them down to teeth-clenchingly low levels in the key markets and the steady impact of mobile VoIP will build and build as it becomes an entrenched habit, particularly for continental and global calling at the top end of the market. This leaves data capacity sales and money from content and transactions as the two sources of revenue to replace the current voice income. Data may not be hugely profitable but Over-The-Top services based on transactions and advertising have potential. The mobile content war is only just beginning so watch out for more content that will really capture users’ imagination.

    The upcoming event Broadcast, Film and Music Africa will discuss many of the issues raised in this article. event to be held over 10-11 July 2012 at Oshwal Centre, Westlands, in Nairobi, Kenya will be the occasion to review what’s happening on the online music front in Africa. Among others, iROKING, Spinlet and Orange will send representatives

    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    A bumper crop of video clips this week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    NyashaMutsekwa, CEO, Metvafrica.com on its Pan-African VOD service

    Alan Knott-Craig Jr, CEO, MXit on his African expansion plans

    Mark Kaigwa, Afrinnovator talking about monetization of mobile content at OIAS

    EyalCoppitt, SVP Sales MEA, Amos Spascecom on the launch of the Amos 5 satellite


    Shawkat Ahmed, COO, Yahsat talks about its new low cost satellite broadband product


    Jonah Fink, SVP, net2phone on the potential for VoIP in Africa


    Angus Hay, Chair of WACS on the impact of this new, international cable

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Sean Krepp, Uganda Country Director, Apps Lab
    on raising farmers income using community knowledge workers with smartphones

    Kobus Roux, CSIR Meraka Institute on getting rural schools connected using local micro-entrepreneurs and Wi-Fi mesh technology

    Two experts discuss the challenges of mobile operators as brands:

    Laine Barnard, Founder, 8Brand - Mobile outlets as "giant waiting rooms" for selling airtime

    Sammy Thuo, Director, Saracen Media on differentiating African mobile brands

telecoms

  • Jasco Networks has expanded its operations into Central Africa with the formation of Jasco Congo, a subsidiary company with dedicated presence and local shareholders in the region.

    Following this expansion, the newly-formed Jasco Congo subsidiary has signed a partnership agreement with Warid Congo to manage and maintain a carrier-neutral co-location data centre in Congo-Brazzaville.

    Mobile operator, Warid Congo is part of the multinational Warid Telecom and as the owners of the data centre infrastructure, it will share in the revenues generated by the data centre and benefit from skills transfer as a result of the partnership.

    Jasco Congo will, in turn, benefit from the ability to tap into local expertise, knowledge and market presence, the group said.

    “Data centres are one of the fastest growing segments of the IT industry, but the data centre built by Warid was not being used to full capacity. We were looking for a seasoned, highly experienced partner in the field to help us reposition our organisation to meet the needs of corporates around data centres and carrier neutral services. Jasco delivers on all of our requirements and are the ideal partner,” said Michel Elame, MD of Warid Congo.

    According to Jasco, market research conducted in Central Africa has revealed that the Internet market is still in its infancy, being very expensive and only accessible via satellite due to lack of infrastructure.

    However, users in the region are well aware of technological innovations and businesses are eager to embrace connectivity. This is becoming easier to achieve thanks to the recent landing of the WACS undersea cable connecting West Africa to the world, and growing investment into improving infrastructure.

    The group notes that local Internet in the region remains expensive as a result of a lack of local hosting and local Internet exchange.

    Jasco Congo has entered into a service partnership with Warid Congo, using its existing infrastructure and taking over the operational costs and maintenance of the data centre. Jasco will be designing and building an Internet switch exchange and providing local Internet hosting from the Warid Telecom data centre, helping to drive down the cost of Internet access. The company will also be hosting local telecommunications operators, providing a carrier neutral switching location for international traffic.

    “Our research indicated that the region was ripe with opportunities, which are being held back due to the expense of building infrastructure. The situation is reminiscent of the South African market several years ago, and our experience in South Africa puts us in an ideal position to not only harness these opportunities but to assist with growth and skills transfer in the Central African region,” it said.

    “The Jasco Congo operation, in partnership with Warid Telecom, enables us to expand our co-location solutions offering into Africa without the expense of physically investing in infrastructure, while creating local empowerment and business stimulation,” said Eckart Zollner, business development manager for Jasco Co-location Solutions.

    “Expansion into Africa is an important part of Jasco’s growth strategy, and this venture offered the perfect opportunity to launch into a new market. Congo Brazzaville is one of the more stable and economically active countries in Central Africa, the government is on an aggressive growth drive and a lot of investment is being injected into the economy.

    “Jasco Congo and our partnership with Warid Telecom will enable us to be a part of this development and to build relationships with local suppliers in this region. This in turn will provide a launch platform for future growth and expansion,” added Paul McKibbin, divisional managing director of Jasco Networks.

  • Nine hundred thousand Safaricom service subscribers may be cut off from the network in the next three months because they either have not registered their SIM cards or are using fake handsets.

    This follows an announcement on 26th June by the Information and Communications permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo that a three month campaign begins today to sensitize mobile phone users on the mandatory requirement to register their SIM cards and buy genuine phones. Ndemo said at the same time they will identify and lock out those with fake handsets without valid IMEI numbers for subsequent disconnection alongside all unregistered SIM cards.

    Peter Arina, General Manager, Safaricom's Consumer Business said three to five percent of their revenue will be affected by the termination of the services to the non compliant customers. He said the drive is motivated by the need for traceability of users involved in criminal activities using the ease of mobile phone communication to co-ordinate their activities. "It is even absolutely necessary now that we are seeing heightened political campaign to minimise propagation of hate speech," Ndemo said

    He was speaking at the launch of the latest Ideos mobile handset by Huawei in partnership with Safaricom. Huawei launched its Ideos Ascend Y-100 entry level smart phone, an upgrade of its locally popular IDEOS U8150 handset, which has been Safaricom's flagship handset selling an estimated 200,000 units. The Huawei Ideos handsets recorded the highest returns for Safaricom accounting for 18.5 per cent of the data number of data users, according to Peter Arina, the General Manager of Safaricom's Consumer Business Unit.

    The Huawei U8185 branded Ideos Ascend Y100 will retail at Sh 8,499, the same price its forerunner introduced at. The phone will be available in 3 colours, Black, White and Pink. Customers will also get a one off 1.5 GB data offer valid for 90 days, airtime worth Sh1000, 7 days unlimited SMS and a 2GB SD card. Several competing devices including Samsung models have have flooded the market threatening the runaway success registered by the Ideos in the recent past.

  • There are two types of Internet service: the spotty and the steady. “Bad” service is when a signal exists, but its strength is too weak to consistently access. “Good” service is a strong and steady signal. As mobile coverage increases and Internet/mobile penetration expands, users are demanding the latter. And understandably so – Internet/mobile coverage is great, but truly enjoying that coverage is much better.

    Regulators and operators alike are beginning to place on emphasis on quality instead of quantity. ARTP, Senegal’s telecommunications regulatory agency, understands the importance of quality of service, as evidenced by an interactive national campaign. From June 25th until July 25th, ARTP will field toll-free phone calls (around the clock) from Senegalese citizens who find telecoms services lacking in quality. The goal is to push operators to provide the best communication service possible.

    The campaign is quite progressive, but then again, mobile subscription rate is 77% and growing. Hopefully ARTP will be able to push the operators to address apparent weaknesses. For example, it could suggest for infrastructure to be laid in certain areas to fill in the gaps of service. Operators can upgrade systems. Resources can be allocated differently at different times of the day.

    Of course, this is not the first time a telecoms regulator or operator in Africa has honed in on QoS. Last November, Uganda’s cellcos were warned that quality of service will form the basis of license renewal applications. The Prime Minister of Rwanda recently told MTN, the nation’s largest mobile provider, to improve services so the population can fully access fair services.

    Not every nation is ready to devote the resources to a QoS audit. Many less-developed areas are glad to have mobile Internet coverage, period. And, even if every African telecoms regulator initiative a QoS campaign, results would no doubt be mixed. After all, it takes a strong regulator to ensure operators make necessary changes to boost the quality of service.

  • Hyperia Limited, an indigenous Internet Service Provider (ISP), and Yahsat, a satellite communications company, have rolled out a satellite-based broadband service in the country.

    Deputy Managing Director, Hyperia, George Opara, who spoke at the pre-service inauguration of the broadband service in Lagos, recently, said the solution would assist in reducing the high cost of broadband internet service in Nigeria.

    He said, "We have been working over two to three years to bring this solution into the market. Hyperia already has major VSAT product in the C-band and KU band. We have our hub in London and we service every part of Nigeria. When we saw the importance of this project and how it is going to help reduce the cost of Internet broadband, Hyperia Limited became very much interested. We have tested the C and KU bands and with emergence of KA band we have seen immense potential. This is a pre-service launch and we expect that the service will be up and running few weeks from now."

    He explained that the broadband service would compete favourably with WiMAX and Wi-Fi service in Nigeria, adding that the satellite-based broadband solution was totally independent of terrestrial infrastructure.

    According to him, the inauguration of the satellite service into Nigeria's telecommunications market would enable more Nigerians especially those in undeserved and unserved areas to have access to efficient and reasonably priced broadband service via satellite technology.

    This, according to him, would enable more Nigerians to enjoy broadband internet access without having to wait for terrestrial systems to roll out expensive fibre networks.

    Commenting on the satellite service, Chief Commercial Officer, Yahsat, Mr. Shawkat Ahmad, said the broadband solution would cover the entire country.

    He pointed out that the service would play a pivotal role in economic development by connecting rural and urban communities thereby creating informed societies.

    On the cost-effectiveness of the broadband solution, Ahmad said Nigerians could instantaneously connect to the internet using a small satellite dish and satellite modem wherever the satellite signal was received.

    While delivering a paper on broadband delivery through satellite communications, the President, Society of Satellite Professionals International, Andrew Aro, said the broadband service rode on the KA band which was undeniably suitable for the peculiarities of Nigeria's internet access market.

    With the satellite service, Aro explained that ISPs could expand the reach of their terrestrial broadband infrastructure network without need to invest in expensive infrastructure.

internet

  • An IT based-educational database for teachers and students has been launched in Abuja. The data base called Green Book system will provides a wide range of IT enhanced free learning tools for students and teachers in Nigerian schools.

    Initiator of the system, Victor Odiah, said the program provides a free and dedicated database for academic materials for teachers at both secondary and tertiary levels.

    With the new system "teachers can now upload their lecture notes and tutorials to their GreenBook workspace and their students can access these materials anytime and from anywhere. Their students will also be able to post questions, contributions or comments on the online discussion forums," he said.

    Odiah said "beyond the classrooms, students and their teachers can now stay connected on the class based online discussion forums. They can share ideas, discuss academics topics on a wider scale and build a valuable pool of academic discussions."

    The Green Book project started in 2008 at the University of East London, UK, following a research by Odiah, who was then a post-graduate student.

    He said that the program is designed in a user friendly, social networking structure, "where e-learning /academic document sharing application delivers its educational tools on a standard social networking environment making it easy for teachers and students to use."

    "One of the objectives of the Green book project is to make universities and colleges greener by reducing the amount of paper consumed within the institutions," he said.

    It also provides a database for O'level and UME/JAMB students, who can now have access to hundreds of short tutorials and also connect to other students writing the same exams. "These tutorials are contributed by selected teachers from all over Nigeria," Odiah said.

  • With the launch of Map Maker in Egypt, “anyone who cares about maps can lend their local expertise to create more detailed views of the places they know, such as their town, school, and more. Users can locate, draw, label and provide attributes for Egyptian map features for their area,” read the statement.

    “Users can add town details such as local coffee shops, restaurants and street directions, add details on the area surrounding historical locations like the Pyramids of Giza or the Valley of the Kings as well as detailed maps of buildings and public areas such as a detailed campus map for Cairo University with description of academic buildings, athletic facilities and walkways,” Google said.

    “This helps people best navigate the area, especially when it’s their first visit. The information is verified by the amount of similar information and a team of experts.”

    Before the update is uploaded and verified on Google maps, pending information is available online and users can contribute to it more or even verify the information. The system takes into consideration user contributions, identifies duplicates and detects potential spam. The final approval is made by regional experts and a small team of Google reviewers considering Egyptians submissions.

  • Online Arabic newspaper Hurriyat Sudan has reported that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has blocked its website since June 25, following its coverage of protests in Khartoum and other towns.

    The protests over the last week have spread from university students to some members of the wider population. Activists are promoting Friday June 29 as large demonstration to mark the anniversary of current regime coming to power on June 30 1989.

    The press in Sudan has been restricted during the protests and journalists and activists arrested by the National Security and Intelligence Services (NISS).

    On Tuesday June 26, Sudan deported Bloomberg's correspondent in Khartoum, Salma El Wardany, and briefly detained Maha El Sanousi, a prominent Sudanese blogger.

