Newsletter English

Issue no 591 10th February 2012

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Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook grew in Africa was startling but the story is now well-known. Lithuanian social network Eskimi is designed for low-end handset users and in a little over 18 months it has gone from nothing to 2.5 million users. Anyone who believes that mobile content is important has to understand why this has happened. Russell Southwood picks over the bones with Vytas Paukstys, CEO, Eskimi and Nigerian Ayo Alli who has taken on the promotion of the site.

    There’s a cycle of events before the content moment arrives. International fibre connections have to be in place: content and apps don’t grow on satellite bandwidth. Wholesale bandwidth prices have to come down so that retail prices for the individual user come down: operators have to stop selling shortage. Then international brands like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter begin to grow. From research we have done elsewhere, this is generally followed by local versions of the international brands, particularly in larger markets.

    The Eskimi story is one of a social network that didn’t come from the usual places and chose to break out in emerging markets rather than the crowded European and North American markets. Also as with the “iTunes for Africa” site, Spinlet (which formally launches at Mobile Web East Africa next week), this is a collaboration between a small European country and Nigeria. The trading centre of gravity in the world is slowly beginning to tip on its axis.

    According to VytasPaukstys, CEO, Eskimi:”We started experimenting in the Baltics and it went great there. So we decided to go international and do test marketing elsewhere in the world. We started in Asia and then went to Africa. We focused on four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.”

    All this has taken it to the point where at the beginning of November 2011, 1.7 m of its 3 m global users were Nigerian. But also use at that point in other African countries was also growing: 250,000 registered users in Ghana, 35,000 users in Kenya and over 30,000 in Namibia. Now it has 5 million global users, of which half are in Nigeria. Overall, Africa now has 1 million users. In other words, it is gaining critical mass in Ghana and other places, making it more than a one-hit, one country wonder.

    Eskimi is a low-end, mobile web product and it is building an Android app but it believes, it’s too early for a smartphone application. The pattern of use must be reassuring for Nokia as in November 2011, 73% were using the Opera Mini browser which is most frequently found on its handsets. At this point, 90% of use is on Opera Mini or the proprietary browser on the handset. Critical mass needs a wide potential user base as not everyone who has the right phone will use the product or service.

    So if there are say 1 million smartphone users, only 10-30% may use a particular service and only a smaller percentage use it regularly(see look and feel in graphic) Also this year, Eskimi will go out to local developers to develops to help create more services around the platform.

    What are they all using it for? What a small number of them used to lurk in cyber-cafes and do: discovering new friends, messaging, public chat, fan boards, picture sharing and dating tools and games. In other words, flirting, dating, romance and much, much more. 86% of them in Nigeria are in the social category that moves technology change across Africa, 18-34 year olds. You can guess that these people are less deferential and probably more in a hurry than their parents. Usually these things are heavily focused on the capital or the main city but not Eskimi. Only 32% of its users are in Lagos, the majority of the rest being spread across seven cities.

    Part of its growth phenomenon is down to how it was marketed. In the early days, it paid special attention to feedback from users, fine-tuning the product at that stage. And although it has spread throughout Africa, largely by word of mouth, it has offered incentives for users to write to their friends and connect with them, giving them some of the virtual currency available to users.

    The business model for the site is two-fold: sale of virtual currency (purchased through operator and which it shares with them) and advertising. For the latter, the 18-34 year old audience is attractive and can be highly targeted. Where African media is researched, the methodology is often open to question and where it is not, who knows how many people actually listen to, watch or read it?

    Eskimi knows enough about its list users to be able to target very precisely and it is getting a 20% response rate on those targeted lists. It can also trade its virtual currency to advertisers to use in competition promotion and for other incentives.

    Elsewhere the breakdown of revenues has been half from virtual currency and half from advertising revenues. In Africa, this has been more like 20% virtual currency and 80% advertising. But Eskimi’sPaukstys is not just chasing the traditional advertisers:”Africa’s at the media creation stage. Classifieds, business listings, news portals, etc are all growing. Revenues will come from these media creation businesses.” Media creation? Uh? Think people like Mocality and Jobberman who have to also get to critical mass for their businesses to succeed. Another source of revenue will be mobile money operators: there are ten licences in Nigeria, making their climb to critical mass a daunting task without a carefully focused marketing platform. It can also provide a platform to do the kind of research about media consumers that is currently sorely lacking.

    So in the cycle of events described at the beginning of this article, things are still largely at the stage of the arrival of international brands. Brands like Flickr and Tumblr have yet to make a noticeable impact on the continent. But local entrepreneurs – particularly in the larger markets need to think about what will work (probably in a vernacular language) that is not just a “me-too” product and developers who are all hyped up about smartphone apps need to think about whether they might be doing something more responsive to the market (most likely on feature phones) in the short to medium term.

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

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria.
    It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

    Also to understand how social media is used in Africa:
    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Past clips on downloading and streaming content

    Conrad Nkutu, CEO, Fast Track Productions on its download platform:

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    LippeOosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

telecoms

  • TurkCellIletisimHizmetlera AS (TurkCell) has confirmed that talks with South African mobile operator MTN (MTN) are ongoing, with the former looking to bring a case against MTN and its subsidiary, Irancell, in a US court.

    MTN, which owns 49% of Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence – said last Thursday that it had been informed by TurkCell that it believes it has a claim against MTN and its relevant subsidiary,

    This is arising out of the award of the second GSM Licence based on alleged violations of US laws, and TurkCell has indicated an intention to bring such a claim before a US court.TurkCell claimed that MTN had asked South Africa to support Iran’s nuclear development in return for a license.

    A spokesperson for TurkCell told BusinessTech: “As the discussions between our company and MTN have been continuing pertaining to the issues mentioned in the press announcements of MTN, we cannot make further comment on this issue. And we will not make any public announcement until the discussions are finalised.”

    Turkcell would not comment on any of the legal action MTN referred to last week.
    MTN said it would not comment further following its announcement made on Thursday (February 2, 2012). It said that, so far, no such claim had been filed in the courts or served on MTN.

    TurkCell has been listed on the NYSE since July 2000, and is the only NYSE-listed company in Turkey.

    The spokesperson alluded to a statement filed with Capital Markets Board (CMB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in TurkCell’s Q3 2011 IFRS report relating to the dispute with the Iranian GSM tender process.

    “The company has initiated an arbitration case against Islamic Republic of Iran for not abiding by the provisions of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and demanded its sustained loss, on 11 January 2008 at the arbitration court which is established pursuant to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules. The arbitration process is still pending,” TurkCell said.

    Through a 49% holding in Irancell, MTN boasts 33.314 million subscribers and a 44% market share.

  • Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    The firm was given a three-year grace period in early 2009 to grow its local shareholding to at least 20 per cent after Information minister Samuel Poghisio granted businessman NaushadMerali exception to sell 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in then Zain Kenya to Kuwait-based Zain Group.

    The Kuwaiti firm sold its stake to India’s BhartiAirtel in June 2010 and handed the new owners the responsibility to either search for local shareholders or seek an extension in the first quarter of this year.

    Airtel says it has been granted extension on the strength that it is yet to settle in the loss-making Kenyan business — a move that will halt the jockeying for the stake among local businessmen.

    “BhartiAirtel has in accordance with the government policy obtained the requisite exemption from local shareholder requirements,” said ShivanBhargava, the chief operating officer of Airtel Kenya.“Airtel is committed to always comply with the requirements of the government policy.”

    Airtel did not disclose the period of the extension, but sources at the Communications Commission of Kenya said it will run for three years or until 2015.

  • Telecoms with poor service quality will soon start to pay 10 per cent of their gross income in penalties, if the communications regulator goes ahead to implement a new penalties schedule that seeks to curb the continued deterioration in service provision.
    Uganda Communications Commission told Daily Monitor yesterday that in consultation with stakeholders, the regulator had formulated a penalties schedule for telecoms that have failed to meet contractual obligations.

    Fred Ottunu, the UCC Communications and Consumer Affairs Manager, told Daily Monitor that effective next month, there shall be a schedule indicating fines to be paid for poor services."We are in consultations with all telecoms to come up with a detailed report indicating how much to be fined for which offense. The law allows us fines of up to 10 per cent in comparison to gross income," Ottunu said.

    Network failure applies to all core telecom services including; dropped and blocked calls, failure in sending and receiving SMS and related services like mobile money and internet.

    UCC said public outcry regarding the detoriating quality of service for telecoms had forced the commission to devise means of bettering the services.However, operators argue that they have not reached any conclusion on the matter and do not expect penalties to come in form of fines.

    Shailendra Naidu, the Warid chief commercial officer, said: "There is nothing conclusive yet and I hope the commission will first consult widely before it introduces penalties."

    ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, declined to comment saying, he was yet to receive information regarding the matter.

    Utl's Jamal Sultan said: "Even as UCC's recent Quality of Service report placed Utl in the lead in terms of service, we have not tired of laying strategies for improving our services."

  • GilatSatcom, a provider of domestic and international fiber and satellite-based connectivity services in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has announced that it has released to market SuricatePRO, a communication solution that provides people in underground and other closed facilities with the ability to communicate over Iridium satellite phones. Providing coverage extension for Iridium devices, SuricatePRO extends telephony throughout the facility without loss of signal quality.

    SuricatePRO is the perfect solution for using Iridium devices without sky view. Satphone users in mines, secure military installations, underground facilities and remote locations without sky view can quickly set up a SuricatePRO communication link that enables seamless communication with the Iridium satellite constellation.

    GilatSatcom’s Mobile Satellite Director, Ami Schneider, declared, “With SuricatePRO, we delivertelephone communication to formerly impossible-to-reach locations and secure facilities. Now, after only a very simple installation of small, lightweight equipment, Iridium subscribers can gain reliable access to the Iridium network.”

    SuricatePRO takes advantage of Foxcom’s leading RF-over-fiber technology. To enjoy the benefits of SuricatePRO, customers need only to install outdoor and indoor units connected via fiber (up to 3 km). Immediately, Iridium satphone users in the room can access the Iridium constellation as if they had clear sky view.JackHotz, Foxcom’s CEO, stated, “SuricatePRO takes advantage of our innovative fiber-based solutions. This new product provides customers with an easily installable, complete solution to satphone telephony from challenging and even otherwise-impossible circumstances.”

  • Airtel Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of its 3G mobile platform in the country, which promises to change how subscribers experience the web on internet-enabled cell phones. The improved technology will enhance multimedia functionality, high speed mobile broadband and internet access; allowing  users to make video calls, watch live TV, send and receive emails, and download music from the handheld devices.

    “3G technology will give our customers the opportunity to interact with cellular technology in a different way,” explains R.V.S. Bhullar “This is why Airtel doesn’t see 3G as a product, but rather as a platform that enables our subscribers to experience data better.”

    There are currently about 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to data from McKinsey & Co. Telecommunications is one of the continent’s fastest growing industries with a rapidly expanding cellular phone market that now includes internet access, mobile banking and mobile commerce.

  • Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia will establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number Kenya's software developers to cultivate applications for its African market.Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said in Nairobi last week that the mobile telephony giant intends to use the local talent to develop mobile applications to rejuvenate its falling handset sales.

    The move is set to boost the earnings of local software developers and catapult the country's IT experts to global prominence."Kenya not only has the pool of talent required but has also demonstrated that it can produce mobile applications that can be used globally," said Mr Elop, adding Nokia will use a yet-to-be established regional research unit to develop applications that are relevant for Africa's users.

    Mobile application are Internet based software such as the Safaricom's mobile money transfer services M-Pesa or Ushahidi that run on smartphones and other mobile devices designed to help users to solve their day to day problems.

    Elop, who is in Nairobi to meet the local software developers, says Nokia is keen on mobile applications tailored to education, health and e-commerce sectors. He met about 50 software developers at iHub - an innovation centre that houses more than 3,000 software developers.

    Nokia is facing stiff competition in the handset market with firms such as Samsung, Apple and ZTE gaining marketshare and is looking at emerging nations to spur sales. The firm has shed more than 30,000 jobs in three years and moved production to Asia from Europe to cut costs. The Finnish giant last year downgraded the Kenya office from a regional hub to a sales and marketing office under South Africa.

    A report released by Gartner in November indicates that Nokia's global marketshare dropped to 22.8 in August from 30.3 per cent same period last year, with its overall pieces sold over the period dropping to 97,869.6 from 111,473 in 2010.

    ZTE, which has introduced cheaper smartphones, increased its global marketshare to three per cent in August 2011 from 1.8 per cent in the same period last year while Apple's increased to 4.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent in the period under review.

    Kenya's software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms - Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd - won global awards. Virtual City won the $1million Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award for innovators who would create mobile products that can improve lives of people in developing nations.

    Taka Taka Solutions, a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste, won Sh4.2 million Dell Social Innovation Award for 2011 for a software to help authorities locate garbage.

  • Nigerians who were hoping to see the rollout of newly licensed Fixed Line operators may have to wait a little further, following a recent revelation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    NCC said in Lagos that the Commission was aware of the shortage of Fixed Line operations in the country, but that it was not in a hurry to licence additional operators, as a result of the low broadband penetration in the country.

    Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Eugene Juwah who gave the defence during an interactive session with telecoms reporters in Lagos, said "modern Fixed Line telephony is deployed over broadband, and we cannot issue licence for Fixed Line operators, when broadband deployment is not well spread in the country."

    According to him, the Commission would facilitate the wide deployment of broadband, especially in hinterlands and rural communities, hence its drive in empowering private sector participation in broadband deployment.NCC had in 2001 and 2003, issued Fixed Line licenses, alongside GSM(mobile) licences to MTN and Globacom respectively, but the operators decided to roll out their GSM services, leaving out the Fixed Line service.