    The two had been detained together for several hours on 21 June. While covering protests at the University of Khartoum on 19 June, Simon Martelli, an AFP journalist, was also detained for 12 hours. Martelli, who was AFP's reporter in Khartoum for the whole of 2011, has since left Khartoum as he was covering for the new AFP correspondent.

    In a press release, Hurriyat said that the site's readers in Sudan had informed them that from around 5.30pm local time on 25 June, the site was blocked. The National Telecommunications Commission usually uses its special filtering unit to block pornographic websites.

    Hurriyat Sudan's Chief Editor, Elhag Warrag said that blocking its website "is part of a systematic attempt by the Sudanese regime to stop news about anti-government demonstrations reaching the Sudanese people and the world at large."

    Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has accused some websites of launching a campaign to distort the country's image in collaboration with opposition parties and the United States (US).

    In the press release Hurriyat encouraged readers to access Hurriyat through its facebook page and inside Sudan by downloading special software from the Ultrasurf website.

  • Internet services firm AccessKenya is seeking to ride on increased activity in real estate market to grow sales by connecting homes and offices to its fibre network during construction.

    “We will lay one single high speed fibre that other services will be connected to and it is cost-effective because it avoids multiple connections and hiring numerous providers,” said Jonathan Somen, adding AccessKenya is selling the idea to property developers.

    This system also allows for the control of services from a central location in what is dubbed Intelligent Properties.

    AccessKenya hopes the model will allow it to grow subscriber base when Kenya’s middle class is increasingly developing an appetite for home Internet.

    Property developers use Internet connecting as a value-add in the battle for home buyers.

    The bulk of connections come after construction and some building owners ask for payment to allow entry into their premises.

    AccessKenya is betting on the step to cut the dominance of rivals Kenya Data Networks and Wananchi whose market share stood at 33 per cent and 23 per cent respectively, according to the communication regulator, CCK.

computing

  • Madagascar has launched an online research network, the Research and Education Network for Academic Learning Activities (iRENALA), which aims to boost science, technology and education in the country, as well as internationalise its science.

    The network, launched earlier this month (8 June), will promote discussions between worldwide researchers, students and policymakers, and facilitate access to digitised documents available in virtual libraries, according to Horace Gatien, president of Toamasina University. It will also encourage remote learning in the higher education sector, he said.

    According to a statement issued at a government cabinet meeting last month (30 May), the project aims to forge new links between Madagascar's six state universities, three higher institutes of technology, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and all national research centres.

    iRENALA will also connect Madagascar to a cluster of worldwide networks through GÉANT, an existing pan-European research and education network, which connects 40 million users in over 8,000 institutions worldwide.

    "Madagascar is one of five African countries ... [privileged] with such an opportunity", said Ny Hasina Andriamanjato, the Malagasy minister of post, telecommunications and new technologies.

    Andriamanjato added that the network is part of wider movement of digitising African universities, an idea launched by African researchers during a France-Africa summit held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in December 1996.

    The project stems from an agreement signed in December 2011 between the government and Telma, an Internet and mobile phone service provider, which functions via the high speed fibre optic cable running through the Eastern African Submarine Cable System.

    "Learning and research activities are destined to improve, despite the fact that Malagasy universities are poorly equipped with infrastructure and resources," the Malagasy prime minister, Jean Omer Beriziky, said at the launch. "We will produce many more experts capable of taking the country forward and ending poverty within 20 years."

    Patrick Pisal-Hamida, chief executive of Telma, said at the launch: "From today, a new era has begun for the higher education system in Madagascar. A fundamental stage has been reached, thanks to the digitalising of the universities and other institutions involved in research."

    Etienne Hilaire Razafindehibe, minister of higher education and scientific research, said the iRENALA association was created to ensure effective use of the network, but he added that users will have to pay to access the network.

  • Kenya is among the six nations earmarked for a multi-million project in six Sub Saharan African nations, for the launch of digital hubs under Badiliko project. The project which is being funded by the British Council and Microsoft Company will build 90 digital hubs in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria.

    According to the British Council Director of Programmes Mutuku Nguli over the next two years, the BC and MS will each invest $1million in cash, plus staff and in kind resources to build the hubs. He said that the project is aimed at improving ICT use in innovative teaching practice, helping teachers hone skills and providing content to help educators increase their students' knowledge and ability to engage in a global environment.

    Speaking in Shujaa Mekatilili Secondary School in Magarini constituency during the launch of a digital hub, Nguli noted that Badiliko is expected to train more than 20, 000 school leaders and teachers across the Sub Saharan Africa and provide more than 100, 000 learners and communities with digital access, while promoting literacy. "We formed this partnership in November 2011 based on the complementary expertise in technology and internationalism in education. We seek to combine expertise in order to increase innovative teaching and learning practices and better prepare young people for life and work in the 21st century," he said.

    MS Academic Programmes Manager Alex Nyingi also pointed out that MS has committed nearly $500 million to help education systems in the world under its Partners in Learning Project. Nyingi said that since the project's inception in 2003, they have reached more than 196 million teachers and students in 114 countries. "Our main aim is to see that students, teachers and the community as a whole living in today's increasing digital and connected world have ICT skills," he said. The BC Kenya has five digital hubs functioning in Molo, Maralal, Siaya, and Malindi. Under the Badiliko, the BC and MS will set up 20 additional hubs in seven regions in the country.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Adlevo     Capital Managers, a private    equity    fund manager     focused on investments   
    into technology-enabled businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa last week announced that   
    it has completed an investment into the parent company of Pagatech Limited (“Paga”), a leading provider    of mobile money transfer services in Nigeria.   
     
    Co-investing with Adlevo Capital were Omidyar Network, Acumen Fund, Capricorn   
    Investment Group, and current investor, Goodwell West Africa Microfinance Development    Company.   
          
    This investment will    further stimulate Paga’s growth and enable it to expand its footprint across Nigeria.Nigeria presents one of the most attractive markets for transformative financial services in the region with a population of 160 million people, GDP in excess of $200 billion and a 70%    literacy rate.   
      
    Paga is leveraging the deep penetration of mobile telephony –    more than two-thirds of Nigerian adults use a mobile phone – to deliver innovative and universal access to financial services to both banked and un-banked customers.   

  • Vodacom’s Tanzanian operating subsidiary intends to expand coverage of its popular money transfer service M-PESA to even the most remote parts of the country, by dint of the TZS130 billion (USD83.8 million) network upgrade it is currently undertaking. Rene Meza, managing director of Vodacom Tanzania, says that the M-PESA service – launched in 2008 – is now taken by almost three million subscribers, helping to drive overall customer growth. Speaking in February this year, Meza said the sharp increase in subscribers was largely driven by people signing up to M-PESA, which has a claimed 85% share of total e-mobile commerce transactions in the country. It is clear that the money transfer service has made a significant contribution to the socio economic development of the country and ‘revolutionised’ the way many people do business there.

    Meza is now confident that, with the planned network upgrade, Vodacom will be able to open up some otherwise ‘uncovered’ areas to its products and services.

  • The Kenyan government has struck a deal with China for a Sh6.04 billion soft loan to fund the National Optic Fiber Backbone Infrastructure (NOFBI) and e-government expansion projects.

    Finance Permanent Secretary Joseph Kinyua said the two governments were currently putting together the details of the draft ahead of a formal signing by the end of July 2012.

    The NOFBI project will include the construction Fibre optic links (systems which provides a data connection between two given points) to connect the Larger Area Network (LAN) of 36 administrative District Centers across the country with the National Fibre optic, hence allow the locals to access faster internet services.

    Kinyua said this will facilitate implementation of various e-governance initiatives such as e-health, e-banking and e-education, thereby facilitating economic growth.

  • MTN Rwanda and Bank of Kigali (BK), have entered into partnership to extend financial services to the unbanked population through mobile banking.

    The partnership is tailored to boost mobile banking services, promote financial inclusion and enhance the country's policy towards a cashless economy.

    The new partnership allows MTN mobile money subscribers to receive and send money through any BK branch across the country. Traditionally, money is received at authorised MTN mobile money dealers.

    Lawson Naibo, Chief Operating Officer, Bank of Kigali, says that the partnership will also help the bank to roll out its services and reach out to those financially excluded.

    "This partnership is leveraging our efforts to meet our customers promise and we will be able to increase our footfall in our branches," Naibo said.

    MTN subscribers will also enjoy mobile money services like account opening, cash deposits, transfers and withdrawals free of charge.

    "Mobile money subscribers will be able to get into any of our branches and get served and be able to go to our ATM and transact using their virtual accounts at no extra cost," he said.

    The partners are eyeing to use the service and encourage people to open bank accounts and thus attracting many into the financial system. Currently, 22 per cent of the population has access to financial services and government targets to raise this to 80 per cent by 2017.

    Currently, 41 of 56 BK branches offer the service though the lender is committed to roll out the service to the remaining 13 branches by the end of the year.

    Naibo noted that since the mobile phone is the most ubiquitous distribution channel on the continent at the moment, the bank believes that the delivery of financial services through mobile telephony is where the real innovation and development is taking place in the retail market.

    MTN Rwanda's Chief Executive Office, Khaled Mikkawi said partnerships with financial institutions would widen access to their services.

    "The mobile money platform should not be seen as competition to consumer banking but instead as a catalyst to services offered by leading financial institutions like BK. Rwandans can only benefit from greater convergence between conventional banking services and the mobility that mobile telephony offers."

    Mikkawi said MTN Rwanda has a total of 500,000 subscribers on the mobile money platform since the service started two years ago and is targeting to have all the subscribers (3 million) on mobile money.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Airtel Ghana has launched a new service dubbed “Airtel Smart Zone”, which offered customers discounts of up to 99% on on-net and off-net calls and SMS at different times of the day. A statement from the company quoted Marketing Director Oare Ojeikere as saying Airtel SmartZone was the only one of its kind, which allowed discounts to be applied to both on-net and off-net calls.

    “What that means is that subscribers can use their discounts on Airtel-to-Airtel calls as well as Airtel-to other network calls,” he explained.

    Airtel has over the past few weeks introduced a number of products unto the market, driven largely by consumer interests. These included Facebook Zero (where subscribers have free access to the text version of Facebook), Airtel Frndz (where subscribers can make discounted calls to 10 special friends), reduction on the prizes of modems from GHC 60 to GH49, Opera Mini on Airtel (where users can freely download one of the world’s most popular browsers for their handsets), etc.

Digital Content

  • The Ethiopian government has dismissed allegations that it has banned Skype and other use of Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) services that offer audio and video related communications over the internet.

    Reporters Without Borders last week alleged that Ethiopia has endorsed a new law that bans the internet based services.

    The group accused the East African country of trying to "attack every means of information exchange" and criticised it of a new crackdown on Internet users.

    However, Ethiopia government spokesperson, Shimeles Kemal, said the draft proclamation presented to the parliament last week does not restrict users access to Skype or IP-related internet activities.

    According to Kemal the draft law intends to control the growing number of telecom related offences.

    "The draft law aims to restrict internet telephone activities, not between telecom activities from computer to computer, but it aims to restrict unlicensed service providers who use internet to provide telephone services from internet to telephone lines. The aim of the regulation is not aimed at restricting IP and cyber activities. Nor did it intend to restrict computer to computer services," said Kemal.

    The state owned Telcome has been accusing a number of internet service providers of permitting unlawful international calls in order to gain illegal revenue.

    Kemal said the primary purpose of the proclamation is to tackle illegal activities such as generating income by bypassing the domestic telecom service which, according to him, is causing substantial financial damage to the national service.

    Kemal said Ethiopia has lost more than US$50 million this year due to illegal internet-based activities by independent telephone operators.

    The Government Communication Affairs Office (GCAO) in a statement stressed that the draft law does not target personal users of the service, as was reported by Medias.

    "There is no prohibition of people calling abroad on Skype from internet cafes or elsewhere," said Kemal.

    Addis Ababa has long been under fire froma number of international press freedom groups of press censorship and endangering safety of journalists using controversial laws.

    According to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) research, Ethiopia drove more journalists into exile than any other country, over the past decade. The country is also Africa's foremost jailer of journalists, after neighbouring Eritrea.

    In the RSF 2011-2012 press freedom index Ethiopia was 127 out of 179.

    Freedom House's 2011 report into internet freedom said "In Ethiopia and Cuba, for example, state-run telecommunications companies hold a monopoly on internet service, giving them unchecked control over users' ability to communicate with one another and the outside world".

    Freedom House also listed Ethiopia amongst the ten countries with greatest declines in a variety of freedoms during the 2010-2011 period.

  • A Kenyan developer has won Ksh1million for his mobile application “Skinswap” - which allows users to receive wallpapers easily and create a hybrid of animals and skins.

    With the application users can, for example, create a wallpaper of a lion with a zebra skin.

    “I’m extremely delighted to have won with Nokia. It’s a clear demonstration that Kenya’s mobile app developers, like me, have a great chance to place themselves on a global platform with locally relevant ideas,” said competition winner, Mike Kivuva.