    Both Globacom and MTN had promised that they were going to roll out fixed lLine services and they have connected fibre optic cables round most cities of the country, yet none of the operators have rolled out fixed lines service.

internet

  • For a first-time mother, it is usually her own mother who becomes the primary source of motherhood advice. Other female relatives and friends who already have children are often second on the speed-dial. And while online communities and forums are a popular source for information, they can be unreliable.
    Inspired by all this, SuperMama was born.

    Launched last October, SuperMama is the first of its kind, a website and online parenting community targeting mothers and mothers-to-be around the Middle East. The bilingual Arabic and English site provides essential information on almost every aspect of mothers’ lives and childcare.

    Two dynamic young ladies, Yasmine al-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, are the masterminds behind SuperMama. In June, prior to the launch, they teamed up with Sherine al-Sammaa, the marketing director, aiming to complement each others' experience.

    SuperMama acts as an information hub, offering content for all aspects of a mom’s busy life, including pregnancy, parenting, cooking, home maintenance, and the mother’s own personal lifestyle and interests. All content is created by specialists, such as physicians, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, professional cooks and home management experts.
    The unique aspect of the site is its localized content, which distinguishes it from foreign websites that often offer advice irrelevant to Arabs' normal lifestyles.

    Hitting more than 2,000 registered users and over 20,000 unique visits in the first month of the launch,SuperMama has already proven a success.
    “Our aim is to become, in the near future, the first website for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mehairy says.

  • When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving.

    "It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance," said Adrian Louw, program integrator at Bush Radio.

    The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply.

    Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of color. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. "The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that
    knows our internet protocols," said Louw.

    The station has a rich history of defiance during the apartheid era. Back then it broadcasted illegally after repeated applications for a license were turned down. Since the granting of a broadcasting license in 1994, the station has evolved with the times. "If blogging works, why do we have to pay thousands of (South African) Rands to get a designer to design a fancy website for news when a free CMS (content management system) works?" asked Louw.

    Bush Radio is also renowned for training young people in broadcasting. Social media has enabled them to spread the message quicker. "For instance we had a recruitment for news volunteers. We had a response from over sixty applicants within three days." For Bush Radio, social media complements the weaknesses of radio – its immediacy and transient nature. With social media, the station can now relay important messages that have a presence on the internet.
    "We seriously believe that technology must be used in bettering people’s lives," said Louw.

    Across town in South Africa’s biggest single township of Khayelitsha, Radio Zibonele has a lot in common with Bush Radio. Radio Zibonele’s listenership has steadily increased with the station’s meteoric rise from its days of broadcasting under the bed of a shipping container truck in 1995. With over 220 000 listeners, feedback grew and inundated the single studio phone line. The advent of social media has been a welcome development for Radio Zibonele.

    Like most community media, Radio Zibonele traditionally interacts with its audiences through outreach programs such as road shows and other sponsored community activities. However, of late, dwindling sponsorship has been a hindrance. Social media, said NtebalengShete, the station’s program manager, fills the gap by reconnecting with the community.
    Radio Zibonele broadcasts mostly in the local language, isiXhosa. Its flagship program discusses various social problems, and feedback peaks during this two-hour program.

    The high penetration of mobile phones with internet connectivity has also boosted the number of listeners who log onto social networks. According to latest figures provided by Cellular Online, a mobile portal, South Africa has a growing subscriber base of close to 20 million users.
    "I think people are growing with technology…many of the people want to be on Facebook and Twitter," said Shete.

  • Google has added five Western Cape wineries to its popular Street View service in Google Maps and will begin collecting images in Botswana in the next few weeks, the Internet giant says in a new blog post.

    The five new wineries – Boekenhoutskloof, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Môreson, Rustenburg Wines and Warwick – bring to 30 the number of wineries now available in Street View. Google uses specially equipped trikes and cars to take the images.

    The company says it will use Chevrolet Capitva vehicles to add a range of places in Botswana, including Gaborone, Francistown and the country’s tourist and wildlife destinations. These include Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and KgalagadiTransfrontier Park.

    Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date, Google says

  • SkyVision Global Networks, a provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic networks, has announced that it has partnered with CMC Networks, a leading ISP based in South Africa, to establish SkyVision South Africa (Pty)., a local subsidiary and addition to its rapidly growing local African presence.

    In this latest strategic move, SkyVision, winner of the coveted AfricaCom Satellite Service Provider of the year Award, opens a local South African office, expanding its local footprint into Africa's most vibrant business hub. This move places the company in a prime tactical position to answer Africa's growing need for high quality communication services over fiber, wireless and satellite, like never before.

    "We are thrilled to combine SkyVision's pan-African satellite coverage with CMC Networks impressive global infrastructure and extensive fiber connectivity services to bring SkyVision South Africa customers high quality connectivity from and to anywhere in Africa, Europe, the USA  and the Middle East", stated Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision.

    Providing customized, Virtual Private Network and Internet Access services over its IP/MPLS and satellite networks, SkyVision South Africa will operate an iDirect HUB in Johannesburg, providing coverage over all of South Africa as well as the Sub Saharan African countries.
    "SkyVision and CMC Networks will now jointly offer a network of 36 MPLS POPs across Africa and 20 additional global POPs to enable global corporates to share business-critical information via voice and data applications where traditional terrestrial networks have been thus far unsuccessful.

    “CMC Networks embraces the opportunity to extend its African VSAT footprint with SkyVision. The two networks combined will extend the service offerings, increasing reach and deliverables reinforcing our aggressive expansion within the continent to provide a one stop shop for holistic hybrid connectivity throughout Africa. We foresee this new network to be the most expansive in Africa once complete” stated Grant Walker CEO of CMC.

    Additional services will include: Unified Threat Management value-added services, business continuity and disaster recovery services, collocation and hosting.

  • Canadian start-up Exponential Labs claims to have monitored Google+ since it launched and have made statistics about the social network available onlineNew statistics from PlusDemophraphics.com finds as many as 466,828 Google+ users in South Africa, and counting.

    Globally, PlusDemophraphics.com notes approximately 90 million Google+ users worldwide, against more than 800 million active users on Facebook – and approaching five million active users in South Africa.

    PlusDemophraphics.com is owned and operated by Exponential Labs, a small start-up out of Toronto, Canada. “We’ve been monitoring Google+ since it launched, and our extensive knowledge and experience has made us somewhat of an unofficial authority,” it says.

    The majority of Google+ users in South Africa, 36.32%, are Married; 31.92% are Single; 42.42% are looking for networking; and 39.40% are looking for Friends.

    Approximately 71% of users are male, while the majority of users in SA – at 37.3% – are aged 25-34, followed by 18-24 year olds comprising 35.8%.

    Just less than 28% of users originate from Johannesburg, with about 14% coming from Pretoria, according to PlusDemophraphics.com.

    The majority of users are students, which follows the global pattern.

    Up to 70.38% of global users of Google+ are male, with the majority of users, at 50.4%, in the 18-24 years category.

    Of the South Africans on Google+, Exponential Labs says 45.82% are also active on Facebook, while 44.83% use Twitter.

  • The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said it will soon provide wide Internet access to students in universities across the country. ProfessorCleopasAngaye, the Director-General of the agency, said this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

    'We are looking at situation whereby we can provide wide internet service to universities, at least, get a pilot scheme to look at maybe two or four; how we can provide internet access to 20,000 students simultaneously.

    'That will actually be breakout of the traditional system in which Internet is only provided between maybe 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., during day light hours.

    'But if we can do that wide area Internet network for universities, students can use this Internet access 24 hours. We are looking for ways of doing that.

    'Like I said, it depends on whether it will be approved in the budget. If it is, we will provide more research, more computing and more interaction among students in universities.'

    He said the project would fast-track economic development through the use of Information and Communication Technology (CIT).

    Angaye stated that the project, if approved, would commence with a pilot scheme with few universities and would be extended to other universities.

    He reiterated the determination of the agency towards the transformation of the economy through the deployment of series of Information Technologies that would benefit Nigerians.

computing

  • MyMilpark, Milpark Business School's new online learning environment, provides a platform for students with their own e-mail address.

    Milpark recognises that the student is the principal player in the teaching-learning transaction and should be encouraged to take charge of his/her own learning experience.

    One of MyMilpark's primary aims is to provide an improved learning experience for distance learners through increased interaction and access to learning resources.

    The website will be used to deliver all learning related information (assignment due dates, exam information) content (assignments, cover sheets, subject specific information) and functionality (assignment uploads, forums etc) to Milpark students.

    All current students have access to MyMilpark and will be notified of their usernames and passwords. The platform is also available on mobile devices through a mobisit, to which tablets and smart phones will automatically be redirected.

  • National Police's anti-gender based violence (GBV) offices received computers and cameras worth Rwf 8.5 million from Actionaid Rwanda to support their efficiency in curbing the vice.

    The equipment will be dispersed to Police GBV offices in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province and Musanze District, Northern Province, in a bid to circulate capacity of all their offices.

    Upon her tour of police facilities, Joanna Kerr, the Chief Executive of Actionaid International, pledged more support in terms of training and equipment to aid police.

    She singled out the police hospital in Kacyiru, Kigali, as a facility that Actionaid would assist in order to foster partnership.

    "At Actionaid, we are motivated to provide relief to women and children who suffer domestic violence just because of their gender; the National Police is utilising the few resources at its disposal to perform an extraordinary task that is beneficial to the vulnerable groups in Rwanda," she said.

    Police Spokesman, TheosBadege, commended Actionaid for lending a hand in the fight against domestic violence.

    "We run anti-GBV desks in all its offices countrywide, with councillors, legal advisors and activists. We work with various stakeholders, both from government and the private sector, to ensure that peace prevails because its part and parcel of the country's development," he said.

    Police statistics indicate that there were 4,680 GBV related cases reported and acted upo

  • Ministry of Health launched a Human Resource for health Information System a digitalised information system for managing human resource in the Ministry. The purpose of the system is to improve for better planning purposes and to easily identify vacancies and fill them.

    "Managers who will access this information will be able to report any vacancies to the Ministry so that they are filled on time," Vincent Oketcho Chief of Party, Uganda Capacity at IntraHealth said.

    He said previously there were difficulties in obtaining reliable data and this made it difficult to plan accordingly for health services because details were stored manually and sometime s the papers would be misplaced but this is bound to change with the electronic system.

    Oketcho says the information will only be restricted to managers and administrators of the hospitals for security purposes because information can easily be altered.

    During the launch at Hotel African in Kampala on Feb 7, John Mark Winfield the USAID Deputy Director says maternal health activists have pointed to the absence of trained personnel as the reason for the majority deaths in the labour wards but Winfield hopes if this gap is filled then we shall see the number if those dying going down.

    Richard Nduhura the State Minister for Health says the system which was introduced in 2006 will see to the equitable distributions of health workers through out the country. He says well as 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the rural areas, only 20 percent of the health workers are distributed in the rural areas and the remaining 80 percent of the health work force in concentrated in towns with a population of 20 percent.

    He says says the shortages have been translated to work loads where the only available health workers have to cater to the over load of patients which in the end results to poor health service care in the end.

    Nduhura says the system will see to effect that absenteeism, ghost workers some of the challenges widespread in the health work force are reduced. "There will be consistent monitoring which will help us to quickly identify the gaps and quickly fill them immediately," he said.

    He says the government with the support of the World Health organisation and the World Bank will extend the system to 40 other districts. So far 69 districts have been installed on the system and by 2014; the Ministry hopes the system will be installed in all the districts in the country.

    The system will also be adopted by the Public service and all government agencies to recruit and transfer staff.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A tax row between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and telecoms company MTN has been scheduled for arbitration starting February 15 after failed attempts to resolve the matter in the boardroom and court.

    The two entities are locked in a contest over Shs136 billion that according to URA, was incurred as a tax liability by the telecom company between 2003 and 2007. However, MTN Uganda insists the tax liability is unfounded and had earlier sought court intervention to block the claim.

    According to court documents, the dispute started when URA in 2009 suspected MTN of defaulting on its obligations related to management fees, a tax normally charged on income of expatriates, which the telecom employed between 2003 and 2007.

    URA also contends that over the same period, the telecom, despite massively building its brand in Uganda, did not pay what is due in terms of taxes in that regard, yet it earned income off the brand.

    Coupled with the failure to remit PAYE on bonuses advanced between the periods, URA wrote a letter in December 22, 2011, to MTN to assess the tax liability of the telecom estimated in excess of Shs136 billion.

    “On December 22, 2011, URA issued a letter that found MTN to have tax liability in respect of management fees, brand, PAYE on bonus and penal tax of Shs136 billion,” a court document, seen by this newspaper reads in part.

    The same document says the telecom is adamant to pay the Shs136 billion because URA’s demand is outside the law. MTN further claims that URA’s intention is driven by the desire to collect more revenue and not by rational decision of equity.

    URA claims
    On the other hand URA argues the Shs136 billion tax liability, it claims MTN incurred between 2003 and 2007, was accrued on incomes sourced and earned in Uganda, therefore subject to taxation. Tax analysts Daily Monitor spoke to on the matter, said incomes sourced and earned within the country are normally subjected to taxation, unless there is a prior arrangement, or provision within the law that bars it application.

    When contacted early this week, Mr ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, said: “This is not something new. We are aware about it.” Also, a statement it issued later on did not elaborate much except stating: “This matter is currently in court and owing to the sub-judice rules we are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

    URA spokesperson Sarah BirungiBanage could not also comment on the matter, saying it is not the agency’s practice to discuss tax matters in public.

  • The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

    Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

    Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

    Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

    Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

    Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

    Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

    "Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

    "Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

    "Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

    Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

    According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

    LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

    "We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

    According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe- Econet Wireless has started offering video conferencing facilities to companies and parastatals that can afford the service.In an interview after handing over 350 cellphone handsets and lines to junior parliamentarians in Harare on Wednesday, EconetChief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the only hindrance was the bandwidth, but now with the coming in of the fibre optic system the future looks very bright.

Digital Content

  • Keeping things local is what the 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards is all about. Against this background, Eat In - the ultimate foodie shopping guide that takes the form of an annual magazine and www.eat-in.co.za, has announced a new award for best local food blog this year.

    This accolade acknowledges the role that local bloggers play in South Africa's food industry. For most of them blogging is a labour of love undertaken in their spare time, yet thousands of consumers trust their favourite bloggers' opinions and follow their cooking and shopping advice.

    "In order to recognise local bloggers that are doing their bit to uplift local produce and small producers, we decided to introduce a new category in this year's awards. We also hope to encourage more bloggers to support the little guys this way," explained Eat In editor AneldeGreeff.

    After nominations were accepted from the public, the judges settled on 10 finalists for the blog award, as well as the winners of the other categories such as best new product, best small producer (in sub-categories like grocery, dairy and bakery) and best organic producer, among others. Appropriately, the blogger award is the only one determined by Eat In readers' votes. Members of the public can vote once each for their favourite blogger on Eat In.

  • The state-owned Angola Airline Company (TAAG) will launch this year an electronic service that enables customers to locate their luggage by inserting a number on the system, ANGOP has learnt.

    This was announced on Tuesday by TAAG's director for operations, RuiCarreira, who added that the customer will enter into the system through a computer connected to the Internet, an operation that enables the person to make complaints in the same manner.

    "The implementation of this system will facilitate the luggage recovery process, said the source, when speaking to the press on the fringe of a seminar on Consumers and the Airport Services, held by the National Institute for Consumers Defence (Inadec).

    The gathering had the participation of representatives of the National Firm for Airports Exploration and Air Navigation (Enana), National Civil Aviation Institute (Inavic), Ghassist firm, Lardef association and operators linked to airport services.

  • The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving Africans' problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest.

    The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

    The first prize, worth US$15,00, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.

    It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data.

    Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

    The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayerInc, a US-based company that develops apps and application programme interface products.

    "There's a great deal of significance in the market being created.

    "Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online," he said.

    Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: "This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes".

    Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.

    He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices.

    But team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. "We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers," he added.

    Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, a software and agribusiness company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.

  • A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.

    In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.

    In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: "It's the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It's an invention that could save numerous human lives", explains Arthur Zang.

    In fact, Cameroon's thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country's economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation.

    The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

    In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.

    "The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse's tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.

    Software built into the device allow the doctor to give computer assisted diagnosis", explains the young engineer.

    It wasn't possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment"

    "The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations", Arthur Zang hopes.

    However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country's remote regions do not have access to electricity. "The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours", the engineer assures.

More

  • - Telecommunications group Telkom SA (TKG) on Wednesday advised that Polelo Lazarus Zim has been re-appointed as the chairman of the Telkom Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Issue no. 59110th Fenruary 2012

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Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook grew in Africa was startling but the story is now well-known. Lithuanian social network Eskimi is designed for low-end handset users and in a little over 18 months it has gone from nothing to 2.5 million users. Anyone who believes that mobile content is important has to understand why this has happened. Russell Southwood picks over the bones with Vytas Paukstys, CEO, Eskimi and Nigerian Ayo Alli who has taken on the promotion of the site.

    There’s a cycle of events before the content moment arrives. International fibre connections have to be in place: content and apps don’t grow on satellite bandwidth. Wholesale bandwidth prices have to come down so that retail prices for the individual user come down: operators have to stop selling shortage. Then international brands like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter begin to grow. From research we have done elsewhere, this is generally followed by local versions of the international brands, particularly in larger markets.

    The Eskimi story is one of a social network that didn’t come from the usual places and chose to break out in emerging markets rather than the crowded European and North American markets. Also as with the “iTunes for Africa” site, Spinlet (which formally launches at Mobile Web East Africa next week), this is a collaboration between a small European country and Nigeria. The trading centre of gravity in the world is slowly beginning to tip on its axis.

    According to VytasPaukstys, CEO, Eskimi:”We started experimenting in the Baltics and it went great there. So we decided to go international and do test marketing elsewhere in the world. We started in Asia and then went to Africa. We focused on four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.”

    All this has taken it to the point where at the beginning of November 2011, 1.7 m of its 3 m global users were Nigerian. But also use at that point in other African countries was also growing: 250,000 registered users in Ghana, 35,000 users in Kenya and over 30,000 in Namibia. Now it has 5 million global users, of which half are in Nigeria. Overall, Africa now has 1 million users. In other words, it is gaining critical mass in Ghana and other places, making it more than a one-hit, one country wonder.

    Eskimi is a low-end, mobile web product and it is building an Android app but it believes, it’s too early for a smartphone application. The pattern of use must be reassuring for Nokia as in November 2011, 73% were using the Opera Mini browser which is most frequently found on its handsets. At this point, 90% of use is on Opera Mini or the proprietary browser on the handset. Critical mass needs a wide potential user base as not everyone who has the right phone will use the product or service.

    So if there are say 1 million smartphone users, only 10-30% may use a particular service and only a smaller percentage use it regularly(see look and feel in graphic) Also this year, Eskimi will go out to local developers to develops to help create more services around the platform.

    What are they all using it for? What a small number of them used to lurk in cyber-cafes and do: discovering new friends, messaging, public chat, fan boards, picture sharing and dating tools and games. In other words, flirting, dating, romance and much, much more. 86% of them in Nigeria are in the social category that moves technology change across Africa, 18-34 year olds. You can guess that these people are less deferential and probably more in a hurry than their parents. Usually these things are heavily focused on the capital or the main city but not Eskimi. Only 32% of its users are in Lagos, the majority of the rest being spread across seven cities.

    Part of its growth phenomenon is down to how it was marketed. In the early days, it paid special attention to feedback from users, fine-tuning the product at that stage. And although it has spread throughout Africa, largely by word of mouth, it has offered incentives for users to write to their friends and connect with them, giving them some of the virtual currency available to users.

    The business model for the site is two-fold: sale of virtual currency (purchased through operator and which it shares with them) and advertising. For the latter, the 18-34 year old audience is attractive and can be highly targeted. Where African media is researched, the methodology is often open to question and where it is not, who knows how many people actually listen to, watch or read it?

    Eskimi knows enough about its list users to be able to target very precisely and it is getting a 20% response rate on those targeted lists. It can also trade its virtual currency to advertisers to use in competition promotion and for other incentives.

    Elsewhere the breakdown of revenues has been half from virtual currency and half from advertising revenues. In Africa, this has been more like 20% virtual currency and 80% advertising. But Eskimi’sPaukstys is not just chasing the traditional advertisers:”Africa’s at the media creation stage. Classifieds, business listings, news portals, etc are all growing. Revenues will come from these media creation businesses.” Media creation? Uh? Think people like Mocality and Jobberman who have to also get to critical mass for their businesses to succeed. Another source of revenue will be mobile money operators: there are ten licences in Nigeria, making their climb to critical mass a daunting task without a carefully focused marketing platform. It can also provide a platform to do the kind of research about media consumers that is currently sorely lacking.

    So in the cycle of events described at the beginning of this article, things are still largely at the stage of the arrival of international brands. Brands like Flickr and Tumblr have yet to make a noticeable impact on the continent. But local entrepreneurs – particularly in the larger markets need to think about what will work (probably in a vernacular language) that is not just a “me-too” product and developers who are all hyped up about smartphone apps need to think about whether they might be doing something more responsive to the market (most likely on feature phones) in the short to medium term.

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

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria.
    It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

    Also to understand how social media is used in Africa:
    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Past clips on downloading and streaming content

    Conrad Nkutu, CEO, Fast Track Productions on its download platform:

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    LippeOosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

telecoms

  • TurkCellIletisimHizmetlera AS (TurkCell) has confirmed that talks with South African mobile operator MTN (MTN) are ongoing, with the former looking to bring a case against MTN and its subsidiary, Irancell, in a US court.

    MTN, which owns 49% of Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence – said last Thursday that it had been informed by TurkCell that it believes it has a claim against MTN and its relevant subsidiary,

    This is arising out of the award of the second GSM Licence based on alleged violations of US laws, and TurkCell has indicated an intention to bring such a claim before a US court.TurkCell claimed that MTN had asked South Africa to support Iran’s nuclear development in return for a license.

    A spokesperson for TurkCell told BusinessTech: “As the discussions between our company and MTN have been continuing pertaining to the issues mentioned in the press announcements of MTN, we cannot make further comment on this issue. And we will not make any public announcement until the discussions are finalised.”

    Turkcell would not comment on any of the legal action MTN referred to last week.
    MTN said it would not comment further following its announcement made on Thursday (February 2, 2012). It said that, so far, no such claim had been filed in the courts or served on MTN.

    TurkCell has been listed on the NYSE since July 2000, and is the only NYSE-listed company in Turkey.

    The spokesperson alluded to a statement filed with Capital Markets Board (CMB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in TurkCell’s Q3 2011 IFRS report relating to the dispute with the Iranian GSM tender process.

    “The company has initiated an arbitration case against Islamic Republic of Iran for not abiding by the provisions of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and demanded its sustained loss, on 11 January 2008 at the arbitration court which is established pursuant to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules. The arbitration process is still pending,” TurkCell said.

    Through a 49% holding in Irancell, MTN boasts 33.314 million subscribers and a 44% market share.

  • Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    The firm was given a three-year grace period in early 2009 to grow its local shareholding to at least 20 per cent after Information minister Samuel Poghisio granted businessman NaushadMerali exception to sell 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in then Zain Kenya to Kuwait-based Zain Group.

    The Kuwaiti firm sold its stake to India’s BhartiAirtel in June 2010 and handed the new owners the responsibility to either search for local shareholders or seek an extension in the first quarter of this year.

    Airtel says it has been granted extension on the strength that it is yet to settle in the loss-making Kenyan business — a move that will halt the jockeying for the stake among local businessmen.

    “BhartiAirtel has in accordance with the government policy obtained the requisite exemption from local shareholder requirements,” said ShivanBhargava, the chief operating officer of Airtel Kenya.“Airtel is committed to always comply with the requirements of the government policy.”

    Airtel did not disclose the period of the extension, but sources at the Communications Commission of Kenya said it will run for three years or until 2015.

  • Telecoms with poor service quality will soon start to pay 10 per cent of their gross income in penalties, if the communications regulator goes ahead to implement a new penalties schedule that seeks to curb the continued deterioration in service provision.
    Uganda Communications Commission told Daily Monitor yesterday that in consultation with stakeholders, the regulator had formulated a penalties schedule for telecoms that have failed to meet contractual obligations.

    Fred Ottunu, the UCC Communications and Consumer Affairs Manager, told Daily Monitor that effective next month, there shall be a schedule indicating fines to be paid for poor services."We are in consultations with all telecoms to come up with a detailed report indicating how much to be fined for which offense. The law allows us fines of up to 10 per cent in comparison to gross income," Ottunu said.

    Network failure applies to all core telecom services including; dropped and blocked calls, failure in sending and receiving SMS and related services like mobile money and internet.

    UCC said public outcry regarding the detoriating quality of service for telecoms had forced the commission to devise means of bettering the services.However, operators argue that they have not reached any conclusion on the matter and do not expect penalties to come in form of fines.

    Shailendra Naidu, the Warid chief commercial officer, said: "There is nothing conclusive yet and I hope the commission will first consult widely before it introduces penalties."

    ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, declined to comment saying, he was yet to receive information regarding the matter.

    Utl's Jamal Sultan said: "Even as UCC's recent Quality of Service report placed Utl in the lead in terms of service, we have not tired of laying strategies for improving our services."

  • GilatSatcom, a provider of domestic and international fiber and satellite-based connectivity services in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has announced that it has released to market SuricatePRO, a communication solution that provides people in underground and other closed facilities with the ability to communicate over Iridium satellite phones. Providing coverage extension for Iridium devices, SuricatePRO extends telephony throughout the facility without loss of signal quality.

    SuricatePRO is the perfect solution for using Iridium devices without sky view. Satphone users in mines, secure military installations, underground facilities and remote locations without sky view can quickly set up a SuricatePRO communication link that enables seamless communication with the Iridium satellite constellation.

    GilatSatcom’s Mobile Satellite Director, Ami Schneider, declared, “With SuricatePRO, we delivertelephone communication to formerly impossible-to-reach locations and secure facilities. Now, after only a very simple installation of small, lightweight equipment, Iridium subscribers can gain reliable access to the Iridium network.”

    SuricatePRO takes advantage of Foxcom’s leading RF-over-fiber technology. To enjoy the benefits of SuricatePRO, customers need only to install outdoor and indoor units connected via fiber (up to 3 km). Immediately, Iridium satphone users in the room can access the Iridium constellation as if they had clear sky view.JackHotz, Foxcom’s CEO, stated, “SuricatePRO takes advantage of our innovative fiber-based solutions. This new product provides customers with an easily installable, complete solution to satphone telephony from challenging and even otherwise-impossible circumstances.”

  • Airtel Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of its 3G mobile platform in the country, which promises to change how subscribers experience the web on internet-enabled cell phones. The improved technology will enhance multimedia functionality, high speed mobile broadband and internet access; allowing  users to make video calls, watch live TV, send and receive emails, and download music from the handheld devices.

    “3G technology will give our customers the opportunity to interact with cellular technology in a different way,” explains R.V.S. Bhullar “This is why Airtel doesn’t see 3G as a product, but rather as a platform that enables our subscribers to experience data better.”

    There are currently about 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to data from McKinsey & Co. Telecommunications is one of the continent’s fastest growing industries with a rapidly expanding cellular phone market that now includes internet access, mobile banking and mobile commerce.

  • Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia will establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number Kenya's software developers to cultivate applications for its African market.Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said in Nairobi last week that the mobile telephony giant intends to use the local talent to develop mobile applications to rejuvenate its falling handset sales.