    Other winners in the 48-hour challenge include Andrew Mutua who won Khs300 000 as the first runner up for his app “Mhasibu”, which helps users manage finances, expenses, bills and debt.

    “Quick Drums”, a beat creation app, developed by Jotham Nguri was the second runner up.

    “We are incredibly proud of the developers that won, as they rose to the challenge and pushed the envelope in developing applications that stood out with the judges,” said Peter Karimi, business development manager, EDX: Nokia East Africa.

    “The energy and enthusiasm that the developers brought to this challenge was amazing and we encourage them to keep up the momentum,” he added.

    The two-day event pitched developers against each other, in the search for rich, compelling apps for Nokia smartphones.

    Other notable mobile apps that were presented include Safety Plus, an app for road safety where user’s report and share incidents, iBudget which helps users with budgeting and calculation of daily and monthly expenses and Dashboard, which notifies drivers once they go over a certain speed limit.

  • Have you ever been in a situation where you’re in need to use the closest ATM within your location? Or perhaps you’re looking for a particular bank’s ATM within that location?

    A new mobile app called SeeAm wants to help you identify the closest ATM to your current location and provide turn-by-turn navigation to the location of that particular ATM.

    With a list of ATM locations and their bank addresses across Nigeria, the app helps you sort each ATM by bank and also shows the locations of the ATMs in a particular state. For each listing, you can choose to see its location on a map and view the route from where you are.

    SeeAm app claims to be the only app out there with extensive database coverage of ATM locations of all banks within Nigeria. The app is currently available for Android (download on Google Play) and BlackBerry devices (download on Blackberry App World).

    However, the current version of the app which only shows the ATM list is available for 7 days after download. Users would be required to get a paid upgrade for N350 to have access to the app’s full functionality including access to locations and turn-by-turn navigation.

    The SeeAm app was developed by Hinansho Green, a Nigerian-based application development group founded in March 2012 with focus on mobile apps development.

More

  • Orange launches second edition of the Orange African Social Venture Prize

    Armed with the success of the previous edition in 2011, Orange has launched the second edition of its Orange African Social Venture Prize. The goal is to promote social innovation that supports development through Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

    With this prize, Orange will provide a financial endowment as well as expert-support to young companies that put forward innovative projects with a significant social impact.

    Last year, more than 600 candidates responded to the call for projects, reflecting the strong entrepreneurial spirit and the high potential of telecommunications services in Africa. Of the 634 entries, 55 projects were from Kenyan entrepreneurs; representing close to 10% of the entries drawn from the 18 Orange affiliate in Africa. One of these 55, Kuza Doctor, an agriculture oriented project, was shortlisted as one of the final 10 projects.

    The three prize-winners of the first edition, announced at the AfricaCom Awards in Cape Town in November 2011, proposed the following projects:

    -          Horticultural Tele-Irrigation: a Nigerian project that puts mobile technology in the hands of horticulturalists;

    -          Agasha Business Network: a Ugandan community-based e-commerce platform that promotes small African businesses to the global market;

    -          Kachile: an Ivory Coast e-commerce start-up for African craft products.

    The Orange African Social Venture Prize will be awarded once again this year to three entrepreneurs or start-ups offering solutions that use ICT in innovative ways to meet the needs of populations on the African continent. Projects proposed during the first edition covered a variety of fields, such as healthcare, agriculture, banking services and education.

    Orange is committed to financially supporting and offering its expertise to the management of the growing small and midsize companies who are awarded this prize. In addition to receiving an endowment of 10,000 to 25,000 Euros, the three prize-winners will receive six months of support from entrepreneurial and ICT experts. In addition, a “favourite project”, selected by visitors of the Orange Group’s web portal will be highlighted before the jury responsible for selecting the winning projects.

    Any entrepreneur or legal entity that has been in existence for less than three years at the time of the competition, may participate at no cost and with no restriction on nationality. Submitted projects must be designed to be deployed in at least one of the African countries in which Orange operates and must use Information and Communication Technology in an innovative way to help improve the living conditions of the populations in these countries.

    Applications will be accepted from May 22, 2012 to September 21, 2012 on Orange’s pan-African web portal.

    Orange operates in 18 African countries and has a total of 70 million customers. To contribute to the social and economic development of these countries, the Group has put together the “Orange for Development” programme, which is based on three central themes:

        The development of its networks to maximize the number of people who are able to benefit from digital services;
        Innovation to meet the needs of populations through value-added services in essential fields such as healthcare, education, agriculture and banking services; and
        Contributing to the local development of ICT markets and innovation ecosystems.

    The Orange African Social Venture Prize was launched therefore to help the Group meet this last goal, which is aligned with both its innovation strategy as well as its Corporate Social Responsibility policy.

    The Rules have also been placed online on the Website of the Competition here.

Issue no 610 22nd June 2012

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Top story

  • A joint venture between local and Indian investors, Bharat Telecom Ltd has set itself the ambitious target of connecting every home and office in Mauritius to a fibre network. It has been testing its technology in one community on the island and is due to launch soon. Russell Southwood spoke to one of its directors, Baljinder Sharma.

    Bharat Telecom Ltd is investing US$50 million in creating a 2,900 kms fibre network to cover Mauritius. The core 200 kms of that 10gbps network will be underground and a further 2,700 kms will be slung over the poles of the Central Electricity Board, consisting of single core and 24 core fibre. It wants to cover 70% of the population in the first phase and the other 30% in the second phase.

    Licensed in November 2011, it has moved fast to get operational and so far has done 80 kms of its core network in a month and a half. It piloted the service with a demonstration at a number of test sites in Quatres Bornes and Rose Hill. It will offer high speed broadband (100 mbps) and IPTV through a GPON network.

    The subscriber to the network will get a basic package for US$10 per monthwhich will give him or her a 2 mbps connection and 40 TV channels (a mixture of free-to-air and paid). The top end package will be US$200 per month, providing a mix of high-end bandwidth and a wider selection of premium content. The current content package includes Fox, HBO, Zee TV and UTV:”We will show most Indian news channels and soaps, Hollywood, French programmes and Bollywood.”

    As Sharma told us:”I personally want us to disrupt the whole market. The competition will respond and it will therefore be beneficial to the country. The cheaper it is, the more uptake there will be and therefore there will be more subscribers, which in turn will sustain lower bandwidth prices. So far no-one has really tried this. We will breakeven on the low-cost packages and in some instances make money.” Overall average revenues will be US$20 per user. He wants to break the idea of long-term contracts:”We’re trying to free subscribers from long-term contracts. Typically users currently have to subscribe for one year. We want to offer them the choice of not needing to do so. We will offer scratch cards for a monthly subscription.”

    It has set itself a target of 50,000 subscribers. The subscribers will be a mixture of corporate and household subscribers:”We want to be able to deliver e-commerce and education through partners and there’s lots of interest from people who want to do IPTV channels.

    It will not offer voice:”We don’t have telephony licences and we deliberately kept out of voice. We didn’t want to get into a fight with the two local big boys. The set-top box has a telephone port and some of the subscribers might want to call within the network, no problem. That’s up to the subscribers.”

    Once the network begins to start generating revenues, the plan is to start looking at other African countries in the next 18-24 months.

    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    A bumper crop of video clips this week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    NyashaMutsekwa, CEO, Metvafrica.com on its Pan-African VOD service

    Alan Knott-Craig Jr, CEO, MXit on his African expansion plans

    Mark Kaigwa, Afrinnovator talking about monetization of mobile content at OIAS

    EyalCoppitt, SVP Sales MEA, Amos Spascecom on the launch of the Amos 5 satellite


    Shawkat Ahmed, COO, Yahsat talks about its new low cost satellite broadband product


    Jonah Fink, SVP, net2phone on the potential for VoIP in Africa


    Angus Hay, Chair of WACS on the impact of this new, international cable

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Sean Krepp, Uganda Country Director, Apps Lab
    on raising farmers income using community knowledge workers with smartphones

    Kobus Roux, CSIR Meraka Institute on getting rural schools connected using local micro-entrepreneurs and Wi-Fi mesh technology

     

More

  •  

    Managed Services World Congress 2012
    18 – 19 September 2012, Maritim Pro Arte Hotel, Berlin, Germany

    With Managed Service business models evolving in new and exciting directions, it’s time to reassess the market and your place in it. Managed Services World Congress – the biggest global MS event – is the perfect place to bring leading players together and address these issues. With a 50% operator audience, and 65% CXO / Director level attendance, there is no better opportunity to meet new and existing clients. It’s a must-attend event for anyone looking to maximise the value of their technology, their networks and their brand in today’s evolving MS world. FREE PASSES FOR OPERATORS. For more information visit here:

    Broadband World Forum
    16 – 18 October 2012, Amsterdam RAI Convention Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    The event, now in its 12th year, is the most respected in the regions Telecoms calendar and the comprehensive agenda includes breakfast briefings, 3 co-located summits,  keynote plenary sessions and a choice of 4 tracks for delegates each day as well as the world class exhibition area. For more information please click here:

  • The Uganda minister of Information and Communication Technology, Ruhakana Rugunda has commended Themba Khumalo for his three years leadership at MTN Uganda and urged him to be an Ambassador for Uganda at his next posting. "You are welcome to return frequently to continue supporting the growth of our ICT sector both in your official capacity, since you are still a highly influential member of the MTN Group," Rugunda said in a recent statement issued by MTN.

  • Fashion Sprout
    Vacancies: 1
    Location: Nairobi, Kenya
    Deadline: 04 Jul, 2012

    We are an american based company offering a challenging, innovative and friendly environment where you will work to extend and improve the capabilities of our e-commerce platforms and help bring forward new e-business opportunities.

    Our ideal candidate is an Ruby on Rails developer with back-end developer skills. We offer an environment where highly motivated, self-learners will grow their knowledge and capabilities in all tiers of Rails application development and deployment. You will be responsible for the full application life cycle -- from specification/design through project delivery -- and will work directly with our business sponsors and other team members to ensure that our team is successful.

    Our Environment:

    Ruby on Rails, Linux, MySQL, Nginx, Passenger, javascript, HTML, CSS, SASS, HAML

    Required skills:

    :: Proven experience developing significant web applications
    :: Hand-coding front-end development experience (HTML, CSS)
    :: Working knowledge of standards-compliant HTML, CSS, Javascript/JQuery and AJAX

    :: Familiarity with design and prototyping tools such as Photoshop
    :: Solid Ruby on Rails development experience
    :: Commitment to iterative development practices
    :: Knowledgeable in relational database technologies, including MySQL
    :: Experience working in the Linux operating system
    :: Proficiency with Git or other source control products
    :: Demonstrated ability to learn new technologies and quickly grasp new concepts

    Desired skills:

    :: Experience gained with website setup and management through a commercial web hosting provider
    Apply for this position:

    Send your C.V. to james@fashionsprout.com

telecoms

  • The federal government is planning to abandon the $200 million National Rural Telephony Project (NRTP) it conceived in 2001 to take telephony services to the rural areas. The exit follows the full liberalisation of the telecommunications sector and government's poor execution of the project from inception.

    A top official of the Ministry of Communications Technology said the government was about to finalise the handing over to the indigenous operators that won the bid. "We are about finalizing the handover of the authority to the private operators to manage the project. We will soon make the announcement," the official said.

    The project, inaugurated under former President Olusegun Obasanjo's first term in office, was to cover 218 local government areas in the first phase and provide over 636,256 CDMA lines in the 774 local government areas and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the second phase to bridge the digital divide between the urban and rural areas.

    The federal government had borrowed $200 million from the China Export Import (EXIM) Bank and provided 15 per cent counterpart funding of N5 billion to execute the project, but its design and execution was faulty from the beginning. Three Chinese companies - ZTE Corporation, Huawei and Shangai Bell - were awarded the NRTP contract to take telephony services to the rural areas but ended up building only exchanges.

    Minister of Communications Mrs Omobola Johnson said the exchange centres that were built in six geopolitical zones were being concessioned to the private sector. "The telecom industry is fully liberalised, there is very little government involvement and, therefore, we believe that the National Rural Telephony Project is better implemented and managed outside of government.

    "So these six rural telephony exchanges are being concessioned to companies that have paid for them and our role is to monitor the implementation and delivery of services to rural areas. In a sense, we are getting out of the rural telephony," she stated.

    The government had, in 2009, transferred the second phase to G-cell Wireless Limited, Hezomic Limited, Key Communications Limited, Suburban Broadband Limited and Voicewares Network Limited to manage the rural telephony project. Under the new arrangement, Suburban Broadband won the bid to manage the FCT and Kaduna zones with $140.5 million.

    Key Communications won the Ibadan zone with a $38million bid. Voiceware Networks won the Enugu zone bid with $30 million; Hezonic won its bid for $30million. G-Cell Wireless won the Bauchi zone bid with $20 million. They were to build, operate and maintain the project in the different zones.

    Lanre Ajayi, president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), said, "If the project was done today, it would have been done differently." He noted: "At the time it was started, nobody knew that GSM operators would cover ground very fast. Today, GSM service has covered 80 per cent of the populace."

  • Tecno Mobile Ethiopia, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based mobile manufacturer, is to release its first locally assembled smartphone in mid July for a price possibly between 6,000 Br and 8,000 Br.

    The new brand, Tecno T3, supports Google's Android 2.3 a smartphone operating system.

    Android is a Linux-based operating system for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. The initial developer of the software, Android Inc, was purchased by Google in 2005.

    Most Android devices to date run the older OS version 2.3.x Gingerbread that was released on December 6, 2010, even though the newest OS version, 4.0.x Ice Cream Sandwich was released over six months ago.

    Established in 2006, Tecno Telecom Ltd came to Ethiopia five years later in September 2011, with a capital of over one million dollars. Ethiopia was part of its bigger plan to increase its presence in the African market.

    Tecno already has several models on the market, all of which support Amharic, Oromiffa, and Tigrigna languages. The new phone will, for the time being, support only Amharic, according to Henry Yu, Tecno's general manager in Ethiopia.

    The Amharic application was developed by a local company called Information Technology Transfer Services (ITTS). The software, Amharic Soft Keyboard and Messaging Application, works on all phones supporting Android, according to Ayalew Aseffa, CEO and founder of the company, which was established in 2010/11 with a capital of five million Birr. It supports SMS, email, and other information transferring systems, he says.The phone also has GPS.

    The company is still studying the market to decide on the price of its new release, according to Yu.

    Currently, Android smartphones from other makers are sold with prices ranging from 6,000 Br to 15,000 Br. The new samsung Galaxy Nexus 3 reaches 20,000 Br.

  • Flexenclosure, a specialist provider of intelligent green power management solutions for base stations, has been honoured as a top sustainable solution at Rio+20. Last night, sustainability activist Gro Harlem Brundtland, media industrialist and philanthropist Ted Turner and 150 VIP guests celebrated the first concrete outcome at Rio+20: The launch of Sustainia100. Flexenclosure’s E-site has been chosen for this prestigious list of sustainable solutions.

    Flexenclosure’s award-winning green power management solution for the telecom industry, E-site, has been chosen as one of the 100 most sustainable technologies and solutions in the world (Sustainia100). They list consists of “great ideas, innovations and technologies that help build a sustainable tomorrow”. See here:

    The list was announced at the Rio+20 conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio+20 is United Nations’ environmental conference about green economy and sustainable development. The conference is attended by 50,000 politicians, activists and NGO’s.

    Flexenclosure was included in Sustania100 for E-site, its revolutionary green energy solution that enables mobile base stations off-grid to be powered mainly by renewable energy sources (sun and wind) instead of dirty and expensive diesel fuel. It has the capacity to reduce diesel consumption for powering base stations by up to 95 per cent, reduce CO2 emissions by as much, and slash operating expenses by up to 90 per cent.

    “We are very happy to be included in this prestigious list, and to be introduced to such a large and influential audience as at Rio+20”, said David King, CEO, Flexenclosure. “I especially like the word sustainable – our solutions truly help mobile network operators to ‘go green’ in a profitable and enduring way that strengthens their bottom line while at the same time benefiting the environment.”

  • The 7th annual Connecting Rural Communities Africa conference organized by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), under the auspices of the Sierra Leone government, has commenced yesterday in Freetown at the Miatta Conference Hall.

    The 3-day forum with the theme 'The road to rural broadband: making the economics work' will focus on key issues such as how to catalyze internet and broadband use in rural areas, the critical role of the Universal Service Funds, policy and regulatory tools for stimulating rural demand and supply and measuring and understanding the socio-economic impact of rural ICT development, among other issues.

    In her remarks, Chair of the programme, NATCOM's Director of Legal and Licensing Affairs, Michala Mackay, said it is a privilege for Sierra Leone - a country of less than six million people - to serve as an international platform to share ideas and experiences in bridging the global digital divide gap in ICT.

    She said it is a forum to "gain insight through experience sharing with overseas experts" and to "closely examine how people in the rural area connect themselves with towns and cities through affordable and efficient means".

    The information minister, I.B. Kargbo, also made a speech before President Ernest Bai Koroma declared the forum open after a short remark.

    The President said his government views access to ICT services, telecom and postal services in the rural and urban areas as a sine qua non and expressed his pleasure that NATCOM and the information ministry took the initiative to invite CTO to Sierra Leone.

  • A shortage of foreign currency and a variation in exchange rates, alongside rising competition and an increase in taxes, are having a negative impact on Sudan’s telecoms industry, according to a report by Reuters.

     ‘The availability of foreign currency is a big issue for telecoms companies because we depend on imported services and equipment,’ Zain Sudan chief executive Elfatih Erwa told the news agency. He added that Zain, a unit of Kuwaiti telecoms operator Zain Group, had sometimes delayed payments to foreign suppliers, although these were still delivering on schedule. Sudan lost around three-quarters of its oil output when the South seceded in July 2011, ending its main source of state revenue and foreign currency.

    Sudatel’s director for corporate sales, Mohamed Nasir, meanwhile said that deliveries of equipment can be delayed due to the ‘limitations in the use and transfer of US dollars’. The situation is compounded by a new tax on telecoms operators introduced by the government in December 2011 to make up for the loss of oil revenue from newly independent South Sudan. Sales and services taxes for telecoms firms were increased from 20% to 30%, while a tax on profits was hiked from 15% to 30%.

    Despite these factors, market leader Zain expects to sign up an additional one million mobile subscribers in 2012 to boost its total customer base to 14 million by year-end, although earnings gains will be offset by weaker operating margins due to the higher taxes and the worsening economic situation. Zain – alongside the market’s two other mobile operators, MTN Sudan and Sudatel – began dividing their operations into two units after the South gained independence last year, but have yet to agree a licence fee with the new country.

  • Three leading telecom companies have again been slapped with penalty totaling GH¢250,000 by the industry regulator, National Communications Authority (NCA), for what it described as “various Quality of Service (QoS) infractions” after a QoS test for March, this year.The companies are MTN, the industry’s market leader and second place Vodafone and tiGO.

    According to information posted on the regulator’s website, “MTN was penalised GH¢50,000 for call setup delays in the Central Region and a further GH¢100,000 for call congestion in the Brong Ahafo and Central regions”.

    Vodafone, which overtook tiGO to become the second biggest telecom company in terms of subscriber market share, was on the other hand sanctioned to pay GH¢50,000 for Call Setup delays in the Western Region.Third placed-tiGO was slapped with the same amount as in the case of Vodafone as penalty for signaling congestion in the Brong Ahafo Region.

    Sanctions to Airtel on call congestion in the Brong Ahafo Region were suspended pending the completion of their expansion plan in Sunyani.Meanwhile, the company has up to end of June this year to complete that project.

    In a related development, sanctions according to the NCA to Expresso on call setup delays were also suspended until July this year for infractions in the Eastern Region when coverage is expected to improve in Koforidua.

    The company was also directed to improve coverage at Tarkwa by September 2012.Barely six months ago, MTN was fined GH¢300,000 for poor quality service noticed by the regulator in the Upper East and West, Greater Accra and Brong Ahafo regions.

    Airtel, at the time, suffered the heaviest fine of GH¢350,000, while Expresso defaulted in its service quality in three regions; Western, Greater Accra and Brong Ahafo.

    Vodafone, which also defaulted in its service quality in three regions; Western, Greater Accra and Brong Ahafo, was fined GH¢150,000.

    tiGO at the time was fined GH¢100,000 for defaulting in call service in the Western and the three northern regions.

    The Telecoms Chamber at the time had expressed misgivings about the fine, saying it was not deliberate for the operators to offer poor services to their customers, particularly at a time when competition among them has heightened.

    It blamed the problem on a number of issues including fibre cuts by ongoing construction works in various parts of the country and the stealing of the fibre cables. But the sector Minister, Haruna Iddrisu, has described the excuses of the Chamber as untenable and indicated that much as the government was ready to help ameliorate the challenge, there was the need for the operators to give their customers value for money.

internet

  • One of the country's leading Internet service providers, Utande, has introduced an innovative broadband service designed for households and small businesses. The latest offering from the data services provider that falls under the Dandemutande Investments group promises to provide unrivalled connection quality, true broadband speeds and unbeatable service for households and small businesses.

    uMAX was unveiled to industry leaders and stakeholders in Harare last week. Dandemutande Investments chairman Joe Mutizwa said the new product would complement the services that Utande has been offering the corporate world for the past 15 years.

    "This follows a six-month testing phase based on significant network investments made over the past two years." He added.

    Dandemutande Investments is majority owned by Masawara plc, a Jersey-registered investment company, primarily focused on acquiring interests in companies and projects based in Zimbabwe and the Southern African region.

    Dandemutande Investments has made an initial capital investment of over US$17 million as part of its uMAX rollout.

    uMAX promises an exceptional and very different broadband Internet customer experience. It offers super-fast 1 Mbps connections for all customers; 24-hour customer services support, an expertly managed network for maximum up time and superior and consistent quality; and multiple "MAX mini-stores" within some of Harare's leading retail stores and brands.

    Dandemutande interim chief executive Mr Mike Weeden said communications was one of the fastest growing industries and the launching of uMAX, initially to the Harare retail market, provided an important investment in the Zimbabwean economy, which in turn supports other businesses.

    "There is significant opportunity in the market for a new service provider, focused on delivering true broadband Internet services and unbeatable customer experiences to home users and small businesses," he said.

    "To date these segments have not been adequately served by local Internet providers and those that do are unable to deliver to the high standards people want and expect. Our research shows that customers want a better end-to-end experience and we are convinced there is considerable demand for a service provider that can consistently deliver exceptionally fast speeds, unrivalled connection and reliability, and unbeatable service. That service provider is uMAX." He added.

    The uMAX service has been arduously tested for over six months under the direction of Dandemutande's chief technical officer, Mr Colin Franco, with a team of local and international technical consultants.

    "Dandemutande has installed 11 base stations throughout greater Harare, providing service across much of the city. Through pro-active network management, uMAX technical services will avoid congestion with a robust and resilient network core," said Mr Franco.

    uMAX head of sales, Mr Naguib Omar, explained that the company is now selling its services in Harare through a unique distribution and sales model and will be partnering with other strategic retail partners, in whose premises uMAX will have considerable visibility and presence in "MAX mini stores".

  • iBurst (Pty) Ltd. is expanding Internet capacity beyond the capital of South Sudan, Africa’s youngest country, in a three-year plan to provide services to the nation’s government and biggest companies.

    “By the end of June we will have a few base stations running in the Abyei region” to enable services, Thami Mtshali, chief executive officer of the South African provider of mobile Internet services, said in an interview at the company’s Johannesburg headquarters.

    IBurst has four base stations in the South Sudan capital of Juba using fourth-generation systems, which allow faster downloads. The stations service Juba’s population of about 250,000 and coverage will extend to the whole nation in three years, said Mtshali.

    “From nothing to 4G, that is what we’re doing to the place,” Mtshali said. “It’s an initial $20 million investment,” and iBurst has already signed up some customers in the regions in which it is expanding, where the biggest clients are government institutions and the military.

    South Sudan is building infrastructure and institutions after gaining independence from Sudan last July. South Sudan seceded after a referendum on independence, the culmination of a 2005 peace agreement intended to end a two-decade civil war. The south kept three-quarters of the formerly united country’s oil output of about 490,000 barrels a day.

    “We first identify the customer and then build the infrastructure after doing the agreements,” Mtshali said. Customer subscriptions immediately pay the company’s costs, he said. “Margins are very good out there, because there’s absolutely nothing in that country,” he said.

    In Abyei, iBurst will enable “all the people to communicate and to have access to globally competitive technology this year,” Mtshali said.

    Abyei lies in a contested border region, with Sudan and South Sudan both claiming sovereignty. The two countries’ militaries have clashed in the area, and the north sent in the army in May last year. The UN established an “interim security force” to maintain peace ahead of a planned referendum in which the population will choose which country they want to be part of.

    While iBurst is rolling out infrastructure in South Sudan, the country is setting up a commission to regulate telecommunications, Khamisa Wani-Ndah, deputy minister of telecommunications and postal services, said in an interview in Cape Town on June 7.

    As South Sudan doesn’t have a fiber-optic network, iBurst will rely in satellite connections for its rollout, said Mtshali. Within three years iBurst will cover the entire nation with 4G long-term evolution technology. “We have access to funds and we are always in talks with our backers,” he said.

    The company also plans to put up 1,500 base stations using LTE technology in South Africa by the end of the year, and aims to reach a total of 4,000, Mtshali said in an interview this month. The first set of stations will cost $150 million, he said. IBurst has 100,000 data users in South Africa.