    The move is set to boost the earnings of local software developers and catapult the country's IT experts to global prominence."Kenya not only has the pool of talent required but has also demonstrated that it can produce mobile applications that can be used globally," said Mr Elop, adding Nokia will use a yet-to-be established regional research unit to develop applications that are relevant for Africa's users.

    Mobile application are Internet based software such as the Safaricom's mobile money transfer services M-Pesa or Ushahidi that run on smartphones and other mobile devices designed to help users to solve their day to day problems.

    Elop, who is in Nairobi to meet the local software developers, says Nokia is keen on mobile applications tailored to education, health and e-commerce sectors. He met about 50 software developers at iHub - an innovation centre that houses more than 3,000 software developers.

    Nokia is facing stiff competition in the handset market with firms such as Samsung, Apple and ZTE gaining marketshare and is looking at emerging nations to spur sales. The firm has shed more than 30,000 jobs in three years and moved production to Asia from Europe to cut costs. The Finnish giant last year downgraded the Kenya office from a regional hub to a sales and marketing office under South Africa.

    A report released by Gartner in November indicates that Nokia's global marketshare dropped to 22.8 in August from 30.3 per cent same period last year, with its overall pieces sold over the period dropping to 97,869.6 from 111,473 in 2010.

    ZTE, which has introduced cheaper smartphones, increased its global marketshare to three per cent in August 2011 from 1.8 per cent in the same period last year while Apple's increased to 4.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent in the period under review.

    Kenya's software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms - Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd - won global awards. Virtual City won the $1million Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award for innovators who would create mobile products that can improve lives of people in developing nations.

    Taka Taka Solutions, a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste, won Sh4.2 million Dell Social Innovation Award for 2011 for a software to help authorities locate garbage.

  • Nigerians who were hoping to see the rollout of newly licensed Fixed Line operators may have to wait a little further, following a recent revelation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    NCC said in Lagos that the Commission was aware of the shortage of Fixed Line operations in the country, but that it was not in a hurry to licence additional operators, as a result of the low broadband penetration in the country.

    Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Eugene Juwah who gave the defence during an interactive session with telecoms reporters in Lagos, said "modern Fixed Line telephony is deployed over broadband, and we cannot issue licence for Fixed Line operators, when broadband deployment is not well spread in the country."

    According to him, the Commission would facilitate the wide deployment of broadband, especially in hinterlands and rural communities, hence its drive in empowering private sector participation in broadband deployment.NCC had in 2001 and 2003, issued Fixed Line licenses, alongside GSM(mobile) licences to MTN and Globacom respectively, but the operators decided to roll out their GSM services, leaving out the Fixed Line service.

    Both Globacom and MTN had promised that they were going to roll out fixed lLine services and they have connected fibre optic cables round most cities of the country, yet none of the operators have rolled out fixed lines service.

internet

  • For a first-time mother, it is usually her own mother who becomes the primary source of motherhood advice. Other female relatives and friends who already have children are often second on the speed-dial. And while online communities and forums are a popular source for information, they can be unreliable.
    Inspired by all this, SuperMama was born.

    Launched last October, SuperMama is the first of its kind, a website and online parenting community targeting mothers and mothers-to-be around the Middle East. The bilingual Arabic and English site provides essential information on almost every aspect of mothers’ lives and childcare.

    Two dynamic young ladies, Yasmine al-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, are the masterminds behind SuperMama. In June, prior to the launch, they teamed up with Sherine al-Sammaa, the marketing director, aiming to complement each others' experience.

    SuperMama acts as an information hub, offering content for all aspects of a mom’s busy life, including pregnancy, parenting, cooking, home maintenance, and the mother’s own personal lifestyle and interests. All content is created by specialists, such as physicians, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, professional cooks and home management experts.
    The unique aspect of the site is its localized content, which distinguishes it from foreign websites that often offer advice irrelevant to Arabs' normal lifestyles.

    Hitting more than 2,000 registered users and over 20,000 unique visits in the first month of the launch,SuperMama has already proven a success.
    “Our aim is to become, in the near future, the first website for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mehairy says.

  • When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving.

    "It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance," said Adrian Louw, program integrator at Bush Radio.

    The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply.

    Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of color. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. "The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that
    knows our internet protocols," said Louw.

    The station has a rich history of defiance during the apartheid era. Back then it broadcasted illegally after repeated applications for a license were turned down. Since the granting of a broadcasting license in 1994, the station has evolved with the times. "If blogging works, why do we have to pay thousands of (South African) Rands to get a designer to design a fancy website for news when a free CMS (content management system) works?" asked Louw.

    Bush Radio is also renowned for training young people in broadcasting. Social media has enabled them to spread the message quicker. "For instance we had a recruitment for news volunteers. We had a response from over sixty applicants within three days." For Bush Radio, social media complements the weaknesses of radio – its immediacy and transient nature. With social media, the station can now relay important messages that have a presence on the internet.
    "We seriously believe that technology must be used in bettering people’s lives," said Louw.

    Across town in South Africa’s biggest single township of Khayelitsha, Radio Zibonele has a lot in common with Bush Radio. Radio Zibonele’s listenership has steadily increased with the station’s meteoric rise from its days of broadcasting under the bed of a shipping container truck in 1995. With over 220 000 listeners, feedback grew and inundated the single studio phone line. The advent of social media has been a welcome development for Radio Zibonele.

    Like most community media, Radio Zibonele traditionally interacts with its audiences through outreach programs such as road shows and other sponsored community activities. However, of late, dwindling sponsorship has been a hindrance. Social media, said NtebalengShete, the station’s program manager, fills the gap by reconnecting with the community.
    Radio Zibonele broadcasts mostly in the local language, isiXhosa. Its flagship program discusses various social problems, and feedback peaks during this two-hour program.

    The high penetration of mobile phones with internet connectivity has also boosted the number of listeners who log onto social networks. According to latest figures provided by Cellular Online, a mobile portal, South Africa has a growing subscriber base of close to 20 million users.
    "I think people are growing with technology…many of the people want to be on Facebook and Twitter," said Shete.

  • Google has added five Western Cape wineries to its popular Street View service in Google Maps and will begin collecting images in Botswana in the next few weeks, the Internet giant says in a new blog post.

    The five new wineries – Boekenhoutskloof, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Môreson, Rustenburg Wines and Warwick – bring to 30 the number of wineries now available in Street View. Google uses specially equipped trikes and cars to take the images.

    The company says it will use Chevrolet Capitva vehicles to add a range of places in Botswana, including Gaborone, Francistown and the country’s tourist and wildlife destinations. These include Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and KgalagadiTransfrontier Park.

    Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date, Google says

  • SkyVision Global Networks, a provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic networks, has announced that it has partnered with CMC Networks, a leading ISP based in South Africa, to establish SkyVision South Africa (Pty)., a local subsidiary and addition to its rapidly growing local African presence.

    In this latest strategic move, SkyVision, winner of the coveted AfricaCom Satellite Service Provider of the year Award, opens a local South African office, expanding its local footprint into Africa's most vibrant business hub. This move places the company in a prime tactical position to answer Africa's growing need for high quality communication services over fiber, wireless and satellite, like never before.

    "We are thrilled to combine SkyVision's pan-African satellite coverage with CMC Networks impressive global infrastructure and extensive fiber connectivity services to bring SkyVision South Africa customers high quality connectivity from and to anywhere in Africa, Europe, the USA  and the Middle East", stated Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision.

    Providing customized, Virtual Private Network and Internet Access services over its IP/MPLS and satellite networks, SkyVision South Africa will operate an iDirect HUB in Johannesburg, providing coverage over all of South Africa as well as the Sub Saharan African countries.
    "SkyVision and CMC Networks will now jointly offer a network of 36 MPLS POPs across Africa and 20 additional global POPs to enable global corporates to share business-critical information via voice and data applications where traditional terrestrial networks have been thus far unsuccessful.

    “CMC Networks embraces the opportunity to extend its African VSAT footprint with SkyVision. The two networks combined will extend the service offerings, increasing reach and deliverables reinforcing our aggressive expansion within the continent to provide a one stop shop for holistic hybrid connectivity throughout Africa. We foresee this new network to be the most expansive in Africa once complete” stated Grant Walker CEO of CMC.

    Additional services will include: Unified Threat Management value-added services, business continuity and disaster recovery services, collocation and hosting.

  • Canadian start-up Exponential Labs claims to have monitored Google+ since it launched and have made statistics about the social network available onlineNew statistics from PlusDemophraphics.com finds as many as 466,828 Google+ users in South Africa, and counting.

    Globally, PlusDemophraphics.com notes approximately 90 million Google+ users worldwide, against more than 800 million active users on Facebook – and approaching five million active users in South Africa.

    PlusDemophraphics.com is owned and operated by Exponential Labs, a small start-up out of Toronto, Canada. “We’ve been monitoring Google+ since it launched, and our extensive knowledge and experience has made us somewhat of an unofficial authority,” it says.

    The majority of Google+ users in South Africa, 36.32%, are Married; 31.92% are Single; 42.42% are looking for networking; and 39.40% are looking for Friends.

    Approximately 71% of users are male, while the majority of users in SA – at 37.3% – are aged 25-34, followed by 18-24 year olds comprising 35.8%.

    Just less than 28% of users originate from Johannesburg, with about 14% coming from Pretoria, according to PlusDemophraphics.com.

    The majority of users are students, which follows the global pattern.

    Up to 70.38% of global users of Google+ are male, with the majority of users, at 50.4%, in the 18-24 years category.

    Of the South Africans on Google+, Exponential Labs says 45.82% are also active on Facebook, while 44.83% use Twitter.

  • The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said it will soon provide wide Internet access to students in universities across the country. ProfessorCleopasAngaye, the Director-General of the agency, said this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

    'We are looking at situation whereby we can provide wide internet service to universities, at least, get a pilot scheme to look at maybe two or four; how we can provide internet access to 20,000 students simultaneously.

    'That will actually be breakout of the traditional system in which Internet is only provided between maybe 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., during day light hours.

    'But if we can do that wide area Internet network for universities, students can use this Internet access 24 hours. We are looking for ways of doing that.

    'Like I said, it depends on whether it will be approved in the budget. If it is, we will provide more research, more computing and more interaction among students in universities.'

    He said the project would fast-track economic development through the use of Information and Communication Technology (CIT).

    Angaye stated that the project, if approved, would commence with a pilot scheme with few universities and would be extended to other universities.

    He reiterated the determination of the agency towards the transformation of the economy through the deployment of series of Information Technologies that would benefit Nigerians.

computing

  • MyMilpark, Milpark Business School's new online learning environment, provides a platform for students with their own e-mail address.

    Milpark recognises that the student is the principal player in the teaching-learning transaction and should be encouraged to take charge of his/her own learning experience.

    One of MyMilpark's primary aims is to provide an improved learning experience for distance learners through increased interaction and access to learning resources.

    The website will be used to deliver all learning related information (assignment due dates, exam information) content (assignments, cover sheets, subject specific information) and functionality (assignment uploads, forums etc) to Milpark students.

    All current students have access to MyMilpark and will be notified of their usernames and passwords. The platform is also available on mobile devices through a mobisit, to which tablets and smart phones will automatically be redirected.

  • National Police's anti-gender based violence (GBV) offices received computers and cameras worth Rwf 8.5 million from Actionaid Rwanda to support their efficiency in curbing the vice.

    The equipment will be dispersed to Police GBV offices in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province and Musanze District, Northern Province, in a bid to circulate capacity of all their offices.

    Upon her tour of police facilities, Joanna Kerr, the Chief Executive of Actionaid International, pledged more support in terms of training and equipment to aid police.

    She singled out the police hospital in Kacyiru, Kigali, as a facility that Actionaid would assist in order to foster partnership.

    "At Actionaid, we are motivated to provide relief to women and children who suffer domestic violence just because of their gender; the National Police is utilising the few resources at its disposal to perform an extraordinary task that is beneficial to the vulnerable groups in Rwanda," she said.

    Police Spokesman, TheosBadege, commended Actionaid for lending a hand in the fight against domestic violence.

    "We run anti-GBV desks in all its offices countrywide, with councillors, legal advisors and activists. We work with various stakeholders, both from government and the private sector, to ensure that peace prevails because its part and parcel of the country's development," he said.

    Police statistics indicate that there were 4,680 GBV related cases reported and acted upo

  • Ministry of Health launched a Human Resource for health Information System a digitalised information system for managing human resource in the Ministry. The purpose of the system is to improve for better planning purposes and to easily identify vacancies and fill them.

    "Managers who will access this information will be able to report any vacancies to the Ministry so that they are filled on time," Vincent Oketcho Chief of Party, Uganda Capacity at IntraHealth said.

    He said previously there were difficulties in obtaining reliable data and this made it difficult to plan accordingly for health services because details were stored manually and sometime s the papers would be misplaced but this is bound to change with the electronic system.

    Oketcho says the information will only be restricted to managers and administrators of the hospitals for security purposes because information can easily be altered.

    During the launch at Hotel African in Kampala on Feb 7, John Mark Winfield the USAID Deputy Director says maternal health activists have pointed to the absence of trained personnel as the reason for the majority deaths in the labour wards but Winfield hopes if this gap is filled then we shall see the number if those dying going down.

    Richard Nduhura the State Minister for Health says the system which was introduced in 2006 will see to the equitable distributions of health workers through out the country. He says well as 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the rural areas, only 20 percent of the health workers are distributed in the rural areas and the remaining 80 percent of the health work force in concentrated in towns with a population of 20 percent.

    He says says the shortages have been translated to work loads where the only available health workers have to cater to the over load of patients which in the end results to poor health service care in the end.

    Nduhura says the system will see to effect that absenteeism, ghost workers some of the challenges widespread in the health work force are reduced. "There will be consistent monitoring which will help us to quickly identify the gaps and quickly fill them immediately," he said.

    He says the government with the support of the World Health organisation and the World Bank will extend the system to 40 other districts. So far 69 districts have been installed on the system and by 2014; the Ministry hopes the system will be installed in all the districts in the country.