  • Jasco Networks has expanded its operations into Central Africa with the formation of Jasco Congo, a subsidiary company with a dedicated presence in the region.

    Following this expansion, the newly formed Jasco Congo subsidiary has signed a partnership agreement with Warid Congo to manage and maintain a carrier-neutral co-location data centre in Congo-Brazzaville.

    Warid Congo is part of the multinational Warid Telecom and is one of the fastest growing mobile operators in the region. As the owners of the data centre infrastructure, they will share in the revenues generated by the data centre and benefit from skills transfer as a result of the partnership. Jasco Congo will in turn benefit from the ability to tap into local expertise, knowledge and market presence.

    “Data centres are one of the fastest growing segments of the IT industry, but the data centre built by Warid was not being used to full capacity. We were looking for a seasoned, highly experienced partner in the field to help us reposition our organisation to meet the needs of corporates around data centres and carrier neutral services. Jasco delivers on all of our requirements and are the ideal partner,” says Michel Elame, Managing Director of Warid Congo.

    Market research conducted by Jasco in Central Africa showed that the Internet market is still in its infancy, being very expensive and only accessible via satellite due to lack of infrastructure. However, users in the region are well aware of technological innovations and businesses are eager to embrace connectivity. This is becoming easier to achieve thanks to the recent landing of the WACS undersea cable connecting West Africa to the world and growing investment into improving infrastructure. Local Internet in the region remains expensive as a result of a lack of local hosting and local Internet exchange.

    Jasco Congo has entered into a service partnership with Warid Congo, using the local company’s existing infrastructure and taking over the operational costs and maintenance of the data centre. Jasco will be designing and building an Internet switch exchange and providing local Internet hosting from the Warid Telecom data centre, helping to drive down the cost of Internet access. The company will also be hosting local telecommunications operators, providing a carrier neutral switching location for international traffic.

    “Our research indicated that the region was ripe with opportunities, which are being held back due to the expense of building infrastructure. The situation is reminiscent of the South African market several years ago, and our experience in South Africa puts us in an ideal position to not only harness these opportunities but to assist with growth and skills transfer in the Central African region. The Jasco Congo operation, in partnership with Warid Telecom, enables us to expand our co-location solutions offering into Africa without the expense of physically investing in infrastructure, while creating local empowerment and business stimulation,” says Eckart Zollner, Business Development Manager for Jasco Co-location Solutions.

    “Expansion into Africa is an important part of Jasco’s growth strategy, and this venture offered the perfect opportunity to launch into a new market. Congo Brazzaville is one of the more stable and economically active countries in Central Africa, the government is on an aggressive growth drive and a lot of investment is being injected into the economy. Jasco Congo and our partnership with Warid Telecom will enable us to be a part of this development and to build relationships with local suppliers in this region. This in turn will provide a launch platform for future growth and expansion,” adds Paul McKibbin, Divisional Managing Director of Jasco Networks.

    The Warid partnership and launch of Jasco Congo represent the start of an exciting growth phase for Jasco in Central Africa. There are many opportunities to take the full range of complementary Jasco solutions, from networks to broadcasting, converged communications, energy, security and more, into the region. Jasco Congo will be working with local shareholders, telco’s and Internet service providers to develop new business in the region in line with the ONE Jasco philosophy of fully converged, intelligent solutions that deliver value for customers and end users.

    “This type of business has high barriers to entry in Central Africa due to the cost of infrastructure, but there is not much competition so margins can be very lucrative and growth happens fast. However, we are also a fairly isolated region which can be difficult for companies to break into, as a result of vastly different clients and culture. Our partnership with Jasco is mutually beneficial and will enable both parties to leverage opportunities in this active and growing economic region. We are looking forward to working together and are also exploring further opportunities with Jasco,” Elame concludes.

  • Turkish multi-industry holding group Yda is in talks with the Rwanda Development Board's (RDB's) ICT department to invest in a data centre in the country, IT Web reported. Rwanda has become a 'sweet spot' for Turkish investors after the opening of a Rwandan consulate in Istanbul last September.

    The data centre will be in addition to the USD 5 million National Data Centre (NDC) co-financed by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). The NDC connects and allows secure access to information from government offices, and provides back-up information for companies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) commercially.

    Other countries are also eyeing opportunities in Rwanda's ICT sector. The RDB signed a USD 6.7 million contract in April with the Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) to provide 1.244 Gbps of internet bandwidth. The RDB hopes that these inputs, together with other ICT-related investments, will make Rwanda East Africa's ICT hub as it reduces its dependency on agriculture.

computing

  • Thousands of pupils and teachers from public primary schools in Zanzibar and Mtwara region are set to benefit from the TZ21 project, a five-year United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded programme.

    Speaking to the 'Daily News' on Wednesday, the USAID Tanzania Education Team Leader, Mr Thomas LeBlanc, said that the project will provide a laptop for every three pupils in Standard One up to Five in public primary schools in the said areas.

    The project whose focus is on four subjects, English, Kiswahili, Mathematics and Science, uses video and games to assist the children to read, do calculations and spellings. "This project will have a huge impact on the quality of education in the country, it will take a few years but it will eventually build up to great success," Mr LeBlanc said enthusiastically adding that integration of information communication technologies in primary education will also strengthen professional development of primary school teachers.

    The five-year project is a partnership between the USAID, with a funding of US 50 million dollars and private sector comprising Cisco, Intel, Microsoft with a US 45 million dollars funding and two local Internet Service providers, UhuruOne and Zantel. Mr LeBlanc said the laptops are tough and wont break or be affected by water and will not work if taken away from the school area because they are connected to a central server.

    "The laptops cannot be stolen because they will not work far from the school because they are connected to a central server, neither will they break if they accidentally fall or be affected by water poured on them," he explained.

    The laptops are charged overnight with solar panels, LeBlack explained optimistically, noting that the project will yield high results once fully implemented. Mtwara was specifically chosen because of USAID previous education project in the region but also because the region is soon set to develop extensively due to discovery of natural gas and oil.

    "This project will equip them with skills and tools they need to succeed in getting jobs and build a more prosperous Tanzania," Mr LeBlanc said.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Nigerian submarine cable company, Main One Cable says it has stepped up investment in distribution networks in the face of a dearth of commercially reasonable alternatives.

    The company announced last weekend a major expansion programmes into other cities in the country and West Africa, with an additional investment of $15 million within its two years of operations in Nigeria. Main One, which will clock two years in July, further disclosed that it has already begun to stretch its infrastructure towards Togo with an interconnection through Ghana, and is presently servicing the Republic of Benin from Nigeria.

    Funke Opeke, chief executive officer of the company told journalists in Lagos, weekend that the underwater cable company plans extension of its services to landlocked areas including the Republic of Burkina Faso, Niger, among others, further adding that presently, the customer base of the company in the country is nearing 200.

    The CEO explained that the landing of the submarine cable in July 2010, has so far brought down bandwidth cost and increase accessibilities’ of Nigeria to the Internet, adding that the company, was determined to service the country’s huge market and those of neighbouring countries with broadband services.

    According to her, many people had discovered the need for a fast and cheap Internet access amid the desire to use different kinds of applications.

    “People know they want better access to Internet. They want it faster, cheaper, and they want to be able to drive new kinds of applications and access different types of content,” she said. She argued that the fresh investment became imperative in view of the increasing demand for the company’s broadband services.

    Opeke said the company had started investing in distribution infrastructure as well as building its own networks in the face of a dearth of commercially reasonable alternatives.

    To her, “The biggest challenge that we see is getting the capacity we have in this big pipe that we brought into Nigeria and Ghana across the region to reach the people and businesses where they need the service. But looking back two years now, we were totally unproven in the market and the viability of our services was something yet to be experienced, which was subject to speculation. But we can confidently say today that our services have proven to be extremely reliable and highly available.”

    She explained that the firm successfully launched last year its IP service, which today, she claims makes them the largest wholesale provider in Internet connectivity into West Africa.

    Explaining the new value proposition of the company, the Content Delivery Network Solution, MainOne’s head of sales, Bolanle Ogundogba said the new offering is in partnership with Tata Communications.

    “Today, they have a product offering and we bought into it because we have the highway, which is the submarine cables to provide real connectivity that will provide access for the kind of content that you desire.

    For instance, the Olympics coming up, we want to be able to stream it live from there to Nigeria and avoid having it recorded and play here. The product has been developed and is coming for launch next month.”

    In his own contribution, Babatunde Dada, Chief Finance Officer, Main One Cable said though the investment cost MainOne and its partners about $240 million, we have expended about $15 million within the last two years of operation, especially in the areas of creating access and expanding reach across Nigeria and others West African countries.

  • The Maroc Numeric Fund has solid backing and a healthy attitude to risk – good news for bright ideas.

    A state-backed Moroccan risk-capital fund focused on technology start-ups has invested €1.8m in the past 18 months in seven companies, opening up a new stream of funding to a nascent industry.

    Investments by the Maroc Numeric Fund (MNF), a 100m dirham ($11.7m) fund run by MITC Capital, have included 2m dirhams in March 2012 in mydeal.com, a Moroccan daily deal or 'group buying' website, and 3.9m dirhams in Majalatouki, a web portal for North African women.

    MNF has solid backing, from both the state – through MITC, which runs Casablanca's Technopark – and Moroccan banks BMCE, Attijariwafa, the Caisse de Dépôt et de Gestion and the Banque Centrale Populaire.

    Each has a representative on the investment committee, which has studied 130 applications so far.

    "MNF has invented risk capital Morocco. Until its creation, nobody would finance projects through a business plan," said Mohamed Attahri, co-founder of Greendizer, one of the first start-ups to be funded by MNF when it received 5m dirhams at the end of 2010.

    Although private-equity funds are well established in Morocco, young companies, particularly in the technology sector, have found it hard to find financing.

    "Between now and the end of 2013, our objective is to make 15 investments," explained Ali Bassit, director general of MITC. Most of the start-ups chosen so far have founders with international experience.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - MTN Ghana has launched a new facebook page that allows its customers to interact with the company on facebook absolutely free of charge.Chief Marketing Officer of MTN Ghana, Rahul De told Adom News it would be an avenue for MTN to also address customer queries online.

    - Senegalese telecoms watchdog the Agence de Regulation des Telecoms et Postes (ARTP) has published state owned fixed line PTO (Sonatel’s) new catalogue for interconnection services covering 2011/12. In a website announcement ARTP reports that the new rates were approved on 24 May 2012, Full details can be found here:

Digital Content

  • A notice on Korean Air’s website announcing the start of non-stop flights from Korea to Kenya sparked a flurry of angry Tweets and Facebook postings Monday over the description of Kenyans as indigenous people full of “primitive energy.”

    Muthui Kariuki, who is handling public relations for Korean Air in Kenya, said that the notice had been removed from the website and that the word “primitive” was a result of a mistake in translation from Korean to English.

    Kariuki said the airline, which is supposed to launch the thrice-weekly flights this Thursday, will post an apology.

    Kenyans expressed their anger on social media.

    “An insult to a nation. Kenya doesn’t have primitive people,” posted a Twitter user who identified himself as George Njoro.

    Others however felt that the mistake in the notice was an intentional marketing gimmick.

    “Now everybody knows Korea Air is coming to Kenya. Nice marketing strategy,” tweeted another person using the Twitter handle of Komboste.

    Kenya is a regional hub where passengers can connect to flights to other countries in the region and in Africa.

  • In sixteen countries across Africa, including Nigeria, farmers are gradually overcoming the problem of information failure through a mobile platform called Esoko. In the past, they accepted whatever prices middlemen were willing to pay without any leads as to what the reigning prices were. Today, by simply sending a text message with the required key word, farmers can know how much the produce is going for in all the main markets.

    It all started in 2005 when TradeNet started providing market data on agricultural marketing and trends to stakeholders within the Ugandan agricultural sector. By 2009, TradeNet had become Esoko (from the Swahili word for market – Soko) and had established itself across several countries in West Africa, including Nigeria, as an online marketplace for various agricultural resources. The Esoko team was able to put two and two together: if mobile penetration rates were around 60 percent in Africa and about 60 percent of Africans gain their means of livelihood through agriculture, then there is a great opportunity to exploit the potential of mobile services for agricultural stakeholders. As aptly noted by The Economist, “Africa’s enthusiasm for technology is boosting growth. It has more than 600m mobile-phone users – more than America or Europe. Since roads are generally dreadful, advances in communications, with mobile banking and telephonic agro-info, have been a huge boon. Around a tenth of Africa’s landmass is covered by mobile-internet services – a higher proportion than in India.”

    The technology is simple. Imagine that we have a fish farmer or fisherman named Tamuno. Everyday, traders come to buy his fish to sell in the bigger markets in the Niger Delta. However, without information on how much fish is being sold for in these markets, he has no choice but to take the traders’ word for it. This could mean that Tamuno will sell his fish for N100 each to a trader who is actually going to sell it in the market for N350, making a 250 percent profit. This could go on for many years, leaving Tamuno, a hardworking farmer, with very little profits to improve his livelihood and expand his enterprise.

    Upon acquiring Esoko service, Tamuno keys in the word “fish” and starts receiving text messages about the market prices of fish in different cities. He learns that the average selling price is N300 and not the N200 that the trader tried to convince him it was. Armed with this knowledge, he sticks to his guns in demanding N180 or N200 from the trader, thereby earning N80 or N100 extra per fish. What’s more, knowing now that Tilapia is being sold at a higher price than Knifefish, he can work harder to increase his stock of Tilapia and make even more money. With access to market trends, Tamuno may choose to sell his produce on a particular day in order to take advantage of favourable market factors.

    All this is possible through the technology. For Esoko, something as simple as text messaging is a silver bullet. Through these texts, they are able to gather and share information about farming techniques, crop prices, stock levels, market trends, sales and employment opportunities, etc. Because of its customized and personalized nature, users are able to get information tailored to address their specific needs. This is not only useful for small farmers but for big businessmen. The knowledge of the value of this information to the latter has helped Esoko sustain itself as a for-profit enterprise, charging investors and stakeholders a fee while opening up information channels to them.

    In agriculture, as in many other fields, information is power. With mobile phones and applications and large repositories of information on the internet, farming practices can be improved; markets can be discovered; business opportunities can be revealed; impending disasters can be averted; and food security can be improved. With information, yields and profits rise as the cost of inputs reduces. Information is the difference between poverty and financial buoyancy.

  • To protect the state-owned telecom provider, the Ethiopian government has introduced legislation that will make using online communication tools such as Skype punishable by up to 15 years in jail, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

    The new law, passed on 24 May, criminalises the use of independent Internet communications like Skype, Viber and GTalk, says IPI.

    Although the government said the law was introduced to prevent the country's sole telecom provider, state-run Ethio Telecom, from losing money to low-cost online competitors, CPJ say banning online communication technology will also prevent journalists and dissidents from talking to sources abroad cheaply and securely - effectively shutting down their ability to carry out independent reporting.

    The law also makes it an offence to import, sell or own telecom equipment, says CPJ. Anyone caught trying to circumvent the law could be charged with a number of violations, such as "obstructing or interfering" with the network, which is punishable by 15 years in prison, or "disseminating terrorising messages," punishable by up to eight years in prison and a US$4,500 fine.

    The anti-terrorism law already criminalises reporting that is favourable to banned opposition groups and causes, says CPJ.

    The group also notes that the government has been trying to control Internet-based communications in recent years, citing reports that Internet cafés offering services like Skype are required to keep records of the names and addresses of their customers.

    At the same time, the Ethiopian government has installed sophisticated online filters in efforts to shut down back-door access to the Internet. RSF, IPI and OpenNet Initiative, a group that investigates and exposes Internet filtering and surveillance practices, report that Ethio Telecom had blocked access to the Tor network, an online tool that allows users to anonymously browse the Internet.

    To be doing this type of selective blocking, says RSF, Ethio Telecom must be using Deep Packet Inspection, an advanced network filtering method that is commonly used by repressive countries such as China and Iran. RSF is concerned this move marks a new low point for the Ethiopian authorities and could be a precursor to intercepting emails, social media messages and online conversations.

    "We fear that Deep Packet Inspection will be misused for surveillance purposes by a government that already subjects the political opposition and privately-owned media to a great deal of harassment," says RSF.

    The moves to criminalise dissent online are the latest in a wave of repression against independent journalists and media outlets. Journalist Eskinder Nega and several activists are accused of inciting terrorism and are facing the death penalty. A verdict on their case is expected on 21 June.

    CPJ says an American reporter with Voice of America and his Ethiopian translator were also recently detained, and Voice of America's Amharic broadcast was jammed and its website blocked, while "The Reporter", a privately-owned weekly newspaper, told RSF that its website was censored.

    "Authorities are obviously deeply threatened by any source of independent information, from critical journalism to sharing of information online," said CPJ.

Issue no 609 15th June 2012

node ref id: 25138

Top story

  • Outside of South Africa, the games sector in Africa has had almost no profile, which is strange considering that it will almost certainly be one of the key content drivers on mobile handsets. Two Nigerian games developers spoke to Russell Southwood this week about the games they have developed and how they see the business model developing.

    Victor Dibia is the founder of Denveycom.com that has launched the Gidi Games range and he started his company in January this year. It has taken games everyone has played at some point and localized them, giving them an “African touch.” The games include Puzzlemania, Tic-Tac-Toe, Noughts and Crosses and Wic-Wac-Woe.

    Currently they are available on the company’s website and through Google Trader. There is an Android version of the games available and they are working on versions for Windows, Blackberry and a range of feature-phones.

    At the moment the games are being offered for free as beta versions because Dibia wants to “test the market and get a lot of feedback, allowing a local market with users to develop and so that we can see what local content works.” This for free phase will last 8-12 months:”We want to build a large user base.”

    Currently no marketing has been done so there has been only 70 downloads but they are now starting the marketing phase, with media coverage and social media campaigns.

    When the moment comes to go “pay-for”, Dibia see N100-200 (US61 cents-US$1.20) which is the same range as for the SMS services promoted by mobile operators.

    Hugo Obi, the founder of Maliyo Games launched in April this year and is aiming squarely at what he calls the “casual games” market:”There are four core local elements: characters, narrative, sound and environment.” There are seven games available on the Maliya.com site: Adanma, Class Fight, Mosquito Squasher, Football Goalie, Okada Ride, Aboki and Kidnapped. Okada Ride is based on the motorcycle taxis that swarm dangerously like angry wasps around Lagos: the character in the game is trying to get a job and has to dodge potholes and traffic. Mosquito Squasher is as simple as the name implies: you take revenge online on Nigeria’s many mosquitos.

    The games are free to play online on its web site and are not downloadable. Again the numbers of people playing is in the tens because the games have only been out for two weeks and there’s not yet been a concerted marketing push.

    The next stage is to build a mobile pay-for version which it will co-brand and market with the Nokia Ovi store. It is also looking for similar co-branding opportunities with the Samsung and MTN stores.

    As Obi told us:”We’ve built seven games in seven weeks so we’ve shown we can do it. This is a big, big opportunity. You’re looking at the 44 million in Nigeria who access the Internet via mobile so it will be an insanely huge opportunity.”

    Both companies work out of the Lagos incubator CC Hub which is offering the Nokia/CCHub Growth Academy aimed at accelerating top Nigerian mobile software companies in growing their companies on regional and international levels.

    The academy program is the first of its kind business accelerator programme in Africa dedicated to providing intensive continuous hands-on support to help approximately thirty (30) early stage mobile technology start-ups grow into high growth businesses and build world class mobile applications for the Nokia platform regionally and globally.

    The first programme of the Growth Academy started on May 10th and will run till end of July 2012, featuring ten (10) companies, which are expected at the end of the three months to have a world class mobile app launch on the Nokia platform with full marketing support by Nokia. They will also have access to funding to scale their business through an investor presentation as the end.

    The program comes in three parts; Training, Development and Launch of world class mobile apps for Nokia platform. Selected participants will undergo hands-on, structured and technical training to actualize your ideas.  Futurice, a leading global mobile software house from Finland with expertise in mobile application development and user driven design will have several face to face sessions with the participants in Nigeria and also provide constant online support and mentoring to the participants during the Growth Academy.

    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    A bumper crop of video clips this week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    NyashaMutsekwa, CEO, Metvafrica.com on its Pan-African VOD service

    Alan Knott-Craig Jr, CEO, MXit on his African expansion plans

    Mark Kaigwa, Afrinnovator talking about monetization of mobile content at OIAS

    EyalCoppitt, SVP Sales MEA, Amos Spascecom on the launch of the Amos 5 satellite


    Shawkat Ahmed, COO, Yahsat talks about its new low cost satellite broadband product


    Jonah Fink, SVP, net2phone on the potential for VoIP in Africa


    Angus Hay, Chair of WACS on the impact of this new, international cable

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Sean Krepp, Uganda Country Director, Apps Lab
    on raising farmers income using community knowledge workers with smartphones

    Kobus Roux, CSIR Meraka Institute on getting rural schools connected using local micro-entrepreneurs and Wi-Fi mesh technology

telecoms

  • Most rural Kenyans do not own mobile phones, and women are less likely to own phones than men, a new study has revealed.

    The study was carried out by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard School of Public Health, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), and the University of Oxford.

    They used data captured during a 2009 national survey conducted by Financial Sector Deepening Kenya, a financial services support programme in Nairobi. More than 30,000 people aged over 16 - from nearly 650 communities across the country - took part in the survey.

    Participants were asked about their mobile phone usage, ownership and monthly airtime expenditure, and questions relating to their demographic background.

    The study, published in PloS One (25 April), found that levels of mobile phone usage and ownership across the country varied greatly.

    However Abdisalan Noor, one of the paper's authors who is based at KEMRI, told SciDev.Net that low ownership levels did not necessarily reflect low usage, as many subscribers reported sharing a single handset.

    "[We] found that although only 44 per cent of individuals owned a mobile phone, 85 per cent reported [having used] a mobile phone, with results showing high levels of phone-sharing," Noor said.

    "Many people in Kenya own sim cards but don't have handsets, so they share handsets with [each other]."

    Low levels of handset ownership stemmed from a range of factors, including poverty, education, urbanisation and gender, Noor added.

    Despite varied levels of ownership, the study found a strong appetite for mobile phone use in Kenya.

    Amy Wesolowski, another author on the paper, said that improvements to national coverage should be geared towards rural Kenya, to help reduce geographical differences in mobile phone ownership.

    The authors were particularly interested in mobile technology's potential to relay health messages to health workers and the general population, she added.

    Leonida Mutuku, a researcher at iHub Research in Nairobi, said the findings would be especially useful to designers of mobile phone applications.

    However, Mutuku also warned that data from the 2009 survey could already be out of date, because mobile phone ownership levels in Kenya was constantly changing.

  • Telecom operator Flashcom Limited risks losing its licence because of illegal connection of international voice traffic through Safaricom’s network and failure to pay annual operation fees.

    In a letter dated May 16, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has given Flashcom Ltd 45 days to clear its annual licence fees arrears of Sh67 million, a penalty of Sh2 million and submit its quarterly returns. CCK has also suspended the company’s connection agreement with Safaricom.

    Flashcom is also accused of operating a faulty billing system that overcharged its subscribers who mainly access its services for fixed calls and data products.      

    “You are further directed to remedy all the above conservations within 45 days of the date hereof, failure to which further enforcement measures will be taken against, including but not limited to licence revocation,” said Francis Wangusi, the acting CCK director general. “The commission hereby suspends the interconnection agreement between yourself and Safaricom Ltd until and unless remedial action is taken as herein before directed.”

    Flashcom’s trouble with the regulator began early in January, following a sudden increase in volume traffic on its network, which Flashcom attributed the surge to signing of a new client Encom Solutions, but which later CCK found out to be terminating international traffic, which was against the licensing condition. CCK says it has been forced to take the tough measures against the firm after it refused to comply with its earlier warning.

    “The commission notified you of the foregoing contravention and directed that you remedy the same. However, in a blatant disregard of the said notice, you persist in the contraventions.”

    CCK’s action could be the last blow to the only local loop operator (LLO) that has remained in operation after the other Popote Wireless closed shop due to new regulatory framework and stiff competition from mobile firms.

    While CCK had licensed a total of 24 local loop operators by 2007, only the two firms managed to rollout their services. The local loop operators were issued with licences to increase access to fixed lines, popularly known as landlines and expand last mile access for the internet access.   The conditions, however, limited their on-net traffic to a geographical area.

  • Samsung are looking to Africa to enhance its influence further afield. The latest Samsung Galaxy SIII smartphone was launched in Johannesburg on Friday but this is set to be just the opening gambit as part of a general charge on developing markets.

    50,000 handsets were pre-ordered within South Africa, prior to the launch, indicating a general change in consumer trends among the middle classes across the continent.

    Samsung is now looking to use this as the starting point for a complete assault on the market, aiming for specific growth in Africa, to go alongside expansion in similar global regions too.

    The cost of some of its devices was thought to be a potential issue, but Samsung has declared its intentions to offer a varied enough range of products to suit all sectors of industries and the public.

    At present, 65 percent of the South African smartphone market is dominated by BlackBerry, due to the BlackBerry Internet Service, but Samsung expects the African market to slowly conform to global trends that it is currently experiencing. The Korean company recently overtook Nokia as the largest manufacturer of mobile phones around the world, with its market share rising to 25.4 percent.

    Craig Fleischer, Head of Mobile Communications at Samsung South Africa is optimistic for the future of the company in the developing country: "South Africa and the African continent is a massive focus for Samsung - not only from a mobile phone perspective, but also from a holistic perspective.