    The system will also be adopted by the Public service and all government agencies to recruit and transfer staff.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A tax row between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and telecoms company MTN has been scheduled for arbitration starting February 15 after failed attempts to resolve the matter in the boardroom and court.

    The two entities are locked in a contest over Shs136 billion that according to URA, was incurred as a tax liability by the telecom company between 2003 and 2007. However, MTN Uganda insists the tax liability is unfounded and had earlier sought court intervention to block the claim.

    According to court documents, the dispute started when URA in 2009 suspected MTN of defaulting on its obligations related to management fees, a tax normally charged on income of expatriates, which the telecom employed between 2003 and 2007.

    URA also contends that over the same period, the telecom, despite massively building its brand in Uganda, did not pay what is due in terms of taxes in that regard, yet it earned income off the brand.

    Coupled with the failure to remit PAYE on bonuses advanced between the periods, URA wrote a letter in December 22, 2011, to MTN to assess the tax liability of the telecom estimated in excess of Shs136 billion.

    “On December 22, 2011, URA issued a letter that found MTN to have tax liability in respect of management fees, brand, PAYE on bonus and penal tax of Shs136 billion,” a court document, seen by this newspaper reads in part.

    The same document says the telecom is adamant to pay the Shs136 billion because URA’s demand is outside the law. MTN further claims that URA’s intention is driven by the desire to collect more revenue and not by rational decision of equity.

    URA claims
    On the other hand URA argues the Shs136 billion tax liability, it claims MTN incurred between 2003 and 2007, was accrued on incomes sourced and earned in Uganda, therefore subject to taxation. Tax analysts Daily Monitor spoke to on the matter, said incomes sourced and earned within the country are normally subjected to taxation, unless there is a prior arrangement, or provision within the law that bars it application.

    When contacted early this week, Mr ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, said: “This is not something new. We are aware about it.” Also, a statement it issued later on did not elaborate much except stating: “This matter is currently in court and owing to the sub-judice rules we are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

    URA spokesperson Sarah BirungiBanage could not also comment on the matter, saying it is not the agency’s practice to discuss tax matters in public.

  • The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

    Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

    Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

    Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

    Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

    Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

    Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

    "Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

    "Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

    "Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

    Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

    According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

    LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

    "We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

    According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe- Econet Wireless has started offering video conferencing facilities to companies and parastatals that can afford the service.In an interview after handing over 350 cellphone handsets and lines to junior parliamentarians in Harare on Wednesday, EconetChief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the only hindrance was the bandwidth, but now with the coming in of the fibre optic system the future looks very bright.

Digital Content

  • Keeping things local is what the 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards is all about. Against this background, Eat In - the ultimate foodie shopping guide that takes the form of an annual magazine and www.eat-in.co.za, has announced a new award for best local food blog this year.

    This accolade acknowledges the role that local bloggers play in South Africa's food industry. For most of them blogging is a labour of love undertaken in their spare time, yet thousands of consumers trust their favourite bloggers' opinions and follow their cooking and shopping advice.

    "In order to recognise local bloggers that are doing their bit to uplift local produce and small producers, we decided to introduce a new category in this year's awards. We also hope to encourage more bloggers to support the little guys this way," explained Eat In editor AneldeGreeff.

    After nominations were accepted from the public, the judges settled on 10 finalists for the blog award, as well as the winners of the other categories such as best new product, best small producer (in sub-categories like grocery, dairy and bakery) and best organic producer, among others. Appropriately, the blogger award is the only one determined by Eat In readers' votes. Members of the public can vote once each for their favourite blogger on Eat In.

  • The state-owned Angola Airline Company (TAAG) will launch this year an electronic service that enables customers to locate their luggage by inserting a number on the system, ANGOP has learnt.

    This was announced on Tuesday by TAAG's director for operations, RuiCarreira, who added that the customer will enter into the system through a computer connected to the Internet, an operation that enables the person to make complaints in the same manner.

    "The implementation of this system will facilitate the luggage recovery process, said the source, when speaking to the press on the fringe of a seminar on Consumers and the Airport Services, held by the National Institute for Consumers Defence (Inadec).

    The gathering had the participation of representatives of the National Firm for Airports Exploration and Air Navigation (Enana), National Civil Aviation Institute (Inavic), Ghassist firm, Lardef association and operators linked to airport services.

  • The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving Africans' problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest.

    The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

    The first prize, worth US$15,00, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.

    It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data.

    Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

    The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayerInc, a US-based company that develops apps and application programme interface products.

    "There's a great deal of significance in the market being created.

    "Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online," he said.

    Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: "This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes".

    Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.

    He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices.

    But team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. "We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers," he added.

    Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, a software and agribusiness company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.

  • A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.

    In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.

    In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: "It's the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It's an invention that could save numerous human lives", explains Arthur Zang.

    In fact, Cameroon's thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country's economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation.

    The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

    In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.

    "The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse's tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.

    Software built into the device allow the doctor to give computer assisted diagnosis", explains the young engineer.

    It wasn't possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment"

    "The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations", Arthur Zang hopes.

    However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country's remote regions do not have access to electricity. "The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours", the engineer assures.

More

  • - Telecommunications group Telkom SA (TKG) on Wednesday advised that Polelo Lazarus Zim has been re-appointed as the chairman of the Telkom Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Issue no 591 10th February 2012

node ref id: 24102

Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook grew in Africa was startling but the story is now well-known. Lithuanian social network Eskimi is designed for low-end handset users and in a little over 18 months it has gone from nothing to 2.5 million users. Anyone who believes that mobile content is important has to understand why this has happened. Russell Southwood picks over the bones with Vytas Paukstys, CEO, Eskimi and Nigerian Ayo Alli who has taken on the promotion of the site.

    There’s a cycle of events before the content moment arrives. International fibre connections have to be in place: content and apps don’t grow on satellite bandwidth. Wholesale bandwidth prices have to come down so that retail prices for the individual user come down: operators have to stop selling shortage. Then international brands like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter begin to grow. From research we have done elsewhere, this is generally followed by local versions of the international brands, particularly in larger markets.

    The Eskimi story is one of a social network that didn’t come from the usual places and chose to break out in emerging markets rather than the crowded European and North American markets. Also as with the “iTunes for Africa” site, Spinlet (which formally launches at Mobile Web East Africa next week), this is a collaboration between a small European country and Nigeria. The trading centre of gravity in the world is slowly beginning to tip on its axis.

    According to VytasPaukstys, CEO, Eskimi:”We started experimenting in the Baltics and it went great there. So we decided to go international and do test marketing elsewhere in the world. We started in Asia and then went to Africa. We focused on four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.”

    All this has taken it to the point where at the beginning of November 2011, 1.7 m of its 3 m global users were Nigerian. But also use at that point in other African countries was also growing: 250,000 registered users in Ghana, 35,000 users in Kenya and over 30,000 in Namibia. Now it has 5 million global users, of which half are in Nigeria. Overall, Africa now has 1 million users. In other words, it is gaining critical mass in Ghana and other places, making it more than a one-hit, one country wonder.

    Eskimi is a low-end, mobile web product and it is building an Android app but it believes, it’s too early for a smartphone application. The pattern of use must be reassuring for Nokia as in November 2011, 73% were using the Opera Mini browser which is most frequently found on its handsets. At this point, 90% of use is on Opera Mini or the proprietary browser on the handset. Critical mass needs a wide potential user base as not everyone who has the right phone will use the product or service.

    So if there are say 1 million smartphone users, only 10-30% may use a particular service and only a smaller percentage use it regularly(see look and feel in graphic) Also this year, Eskimi will go out to local developers to develops to help create more services around the platform.

    What are they all using it for? What a small number of them used to lurk in cyber-cafes and do: discovering new friends, messaging, public chat, fan boards, picture sharing and dating tools and games. In other words, flirting, dating, romance and much, much more. 86% of them in Nigeria are in the social category that moves technology change across Africa, 18-34 year olds. You can guess that these people are less deferential and probably more in a hurry than their parents. Usually these things are heavily focused on the capital or the main city but not Eskimi. Only 32% of its users are in Lagos, the majority of the rest being spread across seven cities.

    Part of its growth phenomenon is down to how it was marketed. In the early days, it paid special attention to feedback from users, fine-tuning the product at that stage. And although it has spread throughout Africa, largely by word of mouth, it has offered incentives for users to write to their friends and connect with them, giving them some of the virtual currency available to users.

    The business model for the site is two-fold: sale of virtual currency (purchased through operator and which it shares with them) and advertising. For the latter, the 18-34 year old audience is attractive and can be highly targeted. Where African media is researched, the methodology is often open to question and where it is not, who knows how many people actually listen to, watch or read it?

    Eskimi knows enough about its list users to be able to target very precisely and it is getting a 20% response rate on those targeted lists. It can also trade its virtual currency to advertisers to use in competition promotion and for other incentives.

    Elsewhere the breakdown of revenues has been half from virtual currency and half from advertising revenues. In Africa, this has been more like 20% virtual currency and 80% advertising. But Eskimi’sPaukstys is not just chasing the traditional advertisers:”Africa’s at the media creation stage. Classifieds, business listings, news portals, etc are all growing. Revenues will come from these media creation businesses.” Media creation? Uh? Think people like Mocality and Jobberman who have to also get to critical mass for their businesses to succeed. Another source of revenue will be mobile money operators: there are ten licences in Nigeria, making their climb to critical mass a daunting task without a carefully focused marketing platform. It can also provide a platform to do the kind of research about media consumers that is currently sorely lacking.

    So in the cycle of events described at the beginning of this article, things are still largely at the stage of the arrival of international brands. Brands like Flickr and Tumblr have yet to make a noticeable impact on the continent. But local entrepreneurs – particularly in the larger markets need to think about what will work (probably in a vernacular language) that is not just a “me-too” product and developers who are all hyped up about smartphone apps need to think about whether they might be doing something more responsive to the market (most likely on feature phones) in the short to medium term.

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

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria.
    It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

    Also to understand how social media is used in Africa:
    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Past clips on downloading and streaming content

    Conrad Nkutu, CEO, Fast Track Productions on its download platform:

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    LippeOosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

telecoms

  • TurkCellIletisimHizmetlera AS (TurkCell) has confirmed that talks with South African mobile operator MTN (MTN) are ongoing, with the former looking to bring a case against MTN and its subsidiary, Irancell, in a US court.

    MTN, which owns 49% of Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence – said last Thursday that it had been informed by TurkCell that it believes it has a claim against MTN and its relevant subsidiary,

    This is arising out of the award of the second GSM Licence based on alleged violations of US laws, and TurkCell has indicated an intention to bring such a claim before a US court.TurkCell claimed that MTN had asked South Africa to support Iran’s nuclear development in return for a license.

    A spokesperson for TurkCell told BusinessTech: “As the discussions between our company and MTN have been continuing pertaining to the issues mentioned in the press announcements of MTN, we cannot make further comment on this issue. And we will not make any public announcement until the discussions are finalised.”

    Turkcell would not comment on any of the legal action MTN referred to last week.
    MTN said it would not comment further following its announcement made on Thursday (February 2, 2012). It said that, so far, no such claim had been filed in the courts or served on MTN.

    TurkCell has been listed on the NYSE since July 2000, and is the only NYSE-listed company in Turkey.

    The spokesperson alluded to a statement filed with Capital Markets Board (CMB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in TurkCell’s Q3 2011 IFRS report relating to the dispute with the Iranian GSM tender process.

    “The company has initiated an arbitration case against Islamic Republic of Iran for not abiding by the provisions of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and demanded its sustained loss, on 11 January 2008 at the arbitration court which is established pursuant to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules. The arbitration process is still pending,” TurkCell said.

    Through a 49% holding in Irancell, MTN boasts 33.314 million subscribers and a 44% market share.

  • Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    The firm was given a three-year grace period in early 2009 to grow its local shareholding to at least 20 per cent after Information minister Samuel Poghisio granted businessman NaushadMerali exception to sell 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in then Zain Kenya to Kuwait-based Zain Group.

    The Kuwaiti firm sold its stake to India’s BhartiAirtel in June 2010 and handed the new owners the responsibility to either search for local shareholders or seek an extension in the first quarter of this year.

    Airtel says it has been granted extension on the strength that it is yet to settle in the loss-making Kenyan business — a move that will halt the jockeying for the stake among local businessmen.

    “BhartiAirtel has in accordance with the government policy obtained the requisite exemption from local shareholder requirements,” said ShivanBhargava, the chief operating officer of Airtel Kenya.“Airtel is committed to always comply with the requirements of the government policy.”

    Airtel did not disclose the period of the extension, but sources at the Communications Commission of Kenya said it will run for three years or until 2015.

  • Telecoms with poor service quality will soon start to pay 10 per cent of their gross income in penalties, if the communications regulator goes ahead to implement a new penalties schedule that seeks to curb the continued deterioration in service provision.
    Uganda Communications Commission told Daily Monitor yesterday that in consultation with stakeholders, the regulator had formulated a penalties schedule for telecoms that have failed to meet contractual obligations.

    Fred Ottunu, the UCC Communications and Consumer Affairs Manager, told Daily Monitor that effective next month, there shall be a schedule indicating fines to be paid for poor services."We are in consultations with all telecoms to come up with a detailed report indicating how much to be fined for which offense. The law allows us fines of up to 10 per cent in comparison to gross income," Ottunu said.

    Network failure applies to all core telecom services including; dropped and blocked calls, failure in sending and receiving SMS and related services like mobile money and internet.

    UCC said public outcry regarding the detoriating quality of service for telecoms had forced the commission to devise means of bettering the services.However, operators argue that they have not reached any conclusion on the matter and do not expect penalties to come in form of fines.

    Shailendra Naidu, the Warid chief commercial officer, said: "There is nothing conclusive yet and I hope the commission will first consult widely before it introduces penalties."

    ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, declined to comment saying, he was yet to receive information regarding the matter.

    Utl's Jamal Sultan said: "Even as UCC's recent Quality of Service report placed Utl in the lead in terms of service, we have not tired of laying strategies for improving our services."

  • GilatSatcom, a provider of domestic and international fiber and satellite-based connectivity services in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has announced that it has released to market SuricatePRO, a communication solution that provides people in underground and other closed facilities with the ability to communicate over Iridium satellite phones. Providing coverage extension for Iridium devices, SuricatePRO extends telephony throughout the facility without loss of signal quality.

    SuricatePRO is the perfect solution for using Iridium devices without sky view. Satphone users in mines, secure military installations, underground facilities and remote locations without sky view can quickly set up a SuricatePRO communication link that enables seamless communication with the Iridium satellite constellation.

    GilatSatcom’s Mobile Satellite Director, Ami Schneider, declared, “With SuricatePRO, we delivertelephone communication to formerly impossible-to-reach locations and secure facilities. Now, after only a very simple installation of small, lightweight equipment, Iridium subscribers can gain reliable access to the Iridium network.”

    SuricatePRO takes advantage of Foxcom’s leading RF-over-fiber technology. To enjoy the benefits of SuricatePRO, customers need only to install outdoor and indoor units connected via fiber (up to 3 km). Immediately, Iridium satphone users in the room can access the Iridium constellation as if they had clear sky view.JackHotz, Foxcom’s CEO, stated, “SuricatePRO takes advantage of our innovative fiber-based solutions. This new product provides customers with an easily installable, complete solution to satphone telephony from challenging and even otherwise-impossible circumstances.”

  • Airtel Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of its 3G mobile platform in the country, which promises to change how subscribers experience the web on internet-enabled cell phones. The improved technology will enhance multimedia functionality, high speed mobile broadband and internet access; allowing  users to make video calls, watch live TV, send and receive emails, and download music from the handheld devices.

    “3G technology will give our customers the opportunity to interact with cellular technology in a different way,” explains R.V.S. Bhullar “This is why Airtel doesn’t see 3G as a product, but rather as a platform that enables our subscribers to experience data better.”

    There are currently about 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to data from McKinsey & Co. Telecommunications is one of the continent’s fastest growing industries with a rapidly expanding cellular phone market that now includes internet access, mobile banking and mobile commerce.

  • Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia will establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number Kenya's software developers to cultivate applications for its African market.Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said in Nairobi last week that the mobile telephony giant intends to use the local talent to develop mobile applications to rejuvenate its falling handset sales.

    The move is set to boost the earnings of local software developers and catapult the country's IT experts to global prominence."Kenya not only has the pool of talent required but has also demonstrated that it can produce mobile applications that can be used globally," said Mr Elop, adding Nokia will use a yet-to-be established regional research unit to develop applications that are relevant for Africa's users.

    Mobile application are Internet based software such as the Safaricom's mobile money transfer services M-Pesa or Ushahidi that run on smartphones and other mobile devices designed to help users to solve their day to day problems.

    Elop, who is in Nairobi to meet the local software developers, says Nokia is keen on mobile applications tailored to education, health and e-commerce sectors. He met about 50 software developers at iHub - an innovation centre that houses more than 3,000 software developers.

    Nokia is facing stiff competition in the handset market with firms such as Samsung, Apple and ZTE gaining marketshare and is looking at emerging nations to spur sales. The firm has shed more than 30,000 jobs in three years and moved production to Asia from Europe to cut costs. The Finnish giant last year downgraded the Kenya office from a regional hub to a sales and marketing office under South Africa.

    A report released by Gartner in November indicates that Nokia's global marketshare dropped to 22.8 in August from 30.3 per cent same period last year, with its overall pieces sold over the period dropping to 97,869.6 from 111,473 in 2010.

    ZTE, which has introduced cheaper smartphones, increased its global marketshare to three per cent in August 2011 from 1.8 per cent in the same period last year while Apple's increased to 4.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent in the period under review.

    Kenya's software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms - Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd - won global awards. Virtual City won the $1million Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award for innovators who would create mobile products that can improve lives of people in developing nations.

    Taka Taka Solutions, a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste, won Sh4.2 million Dell Social Innovation Award for 2011 for a software to help authorities locate garbage.

  • Nigerians who were hoping to see the rollout of newly licensed Fixed Line operators may have to wait a little further, following a recent revelation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    NCC said in Lagos that the Commission was aware of the shortage of Fixed Line operations in the country, but that it was not in a hurry to licence additional operators, as a result of the low broadband penetration in the country.

    Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Eugene Juwah who gave the defence during an interactive session with telecoms reporters in Lagos, said "modern Fixed Line telephony is deployed over broadband, and we cannot issue licence for Fixed Line operators, when broadband deployment is not well spread in the country."

    According to him, the Commission would facilitate the wide deployment of broadband, especially in hinterlands and rural communities, hence its drive in empowering private sector participation in broadband deployment.NCC had in 2001 and 2003, issued Fixed Line licenses, alongside GSM(mobile) licences to MTN and Globacom respectively, but the operators decided to roll out their GSM services, leaving out the Fixed Line service.

    Both Globacom and MTN had promised that they were going to roll out fixed lLine services and they have connected fibre optic cables round most cities of the country, yet none of the operators have rolled out fixed lines service.

internet

  • For a first-time mother, it is usually her own mother who becomes the primary source of motherhood advice. Other female relatives and friends who already have children are often second on the speed-dial. And while online communities and forums are a popular source for information, they can be unreliable.
    Inspired by all this, SuperMama was born.

    Launched last October, SuperMama is the first of its kind, a website and online parenting community targeting mothers and mothers-to-be around the Middle East. The bilingual Arabic and English site provides essential information on almost every aspect of mothers’ lives and childcare.

    Two dynamic young ladies, Yasmine al-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, are the masterminds behind SuperMama. In June, prior to the launch, they teamed up with Sherine al-Sammaa, the marketing director, aiming to complement each others' experience.

    SuperMama acts as an information hub, offering content for all aspects of a mom’s busy life, including pregnancy, parenting, cooking, home maintenance, and the mother’s own personal lifestyle and interests. All content is created by specialists, such as physicians, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, professional cooks and home management experts.
    The unique aspect of the site is its localized content, which distinguishes it from foreign websites that often offer advice irrelevant to Arabs' normal lifestyles.

    Hitting more than 2,000 registered users and over 20,000 unique visits in the first month of the launch,SuperMama has already proven a success.
    “Our aim is to become, in the near future, the first website for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mehairy says.

  • When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving.

    "It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance," said Adrian Louw, program integrator at Bush Radio.

    The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply.

    Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of color. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. "The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that
    knows our internet protocols," said Louw.

    The station has a rich history of defiance during the apartheid era. Back then it broadcasted illegally after repeated applications for a license were turned down. Since the granting of a broadcasting license in 1994, the station has evolved with the times. "If blogging works, why do we have to pay thousands of (South African) Rands to get a designer to design a fancy website for news when a free CMS (content management system) works?" asked Louw.

    Bush Radio is also renowned for training young people in broadcasting. Social media has enabled them to spread the message quicker. "For instance we had a recruitment for news volunteers. We had a response from over sixty applicants within three days." For Bush Radio, social media complements the weaknesses of radio – its immediacy and transient nature. With social media, the station can now relay important messages that have a presence on the internet.
    "We seriously believe that technology must be used in bettering people’s lives," said Louw.

    Across town in South Africa’s biggest single township of Khayelitsha, Radio Zibonele has a lot in common with Bush Radio. Radio Zibonele’s listenership has steadily increased with the station’s meteoric rise from its days of broadcasting under the bed of a shipping container truck in 1995. With over 220 000 listeners, feedback grew and inundated the single studio phone line. The advent of social media has been a welcome development for Radio Zibonele.

    Like most community media, Radio Zibonele traditionally interacts with its audiences through outreach programs such as road shows and other sponsored community activities. However, of late, dwindling sponsorship has been a hindrance. Social media, said NtebalengShete, the station’s program manager, fills the gap by reconnecting with the community.
    Radio Zibonele broadcasts mostly in the local language, isiXhosa. Its flagship program discusses various social problems, and feedback peaks during this two-hour program.

    The high penetration of mobile phones with internet connectivity has also boosted the number of listeners who log onto social networks. According to latest figures provided by Cellular Online, a mobile portal, South Africa has a growing subscriber base of close to 20 million users.
    "I think people are growing with technology…many of the people want to be on Facebook and Twitter," said Shete.

  • Google has added five Western Cape wineries to its popular Street View service in Google Maps and will begin collecting images in Botswana in the next few weeks, the Internet giant says in a new blog post.

    The five new wineries – Boekenhoutskloof, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Môreson, Rustenburg Wines and Warwick – bring to 30 the number of wineries now available in Street View. Google uses specially equipped trikes and cars to take the images.

    The company says it will use Chevrolet Capitva vehicles to add a range of places in Botswana, including Gaborone, Francistown and the country’s tourist and wildlife destinations. These include Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and KgalagadiTransfrontier Park.

    Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date, Google says

  • SkyVision Global Networks, a provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic networks, has announced that it has partnered with CMC Networks, a leading ISP based in South Africa, to establish SkyVision South Africa (Pty)., a local subsidiary and addition to its rapidly growing local African presence.

    In this latest strategic move, SkyVision, winner of the coveted AfricaCom Satellite Service Provider of the year Award, opens a local South African office, expanding its local footprint into Africa's most vibrant business hub. This move places the company in a prime tactical position to answer Africa's growing need for high quality communication services over fiber, wireless and satellite, like never before.

    "We are thrilled to combine SkyVision's pan-African satellite coverage with CMC Networks impressive global infrastructure and extensive fiber connectivity services to bring SkyVision South Africa customers high quality connectivity from and to anywhere in Africa, Europe, the USA  and the Middle East", stated Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision.

    Providing customized, Virtual Private Network and Internet Access services over its IP/MPLS and satellite networks, SkyVision South Africa will operate an iDirect HUB in Johannesburg, providing coverage over all of South Africa as well as the Sub Saharan African countries.
    "SkyVision and CMC Networks will now jointly offer a network of 36 MPLS POPs across Africa and 20 additional global POPs to enable global corporates to share business-critical information via voice and data applications where traditional terrestrial networks have been thus far unsuccessful.

    “CMC Networks embraces the opportunity to extend its African VSAT footprint with SkyVision. The two networks combined will extend the service offerings, increasing reach and deliverables reinforcing our aggressive expansion within the continent to provide a one stop shop for holistic hybrid connectivity throughout Africa. We foresee this new network to be the most expansive in Africa once complete” stated Grant Walker CEO of CMC.

    Additional services will include: Unified Threat Management value-added services, business continuity and disaster recovery services, collocation and hosting.

  • Canadian start-up Exponential Labs claims to have monitored Google+ since it launched and have made statistics about the social network available onlineNew statistics from PlusDemophraphics.com finds as many as 466,828 Google+ users in South Africa, and counting.

    Globally, PlusDemophraphics.com notes approximately 90 million Google+ users worldwide, against more than 800 million active users on Facebook – and approaching five million active users in South Africa.

    PlusDemophraphics.com is owned and operated by Exponential Labs, a small start-up out of Toronto, Canada. “We’ve been monitoring Google+ since it launched, and our extensive knowledge and experience has made us somewhat of an unofficial authority,” it says.

    The majority of Google+ users in South Africa, 36.32%, are Married; 31.92% are Single; 42.42% are looking for networking; and 39.40% are looking for Friends.

    Approximately 71% of users are male, while the majority of users in SA – at 37.3% – are aged 25-34, followed by 18-24 year olds comprising 35.8%.

    Just less than 28% of users originate from Johannesburg, with about 14% coming from Pretoria, according to PlusDemophraphics.com.

    The majority of users are students, which follows the global pattern.

    Up to 70.38% of global users of Google+ are male, with the majority of users, at 50.4%, in the 18-24 years category.

    Of the South Africans on Google+, Exponential Labs says 45.82% are also active on Facebook, while 44.83% use Twitter.

  • The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said it will soon provide wide Internet access to students in universities across the country. ProfessorCleopasAngaye, the Director-General of the agency, said this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

    'We are looking at situation whereby we can provide wide internet service to universities, at least, get a pilot scheme to look at maybe two or four; how we can provide internet access to 20,000 students simultaneously.

    'That will actually be breakout of the traditional system in which Internet is only provided between maybe 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., during day light hours.

    'But if we can do that wide area Internet network for universities, students can use this Internet access 24 hours. We are looking for ways of doing that.

    'Like I said, it depends on whether it will be approved in the budget. If it is, we will provide more research, more computing and more interaction among students in universities.'

    He said the project would fast-track economic development through the use of Information and Communication Technology (CIT).

    Angaye stated that the project, if approved, would commence with a pilot scheme with few universities and would be extended to other universities.

    He reiterated the determination of the agency towards the transformation of the economy through the deployment of series of Information Technologies that would benefit Nigerians.

computing

  • MyMilpark, Milpark Business School's new online learning environment, provides a platform for students with their own e-mail address.

    Milpark recognises that the student is the principal player in the teaching-learning transaction and should be encouraged to take charge of his/her own learning experience.

    One of MyMilpark's primary aims is to provide an improved learning experience for distance learners through increased interaction and access to learning resources.

    The website will be used to deliver all learning related information (assignment due dates, exam information) content (assignments, cover sheets, subject specific information) and functionality (assignment uploads, forums etc) to Milpark students.

    All current students have access to MyMilpark and will be notified of their usernames and passwords. The platform is also available on mobile devices through a mobisit, to which tablets and smart phones will automatically be redirected.

  • National Police's anti-gender based violence (GBV) offices received computers and cameras worth Rwf 8.5 million from Actionaid Rwanda to support their efficiency in curbing the vice.

    The equipment will be dispersed to Police GBV offices in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province and Musanze District, Northern Province, in a bid to circulate capacity of all their offices.

    Upon her tour of police facilities, Joanna Kerr, the Chief Executive of Actionaid International, pledged more support in terms of training and equipment to aid police.

    She singled out the police hospital in Kacyiru, Kigali, as a facility that Actionaid would assist in order to foster partnership.

    "At Actionaid, we are motivated to provide relief to women and children who suffer domestic violence just because of their gender; the National Police is utilising the few resources at its disposal to perform an extraordinary task that is beneficial to the vulnerable groups in Rwanda," she said.

    Police Spokesman, TheosBadege, commended Actionaid for lending a hand in the fight against domestic violence.

    "We run anti-GBV desks in all its offices countrywide, with councillors, legal advisors and activists. We work with various stakeholders, both from government and the private sector, to ensure that peace prevails because its part and parcel of the country's development," he said.

    Police statistics indicate that there were 4,680 GBV related cases reported and acted upo

  • Ministry of Health launched a Human Resource for health Information System a digitalised information system for managing human resource in the Ministry. The purpose of the system is to improve for better planning purposes and to easily identify vacancies and fill them.

    "Managers who will access this information will be able to report any vacancies to the Ministry so that they are filled on time," Vincent Oketcho Chief of Party, Uganda Capacity at IntraHealth said.

    He said previously there were difficulties in obtaining reliable data and this made it difficult to plan accordingly for health services because details were stored manually and sometime s the papers would be misplaced but this is bound to change with the electronic system.

    Oketcho says the information will only be restricted to managers and administrators of the hospitals for security purposes because information can easily be altered.

    During the launch at Hotel African in Kampala on Feb 7, John Mark Winfield the USAID Deputy Director says maternal health activists have pointed to the absence of trained personnel as the reason for the majority deaths in the labour wards but Winfield hopes if this gap is filled then we shall see the number if those dying going down.

    Richard Nduhura the State Minister for Health says the system which was introduced in 2006 will see to the equitable distributions of health workers through out the country. He says well as 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the rural areas, only 20 percent of the health workers are distributed in the rural areas and the remaining 80 percent of the health work force in concentrated in towns with a population of 20 percent.

    He says says the shortages have been translated to work loads where the only available health workers have to cater to the over load of patients which in the end results to poor health service care in the end.

    Nduhura says the system will see to effect that absenteeism, ghost workers some of the challenges widespread in the health work force are reduced. "There will be consistent monitoring which will help us to quickly identify the gaps and quickly fill them immediately," he said.

    He says the government with the support of the World Health organisation and the World Bank will extend the system to 40 other districts. So far 69 districts have been installed on the system and by 2014; the Ministry hopes the system will be installed in all the districts in the country.

    The system will also be adopted by the Public service and all government agencies to recruit and transfer staff.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A tax row between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and telecoms company MTN has been scheduled for arbitration starting February 15 after failed attempts to resolve the matter in the boardroom and court.

    The two entities are locked in a contest over Shs136 billion that according to URA, was incurred as a tax liability by the telecom company between 2003 and 2007. However, MTN Uganda insists the tax liability is unfounded and had earlier sought court intervention to block the claim.

    According to court documents, the dispute started when URA in 2009 suspected MTN of defaulting on its obligations related to management fees, a tax normally charged on income of expatriates, which the telecom employed between 2003 and 2007.

    URA also contends that over the same period, the telecom, despite massively building its brand in Uganda, did not pay what is due in terms of taxes in that regard, yet it earned income off the brand.

    Coupled with the failure to remit PAYE on bonuses advanced between the periods, URA wrote a letter in December 22, 2011, to MTN to assess the tax liability of the telecom estimated in excess of Shs136 billion.

    “On December 22, 2011, URA issued a letter that found MTN to have tax liability in respect of management fees, brand, PAYE on bonus and penal tax of Shs136 billion,” a court document, seen by this newspaper reads in part.

    The same document says the telecom is adamant to pay the Shs136 billion because URA’s demand is outside the law. MTN further claims that URA’s intention is driven by the desire to collect more revenue and not by rational decision of equity.

    URA claims
    On the other hand URA argues the Shs136 billion tax liability, it claims MTN incurred between 2003 and 2007, was accrued on incomes sourced and earned in Uganda, therefore subject to taxation. Tax analysts Daily Monitor spoke to on the matter, said incomes sourced and earned within the country are normally subjected to taxation, unless there is a prior arrangement, or provision within the law that bars it application.

    When contacted early this week, Mr ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, said: “This is not something new. We are aware about it.” Also, a statement it issued later on did not elaborate much except stating: “This matter is currently in court and owing to the sub-judice rules we are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

    URA spokesperson Sarah BirungiBanage could not also comment on the matter, saying it is not the agency’s practice to discuss tax matters in public.

  • The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

    Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

    Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

    Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

    Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

    Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

    Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

    "Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

    "Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

    "Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

    Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

    According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

    LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

    "We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

    According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe- Econet Wireless has started offering video conferencing facilities to companies and parastatals that can afford the service.In an interview after handing over 350 cellphone handsets and lines to junior parliamentarians in Harare on Wednesday, EconetChief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the only hindrance was the bandwidth, but now with the coming in of the fibre optic system the future looks very bright.

Digital Content

  • Keeping things local is what the 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards is all about. Against this background, Eat In - the ultimate foodie shopping guide that takes the form of an annual magazine and www.eat-in.co.za, has announced a new award for best local food blog this year.

    This accolade acknowledges the role that local bloggers play in South Africa's food industry. For most of them blogging is a labour of love undertaken in their spare time, yet thousands of consumers trust their favourite bloggers' opinions and follow their cooking and shopping advice.

    "In order to recognise local bloggers that are doing their bit to uplift local produce and small producers, we decided to introduce a new category in this year's awards. We also hope to encourage more bloggers to support the little guys this way," explained Eat In editor AneldeGreeff.

    After nominations were accepted from the public, the judges settled on 10 finalists for the blog award, as well as the winners of the other categories such as best new product, best small producer (in sub-categories like grocery, dairy and bakery) and best organic producer, among others. Appropriately, the blogger award is the only one determined by Eat In readers' votes. Members of the public can vote once each for their favourite blogger on Eat In.

  • The state-owned Angola Airline Company (TAAG) will launch this year an electronic service that enables customers to locate their luggage by inserting a number on the system, ANGOP has learnt.

    This was announced on Tuesday by TAAG's director for operations, RuiCarreira, who added that the customer will enter into the system through a computer connected to the Internet, an operation that enables the person to make complaints in the same manner.

    "The implementation of this system will facilitate the luggage recovery process, said the source, when speaking to the press on the fringe of a seminar on Consumers and the Airport Services, held by the National Institute for Consumers Defence (Inadec).

    The gathering had the participation of representatives of the National Firm for Airports Exploration and Air Navigation (Enana), National Civil Aviation Institute (Inavic), Ghassist firm, Lardef association and operators linked to airport services.

  • The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving Africans' problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest.

    The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

    The first prize, worth US$15,00, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.

    It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data.

    Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

    The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayerInc, a US-based company that develops apps and application programme interface products.

    "There's a great deal of significance in the market being created.

    "Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online," he said.

    Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: "This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes".

    Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.

    He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices.

    But team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. "We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers," he added.

    Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, a software and agribusiness company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.

  • A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.

    In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.

    In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: "It's the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It's an invention that could save numerous human lives", explains Arthur Zang.

    In fact, Cameroon's thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country's economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation.

    The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

    In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.

    "The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse's tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.

    Software built into the device allow the doctor to give computer assisted diagnosis", explains the young engineer.

    It wasn't possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment"

    "The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations", Arthur Zang hopes.

    However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country's remote regions do not have access to electricity. "The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours", the engineer assures.

More

  • - Telecommunications group Telkom SA (TKG) on Wednesday advised that Polelo Lazarus Zim has been re-appointed as the chairman of the Telkom Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Issue no 591 10th February 2012

node ref id: 24102

Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook grew in Africa was startling but the story is now well-known. Lithuanian social network Eskimi is designed for low-end handset users and in a little over 18 months it has gone from nothing to 2.5 million users. Anyone who believes that mobile content is important has to understand why this has happened. Russell Southwood picks over the bones with Vytas Paukstys, CEO, Eskimi and Nigerian Ayo Alli who has taken on the promotion of the site.

    There’s a cycle of events before the content moment arrives. International fibre connections have to be in place: content and apps don’t grow on satellite bandwidth. Wholesale bandwidth prices have to come down so that retail prices for the individual user come down: operators have to stop selling shortage. Then international brands like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter begin to grow. From research we have done elsewhere, this is generally followed by local versions of the international brands, particularly in larger markets.

    The Eskimi story is one of a social network that didn’t come from the usual places and chose to break out in emerging markets rather than the crowded European and North American markets. Also as with the “iTunes for Africa” site, Spinlet (which formally launches at Mobile Web East Africa next week), this is a collaboration between a small European country and Nigeria. The trading centre of gravity in the world is slowly beginning to tip on its axis.

    According to VytasPaukstys, CEO, Eskimi:”We started experimenting in the Baltics and it went great there. So we decided to go international and do test marketing elsewhere in the world. We started in Asia and then went to Africa. We focused on four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.”

    All this has taken it to the point where at the beginning of November 2011, 1.7 m of its 3 m global users were Nigerian. But also use at that point in other African countries was also growing: 250,000 registered users in Ghana, 35,000 users in Kenya and over 30,000 in Namibia. Now it has 5 million global users, of which half are in Nigeria. Overall, Africa now has 1 million users. In other words, it is gaining critical mass in Ghana and other places, making it more than a one-hit, one country wonder.

    Eskimi is a low-end, mobile web product and it is building an Android app but it believes, it’s too early for a smartphone application. The pattern of use must be reassuring for Nokia as in November 2011, 73% were using the Opera Mini browser which is most frequently found on its handsets. At this point, 90% of use is on Opera Mini or the proprietary browser on the handset. Critical mass needs a wide potential user base as not everyone who has the right phone will use the product or service.

    So if there are say 1 million smartphone users, only 10-30% may use a particular service and only a smaller percentage use it regularly(see look and feel in graphic) Also this year, Eskimi will go out to local developers to develops to help create more services around the platform.

    What are they all using it for? What a small number of them used to lurk in cyber-cafes and do: discovering new friends, messaging, public chat, fan boards, picture sharing and dating tools and games. In other words, flirting, dating, romance and much, much more. 86% of them in Nigeria are in the social category that moves technology change across Africa, 18-34 year olds. You can guess that these people are less deferential and probably more in a hurry than their parents. Usually these things are heavily focused on the capital or the main city but not Eskimi. Only 32% of its users are in Lagos, the majority of the rest being spread across seven cities.

    Part of its growth phenomenon is down to how it was marketed. In the early days, it paid special attention to feedback from users, fine-tuning the product at that stage. And although it has spread throughout Africa, largely by word of mouth, it has offered incentives for users to write to their friends and connect with them, giving them some of the virtual currency available to users.

    The business model for the site is two-fold: sale of virtual currency (purchased through operator and which it shares with them) and advertising. For the latter, the 18-34 year old audience is attractive and can be highly targeted. Where African media is researched, the methodology is often open to question and where it is not, who knows how many people actually listen to, watch or read it?

    Eskimi knows enough about its list users to be able to target very precisely and it is getting a 20% response rate on those targeted lists. It can also trade its virtual currency to advertisers to use in competition promotion and for other incentives.

    Elsewhere the breakdown of revenues has been half from virtual currency and half from advertising revenues. In Africa, this has been more like 20% virtual currency and 80% advertising. But Eskimi’sPaukstys is not just chasing the traditional advertisers:”Africa’s at the media creation stage. Classifieds, business listings, news portals, etc are all growing. Revenues will come from these media creation businesses.” Media creation? Uh? Think people like Mocality and Jobberman who have to also get to critical mass for their businesses to succeed. Another source of revenue will be mobile money operators: there are ten licences in Nigeria, making their climb to critical mass a daunting task without a carefully focused marketing platform. It can also provide a platform to do the kind of research about media consumers that is currently sorely lacking.

    So in the cycle of events described at the beginning of this article, things are still largely at the stage of the arrival of international brands. Brands like Flickr and Tumblr have yet to make a noticeable impact on the continent. But local entrepreneurs – particularly in the larger markets need to think about what will work (probably in a vernacular language) that is not just a “me-too” product and developers who are all hyped up about smartphone apps need to think about whether they might be doing something more responsive to the market (most likely on feature phones) in the short to medium term.

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

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria.
    It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

    Also to understand how social media is used in Africa:
    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Past clips on downloading and streaming content

    Conrad Nkutu, CEO, Fast Track Productions on its download platform:

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    LippeOosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

telecoms

  • TurkCellIletisimHizmetlera AS (TurkCell) has confirmed that talks with South African mobile operator MTN (MTN) are ongoing, with the former looking to bring a case against MTN and its subsidiary, Irancell, in a US court.

    MTN, which owns 49% of Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence – said last Thursday that it had been informed by TurkCell that it believes it has a claim against MTN and its relevant subsidiary,

    This is arising out of the award of the second GSM Licence based on alleged violations of US laws, and TurkCell has indicated an intention to bring such a claim before a US court.TurkCell claimed that MTN had asked South Africa to support Iran’s nuclear development in return for a license.

    A spokesperson for TurkCell told BusinessTech: “As the discussions between our company and MTN have been continuing pertaining to the issues mentioned in the press announcements of MTN, we cannot make further comment on this issue. And we will not make any public announcement until the discussions are finalised.”

    Turkcell would not comment on any of the legal action MTN referred to last week.
    MTN said it would not comment further following its announcement made on Thursday (February 2, 2012). It said that, so far, no such claim had been filed in the courts or served on MTN.