    "We have strong confidence from our partners in South Africa, and it will be very interesting to see how the sales look. We predict significant growth for this product.

    "We have our Build for Africa programme where specific devices and units, not only on the mobile device front, but across the range, have been specifically built for Africa for Africans."
    Samsung produces a range of consumer devices and Fleisher said that success in Africa could lead to further penetration into Africa.

    "The South African market is a unique market. We are the stepping stone into Africa and it's a very important market for Samsung and we have invested significantly here."

internet

  • The Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) fibre optic will land in Sierra Leone in October and become operational at that time, The Freetown Concord Times reported.

    Project Coordinator of the West Africa Regional Communication Programme (WARCIP) in Sierra Leone Julius Kamara said the government succeeded in securing funding from the World Bank to ensure that the project would finish at the scheduled time. The cable connecting 22 other countries in Africa and Europe is expected to bring down telecom costs, promoting better communication among Sierra Leoneans and businesses.

  • The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has named award winning American actress Geena Davis, as the body's special envoy for women and girls in the field of technology.

    The post is linked to a new ITU campaign highlighting the empowering role technology can play in the lives of women and girls.

    One of Davis' first activities in her new role as special envoy will be to promote ITU's new 'Tech Needs Girls' campaign throughout the course of 2012, through public appearances at high-profile events held by ITU and others.

    "I'm thrilled with this new position because ITU is an incredible organisation that wields a lot of clout globally," she is quoted in a statement sent to The New Times yesterday.

    "This role will enable me to take the work I'm doing to a much bigger scale globally, through developing and consulting on strategies to advance gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women in ICTs.

    She said that it's incredibly important to get more women and girls connected to technology, and a big factor in making this happen is going to be ITU's work.

    The Hollywood celebrity and rights activist, this year scooped the 2012 ITU World Telecommunication and Information Society Award in recognition for leadership and dedication towards promoting ICTs as a means of empowering women and girls.

    Earlier this year, ITU launched a new multilingual web portal focused on helping girls and women access training, job opportunities and career information in the fast-growing ICT sector.

    The Girls in ICT portal hosts over 400 programmes, including over 100 scholarship programmes and an equal number of contests and awards, some 60 training and internship opportunities, over 100 online networks offering career support and mentoring, as well as tech camps and other activities.

  • VC4Africa is pleased to announce new tools that make private investment easy, secure and social. This is a first for the African space and is part of our constant drive to bring the continent’s best ideas closer to the vital resources they need to grow.

    This new functionality allows entrepreneurs to register their funding needs. These intentions to raise a round of funding are screened by the team at VC4Africa before they are published for investors, registered as part of the VC4Africa investor network, to review. Interested investors can follow the venture and get regular updates on their progress. They are able to engage the entrepreneur with questions, review secure documents and discuss the terms. At any stage they can express their interest to support the entrepreneur and step forward as a lead investor. If the venture requires addition funding, they can enter a fundraising mode for 90 days needed to attract additional support. This is the next step in VC4Africa’s efforts to help close the startup funding gap, bringing quality entrepreneurs and qualified investors closer together.

    This new functionality builds on a pilot in which VC4Africa successfully connected 3 out of 5 participating companies. One deal has since closed and another two are in final stages. Saskia Reus-Makkink, Head of Investor Relations at VC4Africa, explains, “We are stepping up our efforts to connect entrepreneurs with the resources they need to realize their potential. With this launch, we make it even easier for entrepreneurs to connect with possible partners.” Saskia expands, “We screen all of the business plans and related documentation of the ventures that apply for fundraising. If they meet our quality standards the venture is made visible for the investors registered as part of the VC4Africa investor network.  If the entrepreneur does not meet the quality criteria, we identify areas they can work on. They are free to make use of our growing number of tools and and can apply to the VC4Africa mentorship program. These are resources the entrepreneur is free to tap into as they get themselves to the next level.”

    For investors to give VC4Africa listed entrepreneurs a serious look, the venture has to be well beyond idea stage. The documentation has to be top level and social traction within the community counts. Entrepreneurs have already raised more than a USD $1 million in funding and joint ventures and investments have been secured by members in countries as diverse as Cameroon, South Africa, the United States, Kenya, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Somalia and Zambia.

    As a community, we hope these new tools get us one step closer to our mission. With a user friendly platform and cutting edge tools,  we seek to empower our members in ways that make it easier and easier for us to unlock the resources available across the member base.

  • MTN Ghana, has introduced a product dubbed 0.Facebook.com, to enable its subscribers link up on its Facebook page at no cost.

    Speaking at the launch of 0.Facebook.com in Accra on Monday, which was also carried live on Joy FM, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Rahul De, said this was the first online and radio launch of any product in the telecoms industry.

    According to him, "MTN Ghana, with its fastest internet, widest coverage, and with the biggest community as a market leader with over 10.5 million subscribers on its network, finds it exciting to give its customers the opportunity to link up with friends at no cost on Facebook."

    He further stated that 0.Facebook.com would be the strongest driver for mobile internet access, and assured the general public that the company had the capacity in place to ensure that subscribers experience the fastest connectivity provided by MTN.

    To achieve this, he pointed out that three high capacity switch and data centers had been built in Accra and Kumasi by MTN to support the provision of high speed internet access to subscribers.

    He, therefore, noted: "We in MTN Ghana are happy to join other countries on 0.Facebook.com, and to give our subscribers that unique experience of accessing Facebook for free."

    Additionally, he expressed the hope that this would add to the revolution in the media landscape that has brought about a change in the way people access information, and help to change the lives of many people.

  • Coverage of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics will be screened live on YouTube in Africa, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has confirmed.

    In total the service will available in 64 countries, not only across Africa, but in Asia too, in Nigeria and Kenya, among others. 

    There will be 11 different channels all together, which will all be HD and will be free for people to access.

    Overall there will be 2,200 hours of sport available to watch, of a variety of different events, including the medal ceremonies for all 32 sporting events.

    It is thought the arrangement will be worth billions of dollars, although YouTube has declined to comment on the details financial agreement.

    However, estimations have been based on similar situations in the past.

    For example, it reportedly cost American Broadcaster, NBC, $2 billion for the rights to both the Winter Olympics in 2010 and this year’s Games.

    Live screening major is just one of the things YouTube has introduced to enable it to become the world’s most popular video site.

    The first event it screened live was the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in April 2011.

    Webcasts of other sporting events, such as India's Premiere League cricket matches and the cup sailing contest in America, have also been available on YouTube.

computing

  • Ethiopian and Norwegian researchers have developed a mathematical model that can identify conditions that increase the likelihood of a malaria outbreak up to two months ahead of its occurrence.

    The computer model, Open Malaria Warning (OMaWa), incorporates hydrological, meteorological, mosquito-breeding and land-use data to determine when and where outbreaks are likely to occur.

    Torleif Markussen Lunde, one of the model's developers and a researcher at Norway's University of Bergen, told SciDev.Net that the model made direct use of the limited real-time information available in typical rural areas.

    "The model also reproduces observed mosquito species composition in Africa. It is the first time this has been done with a biophysical model. We are now looking at which areas in Africa the model can be applied," he said.

    Lunde said that past attempts at predicting malaria epidemics have had limited success because "some models [were] oversimplifications of the reality, and might have led to problematically high or low sensitivity to changes in the environment".

    Predictions made by the model compared favourably with observations from field trials and health clinics, the researchers said.

    However the model needs to be tested during a significant malaria outbreak, and its outputs compared with case studies and field observations, according to Bernt Lindtjørn, professor of international health at the University of Bergen and a co-author of the paper.

    "It is [also] specific to African mosquitoes and may require modification before being applied outside Africa," he added.

    "Our model is not only a tool for predicting malaria, but can also be used to understand the dynamics of malaria transmission," he added, noting that the tool could be used to better understand the effects on a malaria outbreak of interventions such as residual spraying and bednet use.

    Daniel Argaw, of the World Health Organisation in Ethiopia, said that "the development of a model that can predict malaria outbreaks will have a significant role in combating malaria," adding that no other models have been developed for this purpose. The research was published in Forecasting Malaria in April.

  • There would be no Silicon Valley if it was not because of the garages and Stanford University's dorms from where computer wizards developed today's most influential web based companies.

    With Rwandans' case it is different; the Computer Wizards do not have to meet in garages, there is a special high tech laboratory that has been set up for them in the Telecom house.

    The high tech lab dubbed kLab is located 5th floor of the Kaciru Telecom house. Fabulously decorated with the fastest Internet speeds available in the country being offered by BSC and cloud sourcing facilities, the kLab opened its doors as a beta release late this May 2012.

    kLab is a project created by Rwanda Development Board, JICA and Carnegie Mellon University.

    Nicolas Pottier, an enthusiast programmer at Nyaruka and active member of kLab writes "This is a Beta release, some things aren't quite done yet, some edges are still a bit rough, but we are pretty sure you'll still find it pretty awesome. Thanks to BSC we have some fast internet, and thanks to RDB we have some incredible space for you to work in."

    kLab being a community workspace, all of its services are offered free of charge and recruitment of its members is on a two basis system.

    There are tenants and mentors types of kLab members, with the currently registered number of tenants at 10; the management of kLab has scheduled to recruit more tenants before 6th June 2012.

    Walking into the fantastically decorated kLab, you get to see coders vigorously scrambling their keyboards or projecting power point presentations or discussing solutions to computer programs.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, last week announced an equity investment of $35 million in the Convergence Partners Communications Infrastructure Fund to support more rapid development of information and communications technologies across Africa. The fund is expected to play an important development role in Africa, where ICT infrastructure bottlenecks impede the growth of business and companies lack access to finance, especially risk capital and related expertise from investors that can help businesses succeed.

     The investment focus of the fund will be to address the lack of enabling infrastructure that provides quality, affordable communications services, especially broadband, across Africa. The fund aims to develop and invest in new wholesale, open access networks and related services. The fund will capitalize on the potential for communication technology platforms to deliver critical services such as banking, healthcare, education and government programs that contribute to improved living standards.

    The fund will be managed Convergence Partners Management (Proprietary) Limited, a project development and investment advisory firm with an established track record of developing projects and providing growth capital as well as expertise to investee companies in the first Convergence Partners investment portfolio.

    Andile Ngcaba, Chairman of Convergence Partners said, “There is an exciting opportunity to accelerate the development of Africa through increased investment in critical infrastructure, specifically ICTs. We are proud to be working together with the IFC in our new fund to deploy critical capital and expertise into this sector to the benefit of the Continent”.

     Saleem Karimjee, IFC Senior Country Manager for Southern Africa, said, “The Convergence Partners Communications Infrastructure Fund will further spur Africa’s development. Access to communications helps improve economic competitiveness, facilitates efficient government services, increases the productivity of private businesses, and enhances living standards.”

     The fund eventually aims to grow to $500 million. The first closing of the Fund, which is scheduled for later in 2012, will also involve other investors, including local and international development finance institutions and banks.

  • South African telco Telkom has reported operating revenues of ZAR33.08 billion (USD3.92 billion) for the twelve months ended 31 March 2012, down 0.7% compared to the company’s full year revenues one year earlier. Telkom notes that its reporting segments consist of two separately managed business units; the ‘Fixed line’ segment provides fixed line access and data communications services, whilst the ‘Mobile’ segment accounts for mobile voice, data services and handsets sales through its ‘8ta’ unit. ‘Fixed line’ revenues decreased 2.8% year-on-year to ZAR30.64 billion year-on-year and ‘Mobile’ sales increased 1381.5% to ZAR1.2 billion as the service gained traction. Telkom’s results include a ZAR896 million loss relating to the disposal of ill-fated Nigerian venture Multi-Links, as well as an impairment charge of ZAR569 million, relating to iWayAfrica goodwill and assets.

    In operational terms, fixed line telephony customers grew 4.6% to 819,019 as at 31 March, whilst Telkom’s ADSL broadband subscriber base increased 10.0% to 827,091. In addition, the operator reported 3,381 WiMAX subscribers, a 5.7% rise y-o-y. Meanwhile, Telkom’s mobile unit 8ta – which launched in October 2010 – has signed up 3.053 million subscribers since its launch, a 154.5% rise on an annualised basis. However, the number of ‘active’ subscribers at 31 March was less than half of that figure, 1.483 million (albeit up 213.2% y-o-y). TeleGeography notes that the latter figure refers to customers who have used an 8ta SIM card during the previous 90 days; three months is standard practice.

    Telkom South Africa CEO Nombulelo Moholi commented: ‘Telkom faces many challenges at the moment but we will advance calmly, determined and focused on delivering on the promise of our business and strategy going forward. Group financial results for the year under review reflects our challenges but we took a number of significant steps towards securing a successful future for Telkom and we began casting the foundation that will allow the Group to compete well and build value in the future. It was a year of clean-up and consolidation across the Telkom Group. Our strategy going forward is clear and focused.’

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - The Internet Service Providers' Association of SA (ISPA) has welcomed Cell C's reduced and transparent pricing plans as clear indications of how competition benefits South African consumers while simultaneously calling on all mobile operators to take further pro-competitive steps and provide a wholesale APN product. "Cell C's actions in effecting significant voice call reductions across both prepaid and contract subscribers and, in particular, the shift to an easily-understood pricing structure can only be described as innovative given the history of the mobile services sector in South Africa," said Jaap Scholten, co-chair of ISPA. Cell C has decided to compete on price and honesty as opposed to marketing.

Digital Content

  • Village leaders in the Kolda region, assisted by the Sonatel Foundation and the NGO Aide et Action, are to promote a new initiative aimed at helping parents to register births of their children to using the phone.

    In the Kolda region, some 7,500 children, old enough to go to school, are not reported to the registry, according to the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF).

    This project is in a test phase, according to its promoters, who have developed an innovation of birth registration through the mobile phone with village leaders. The village leaders are responsible for sending the statements recorded in civil registration services.

    This initiative is beginning to bear fruit. '' The project is welcomed by the people here. Birth registrations by phone arouse enthusiasm among people. Householders adhere, which eventually result in the end for late reporting. [...]'', Testifies Kandé Yaya, an assistant village chief Dioulacolon.

    '' In four statements a year of birth, a few years ago, we ended up with 20 returns for only a month,'' he adds.

    Software is used to store data (birth registration), according to proponents. They explain that the phone, available to each village chief, is attached to its center of vital statistics, which are transferred to the data collected, says Testifies Kandé Yaya, an assistant village chief Dioulacolon.

  • The GSMA has launched the Mobile and Development Intelligence (MDI) project in conjunction with Omidyar Network the philanthropic investment firm established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Through an open access portal, MDI will offer data and analysis to support business decision-making and clarify the evidence of the socio-economic impact of the mobile industry in the developing world. MDI will provide any user with over 70 metrics and the ability to tabulate, graph, map and export the datasets with country-level dashboards available for more than 140 developing world countries. MDI will continually add new datasets throughout the project and users can add data and content to the portal.

    “The GSMA believes that open access to high-quality data will improve business decision-making, increase total investment from both the commercial mobile industry and the development sector, and amplify economic, environmental and social impact,” said Chris Locke, Managing Director, GSMA Development Fund. “The GSMA is uniquely positioned to aggregate and host data and analysis on behalf of our mobile operator members and the wider industry. This open data portal will provide for the first time a complete landscape of the organisations and mobile services that are influencing and changing lives in developing populations throughout the world.”

    “Omidyar Network is proud to partner with the GSMA on the MDI portal to help foster a thriving mobile ecosystem in the developing world,” said Raj Gollamudi, director of investments, Omidyar Network. “Using the power and ubiquity of the mobile platform to empower individuals with information and opportunities to improve their lives is core to Omidyar Network’s mission. We believe the mobile industry in emerging markets needs a credible and trusted source of market data to enable greater collaboration across various sectors and drive incremental investments in the most promising opportunities. In addition to becoming the industry’s de-facto data platform, we envision MDI becoming a vibrant community hub for all players in the ecosystem.”

    A challenge facing mobile industry stakeholders in the developing world is the lack of publically available data and analysis to support their business decision making. MDI will fill this information gap and will aggregate and host publically available data from multiple sources such as the GSMA, the United Nations, the World Bank, the wider mobile industry and development organisations.

    MDI hosts a landscape of more than 800 organisation profiles; in addition, over 750 products and services have been summarised, with an initial focus on mobile money and mobile health. Users can see these organisations, products and services on a global map and search for particular types of organisations. This will allow stakeholders to identify each other, understand each other’s offerings and objectives, and form collaborations and partnerships.

    There are an estimated 6.6 billion mobile connections globally, with the developing world providing the majority of global connections growth. The industry is moving beyond basic voice to the use of mobile to deliver services in adjacent sectors such as agriculture, education, financial services and health. As the most widely adopted technology in history, mobile is uniquely positioned to drive economic, environmental and social benefit. MDI will help increase this momentum by providing a robust, data-rich, user-friendly and freely available portal that offers a new level of global visibility.

    Locke continued, “By helping to increase the level of investment and the number of products and services offered that prove to be fundamentally valuable to developing populations, MDI will have an impact on the livelihoods of millions of people in the developing world.”

  • At the recent Pivot East competition, an event in which developers pitch their mobile apps to possible investors, Uganda was represented by 4 startups. The contestants included Easy Order, Story Spaces, mPoultry and MafutaGo. With a 50% success rate, two of the four pitching teams walked away with $10.000.

    The four startups that competed:

    1) Easy Order: EasyOrder is an SMS based mobile ordering and supply chain management application developed to simplify the way customers order for goods from manufacturers and distributors.

    2) Story spaces: A digital story telling portal. Collective Mentoring Through the African Story Telling Experience. StorySpaces is a digital story telling application. create stories at your own time and on the move.

    3) mPoultry: Mpoultry is a simple technological solution that enables chicken farmers to simply monitor the conditions of the brooder via SMS. It utilizes environmental  sensors and an android device to monitor the temperature, lights and chicken feed inside the brooder. The farmer receives an SMS when his intervention is required.

    4) MafutaGo: Helps users find the nearest fuel stations with the prices and Services that best suit their needs. Recently AppsDivision the makers of MafutaGo made a merger with Code Sync, taking on three more members to make an amazing team of eight.  The team is more diversified and skillsets balanced out.

    The two winners were Easy Order, in the Business and Resource Management category, and MafutaGo, in the Utilities category. It’s nice to see Uganda do so well at a competition like this and it confirms what a lot of people in the Kampala community already know….

  • Kwami Ahiabenu, II, is a team leader of International Institute for ICT Journalism, the co-ordination organisation for African Elections Project (AEP). With over nine years of experience in management, marketing, new media, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and development, Kwami was Executive Director of AITEC Ghana and a former board member of Ghana Information Network for Knowledge Sharing (GINKS).

    He served as a key committee member for the organization of World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) African Regional Meeting 2005. He has undertaken several training sessions on new media across Africa. He is a Steve Biko and Foster Davies Fellow.

    African Elections Project was established in 2008 with the vision of enhancing the ability of journalists, citizen journalists and the news media to provide more timely and relevant elections information and knowledge while undertaking monitoring of specific and important aspects of governance.

    AEP has covered elections in Ghana, Cote d‟Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Togo, Niger and Liberia. African Elections Project uses social media tools and ICT platforms such as blogs, interactive maps, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook.

    L. Abena Annan (LA): What is your affiliation with the African Elections Project?

    Kwami Ahiabenu, II (KA): I am part of [the] founders, currently serving as a consultant to the project, providing management support and serving as the training director.

    LA: How long have you been involved with the project?

    KA: Since the birth of the project in year 2008. We started the project by launching the coverage of Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea elections. Ghana elections did take place in 2008 but Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea took place in subsequent years.

    LA: How would you describe this project for the average person to understand? What do you intend to accomplish with it?

    KA: It is an online, SMS, mobile service which provides authoritative elections information and knowledge specifically news, analysis, elections powered by ICTs and new media. The service is brought to our audience by a team of dedicated journalists supported by civil society actors and citizen journalists

    LA: What countries have you worked in? Do you intend to go to other countries as your website states only 10?

    KA: We have worked in 11 countries to date, namely Botswana, Namibia, Ghana, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Mozambique, Malawi, Togo, Liberia and Niger working across English, French and Portuguese speaking countries. We currently cover each election happening on the continent on our homepage with Ghana elections 2012 being the current country we are covering. In addition to elections coverage, we have done some work in post-elections focusing on transparency and accountability issues and currently in partnership with Africatti we are monitoring health and education issues in two districts of Ghana under “Enabling Governance and Economic Transparency in Ghana using new media Project,” with plans to roll out to other African countries in the near future.

    LA: How can people effectively use your website or information provided on it?

    KA: Our audiences come to our website because of the high quality content which we generate and they consider it useful for themselves, so we can only improve our services by ensuring we constantly provide timely and relevant content to our audience base.

    LA: Do you believe new technologies have improved democracy in Africa? Why?

    KA: Democracy is a long journey, in this direction new technologies are assuming important roles in ensuring our people benefit from the fruits of democracy. That said, the journey is a long one; though we are recording some improvements we still have a long way to go to ensure that Africa as a whole nurtures its democracy.

    LA: How empowering would you say technology has become to citizens of Africa?

    KA: Technology can only play a role when the fundamentals are in place. If there is no true freedom of speech or free press, technology role becomes limited, though one may argue that technology can contribute to empowerment but it is important to stress the fact that technology plays a facilitating role and it works best when empowering environments are in place and protected to ensure technology’s role strive.

    LA: What do you think the effect of technology on democracy will be 10 years from now?

    KA: Technology roles cannot be discussed in isolation. Rapid growth of the tenets of democracy on the continent is a sure guarantee that technology impact on democracy is going to grow and become very important each passing day.

    LA: What are your biggest challenges as an organization?

    KA: We like to deploy cutting edge technologies in our coverage, but the high cost of ICT tools coupled by expensive bandwidth are always a challenge. Also user content generation is picking albeit slowly and our work will be made more interesting if the grandmother in the village can also contribute to our project.

    LA: Any successes so far?

    KA: The project has contributed significantly to building the capacity of journalists and citizen journalists in covering elections using new technologies, more importantly providing them with skills set they need to cover elections impartially thereby contributing to better elections which is a cornerstone of any democracy. One key achievement worthy of mention is the successful pilot of Ghana Post elections Project (”Because Accountability Counts”), where we contribute to the promotion of the culture of political accountability by providing a mechanism for citizens to match campaign promises and manifesto versus action and inaction of the ruling government.

    The project incorporates citizen journalism mostly driven by mobile phones and has so far covered elections in 11 African countries namely Botswana, Cote d'lvoire, Ghana, Niger, Togo, Guinea, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Liberia and Namibia. This is one of key result area.

    The project has also contributed local content from an African prospective for the global market, thus, presenting the African story using African voices.

    We have also contributed to the body of knowledge in African elections and democracy through our country specific countries and recently we contributed “A JOURNEY THROUGH 10 COUNTRIES - Online election coverage in Africa” article in the Journal of Journalism Practice.

    At its innovation fair, “Moving beyond Conflict”, Cape Town, South Africa 2010, the World Bank ranked African Elections Projects as innovative in the area of improving governance and accountability through communication technologies.

More

  • Ayo Alli resigns as Business Development & Sales Director for Eskimi in Nigeria, effective from 1st June 2012. “It is with some regret that I’m leaving Eskimi effective immediately. It is an interesting site, and I have learnt a lot in the 6 months I worked with them. While I’m sure they’ll get where they’re headed, I don’t feel I can continue my association with Eskimi. My next project will put my energy, skills and experience into developing capacity, skills and jobs in the Nigerian tech space. While I am always open and happy to work with anyone adding value to Nigeria’s tech industry, wider economy and general development – opening up the Nigerian market to foreign companies isn’t really a priority.”

  • The 2012 Google Apps Developer Challenge is Here!

    In the past year, the Google team has been engaging with local developers by running various Google conferences and Google+ Hackathons, showcasing creative applications, and supporting Tech Hubs. Since we are always looking for opportunities to encourage (and challenge!) you, we are looking forward to giving developers the opportunity to take on this year’s challenge, which will focus on Google Apps Script, Google Apps and Google Drive APIs.

    With the Google Apps Developer Challenge, we hope developers across the globe will find new and innovative ways to use Apps Script, Apps and Drive APIs to build cool apps. This challenge is particularly unique as the APIs are available to a large community of developers who code in a variety of languages that include Java, PHP, Python, and .Net.

    We will be working in collaboration with our Google Developer Groups (also known as GTUGs) andGoogle Business Groups to organize events and prepare for this challenge. Make sure to join your local community so that you are aware of meet ups.

    How familiar are you with the various Google Apps and Drive APIs? If you aren’t familiar, make sure to read up about Google Apps Script, Google Apps and Drive APIs on Google Developers. Use theChrome Web Store as a source of inspiration. Create an innovative application using Google Apps Script, Google Apps, and Drive APIs. If your application is the best within one of the three categories defined below in your region, you could win a prize of $20,000 dollars! Google is also committed to nurturing the next generation of computer scientists as well as encouraging more women to get into coding, so we have special prizes for all-student or all-female teams that make the second round — $1,000 dollars.

    Fans Connect Online, one of the winners of last year’s Android Developer Challenge

    The first round of submissions will start on the 24th of August 2012. The categories are
    Enterprise / Small Business Solutions e.g., Accounting, Sales, Workflow, Collaboration
    Social / Personal Productivity / Games / Fun
    Education / Not for Profit / Water / Food & Hunger / Health

    Make sure you read all the details about the competition on the Google Apps Developer Challenge page and follow the hashtag #gappschallenge on Google+ for any additional updates.

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