    TurkCell has been listed on the NYSE since July 2000, and is the only NYSE-listed company in Turkey.

    The spokesperson alluded to a statement filed with Capital Markets Board (CMB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in TurkCell’s Q3 2011 IFRS report relating to the dispute with the Iranian GSM tender process.

    “The company has initiated an arbitration case against Islamic Republic of Iran for not abiding by the provisions of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and demanded its sustained loss, on 11 January 2008 at the arbitration court which is established pursuant to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules. The arbitration process is still pending,” TurkCell said.

    Through a 49% holding in Irancell, MTN boasts 33.314 million subscribers and a 44% market share.

  • Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    The firm was given a three-year grace period in early 2009 to grow its local shareholding to at least 20 per cent after Information minister Samuel Poghisio granted businessman NaushadMerali exception to sell 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in then Zain Kenya to Kuwait-based Zain Group.

    The Kuwaiti firm sold its stake to India’s BhartiAirtel in June 2010 and handed the new owners the responsibility to either search for local shareholders or seek an extension in the first quarter of this year.

    Airtel says it has been granted extension on the strength that it is yet to settle in the loss-making Kenyan business — a move that will halt the jockeying for the stake among local businessmen.

    “BhartiAirtel has in accordance with the government policy obtained the requisite exemption from local shareholder requirements,” said ShivanBhargava, the chief operating officer of Airtel Kenya.“Airtel is committed to always comply with the requirements of the government policy.”

    Airtel did not disclose the period of the extension, but sources at the Communications Commission of Kenya said it will run for three years or until 2015.

  • Telecoms with poor service quality will soon start to pay 10 per cent of their gross income in penalties, if the communications regulator goes ahead to implement a new penalties schedule that seeks to curb the continued deterioration in service provision.
    Uganda Communications Commission told Daily Monitor yesterday that in consultation with stakeholders, the regulator had formulated a penalties schedule for telecoms that have failed to meet contractual obligations.

    Fred Ottunu, the UCC Communications and Consumer Affairs Manager, told Daily Monitor that effective next month, there shall be a schedule indicating fines to be paid for poor services."We are in consultations with all telecoms to come up with a detailed report indicating how much to be fined for which offense. The law allows us fines of up to 10 per cent in comparison to gross income," Ottunu said.

    Network failure applies to all core telecom services including; dropped and blocked calls, failure in sending and receiving SMS and related services like mobile money and internet.

    UCC said public outcry regarding the detoriating quality of service for telecoms had forced the commission to devise means of bettering the services.However, operators argue that they have not reached any conclusion on the matter and do not expect penalties to come in form of fines.

    Shailendra Naidu, the Warid chief commercial officer, said: "There is nothing conclusive yet and I hope the commission will first consult widely before it introduces penalties."

    ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, declined to comment saying, he was yet to receive information regarding the matter.

    Utl's Jamal Sultan said: "Even as UCC's recent Quality of Service report placed Utl in the lead in terms of service, we have not tired of laying strategies for improving our services."

  • GilatSatcom, a provider of domestic and international fiber and satellite-based connectivity services in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has announced that it has released to market SuricatePRO, a communication solution that provides people in underground and other closed facilities with the ability to communicate over Iridium satellite phones. Providing coverage extension for Iridium devices, SuricatePRO extends telephony throughout the facility without loss of signal quality.

    SuricatePRO is the perfect solution for using Iridium devices without sky view. Satphone users in mines, secure military installations, underground facilities and remote locations without sky view can quickly set up a SuricatePRO communication link that enables seamless communication with the Iridium satellite constellation.

    GilatSatcom’s Mobile Satellite Director, Ami Schneider, declared, “With SuricatePRO, we delivertelephone communication to formerly impossible-to-reach locations and secure facilities. Now, after only a very simple installation of small, lightweight equipment, Iridium subscribers can gain reliable access to the Iridium network.”

    SuricatePRO takes advantage of Foxcom’s leading RF-over-fiber technology. To enjoy the benefits of SuricatePRO, customers need only to install outdoor and indoor units connected via fiber (up to 3 km). Immediately, Iridium satphone users in the room can access the Iridium constellation as if they had clear sky view.JackHotz, Foxcom’s CEO, stated, “SuricatePRO takes advantage of our innovative fiber-based solutions. This new product provides customers with an easily installable, complete solution to satphone telephony from challenging and even otherwise-impossible circumstances.”

  • Airtel Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of its 3G mobile platform in the country, which promises to change how subscribers experience the web on internet-enabled cell phones. The improved technology will enhance multimedia functionality, high speed mobile broadband and internet access; allowing  users to make video calls, watch live TV, send and receive emails, and download music from the handheld devices.

    “3G technology will give our customers the opportunity to interact with cellular technology in a different way,” explains R.V.S. Bhullar “This is why Airtel doesn’t see 3G as a product, but rather as a platform that enables our subscribers to experience data better.”

    There are currently about 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to data from McKinsey & Co. Telecommunications is one of the continent’s fastest growing industries with a rapidly expanding cellular phone market that now includes internet access, mobile banking and mobile commerce.

  • Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia will establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number Kenya's software developers to cultivate applications for its African market.Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said in Nairobi last week that the mobile telephony giant intends to use the local talent to develop mobile applications to rejuvenate its falling handset sales.

    The move is set to boost the earnings of local software developers and catapult the country's IT experts to global prominence."Kenya not only has the pool of talent required but has also demonstrated that it can produce mobile applications that can be used globally," said Mr Elop, adding Nokia will use a yet-to-be established regional research unit to develop applications that are relevant for Africa's users.

    Mobile application are Internet based software such as the Safaricom's mobile money transfer services M-Pesa or Ushahidi that run on smartphones and other mobile devices designed to help users to solve their day to day problems.

    Elop, who is in Nairobi to meet the local software developers, says Nokia is keen on mobile applications tailored to education, health and e-commerce sectors. He met about 50 software developers at iHub - an innovation centre that houses more than 3,000 software developers.

    Nokia is facing stiff competition in the handset market with firms such as Samsung, Apple and ZTE gaining marketshare and is looking at emerging nations to spur sales. The firm has shed more than 30,000 jobs in three years and moved production to Asia from Europe to cut costs. The Finnish giant last year downgraded the Kenya office from a regional hub to a sales and marketing office under South Africa.

    A report released by Gartner in November indicates that Nokia's global marketshare dropped to 22.8 in August from 30.3 per cent same period last year, with its overall pieces sold over the period dropping to 97,869.6 from 111,473 in 2010.

    ZTE, which has introduced cheaper smartphones, increased its global marketshare to three per cent in August 2011 from 1.8 per cent in the same period last year while Apple's increased to 4.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent in the period under review.

    Kenya's software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms - Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd - won global awards. Virtual City won the $1million Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award for innovators who would create mobile products that can improve lives of people in developing nations.

    Taka Taka Solutions, a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste, won Sh4.2 million Dell Social Innovation Award for 2011 for a software to help authorities locate garbage.

  • Nigerians who were hoping to see the rollout of newly licensed Fixed Line operators may have to wait a little further, following a recent revelation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    NCC said in Lagos that the Commission was aware of the shortage of Fixed Line operations in the country, but that it was not in a hurry to licence additional operators, as a result of the low broadband penetration in the country.

    Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Eugene Juwah who gave the defence during an interactive session with telecoms reporters in Lagos, said "modern Fixed Line telephony is deployed over broadband, and we cannot issue licence for Fixed Line operators, when broadband deployment is not well spread in the country."

    According to him, the Commission would facilitate the wide deployment of broadband, especially in hinterlands and rural communities, hence its drive in empowering private sector participation in broadband deployment.NCC had in 2001 and 2003, issued Fixed Line licenses, alongside GSM(mobile) licences to MTN and Globacom respectively, but the operators decided to roll out their GSM services, leaving out the Fixed Line service.

    Both Globacom and MTN had promised that they were going to roll out fixed lLine services and they have connected fibre optic cables round most cities of the country, yet none of the operators have rolled out fixed lines service.

internet

  • For a first-time mother, it is usually her own mother who becomes the primary source of motherhood advice. Other female relatives and friends who already have children are often second on the speed-dial. And while online communities and forums are a popular source for information, they can be unreliable.
    Inspired by all this, SuperMama was born.

    Launched last October, SuperMama is the first of its kind, a website and online parenting community targeting mothers and mothers-to-be around the Middle East. The bilingual Arabic and English site provides essential information on almost every aspect of mothers’ lives and childcare.

    Two dynamic young ladies, Yasmine al-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, are the masterminds behind SuperMama. In June, prior to the launch, they teamed up with Sherine al-Sammaa, the marketing director, aiming to complement each others' experience.

    SuperMama acts as an information hub, offering content for all aspects of a mom’s busy life, including pregnancy, parenting, cooking, home maintenance, and the mother’s own personal lifestyle and interests. All content is created by specialists, such as physicians, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, professional cooks and home management experts.
    The unique aspect of the site is its localized content, which distinguishes it from foreign websites that often offer advice irrelevant to Arabs' normal lifestyles.

    Hitting more than 2,000 registered users and over 20,000 unique visits in the first month of the launch,SuperMama has already proven a success.
    “Our aim is to become, in the near future, the first website for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mehairy says.

  • When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving.

    "It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance," said Adrian Louw, program integrator at Bush Radio.

    The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply.

    Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of color. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. "The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that
    knows our internet protocols," said Louw.

    The station has a rich history of defiance during the apartheid era. Back then it broadcasted illegally after repeated applications for a license were turned down. Since the granting of a broadcasting license in 1994, the station has evolved with the times. "If blogging works, why do we have to pay thousands of (South African) Rands to get a designer to design a fancy website for news when a free CMS (content management system) works?" asked Louw.

    Bush Radio is also renowned for training young people in broadcasting. Social media has enabled them to spread the message quicker. "For instance we had a recruitment for news volunteers. We had a response from over sixty applicants within three days." For Bush Radio, social media complements the weaknesses of radio – its immediacy and transient nature. With social media, the station can now relay important messages that have a presence on the internet.
    "We seriously believe that technology must be used in bettering people’s lives," said Louw.

    Across town in South Africa’s biggest single township of Khayelitsha, Radio Zibonele has a lot in common with Bush Radio. Radio Zibonele’s listenership has steadily increased with the station’s meteoric rise from its days of broadcasting under the bed of a shipping container truck in 1995. With over 220 000 listeners, feedback grew and inundated the single studio phone line. The advent of social media has been a welcome development for Radio Zibonele.

    Like most community media, Radio Zibonele traditionally interacts with its audiences through outreach programs such as road shows and other sponsored community activities. However, of late, dwindling sponsorship has been a hindrance. Social media, said NtebalengShete, the station’s program manager, fills the gap by reconnecting with the community.
    Radio Zibonele broadcasts mostly in the local language, isiXhosa. Its flagship program discusses various social problems, and feedback peaks during this two-hour program.

    The high penetration of mobile phones with internet connectivity has also boosted the number of listeners who log onto social networks. According to latest figures provided by Cellular Online, a mobile portal, South Africa has a growing subscriber base of close to 20 million users.
    "I think people are growing with technology…many of the people want to be on Facebook and Twitter," said Shete.

  • Google has added five Western Cape wineries to its popular Street View service in Google Maps and will begin collecting images in Botswana in the next few weeks, the Internet giant says in a new blog post.

    The five new wineries – Boekenhoutskloof, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Môreson, Rustenburg Wines and Warwick – bring to 30 the number of wineries now available in Street View. Google uses specially equipped trikes and cars to take the images.

    The company says it will use Chevrolet Capitva vehicles to add a range of places in Botswana, including Gaborone, Francistown and the country’s tourist and wildlife destinations. These include Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and KgalagadiTransfrontier Park.

    Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date, Google says

  • SkyVision Global Networks, a provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic networks, has announced that it has partnered with CMC Networks, a leading ISP based in South Africa, to establish SkyVision South Africa (Pty)., a local subsidiary and addition to its rapidly growing local African presence.

    In this latest strategic move, SkyVision, winner of the coveted AfricaCom Satellite Service Provider of the year Award, opens a local South African office, expanding its local footprint into Africa's most vibrant business hub. This move places the company in a prime tactical position to answer Africa's growing need for high quality communication services over fiber, wireless and satellite, like never before.

    "We are thrilled to combine SkyVision's pan-African satellite coverage with CMC Networks impressive global infrastructure and extensive fiber connectivity services to bring SkyVision South Africa customers high quality connectivity from and to anywhere in Africa, Europe, the USA  and the Middle East", stated Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision.

    Providing customized, Virtual Private Network and Internet Access services over its IP/MPLS and satellite networks, SkyVision South Africa will operate an iDirect HUB in Johannesburg, providing coverage over all of South Africa as well as the Sub Saharan African countries.
    "SkyVision and CMC Networks will now jointly offer a network of 36 MPLS POPs across Africa and 20 additional global POPs to enable global corporates to share business-critical information via voice and data applications where traditional terrestrial networks have been thus far unsuccessful.

    “CMC Networks embraces the opportunity to extend its African VSAT footprint with SkyVision. The two networks combined will extend the service offerings, increasing reach and deliverables reinforcing our aggressive expansion within the continent to provide a one stop shop for holistic hybrid connectivity throughout Africa. We foresee this new network to be the most expansive in Africa once complete” stated Grant Walker CEO of CMC.

    Additional services will include: Unified Threat Management value-added services, business continuity and disaster recovery services, collocation and hosting.

  • Canadian start-up Exponential Labs claims to have monitored Google+ since it launched and have made statistics about the social network available onlineNew statistics from PlusDemophraphics.com finds as many as 466,828 Google+ users in South Africa, and counting.

    Globally, PlusDemophraphics.com notes approximately 90 million Google+ users worldwide, against more than 800 million active users on Facebook – and approaching five million active users in South Africa.

    PlusDemophraphics.com is owned and operated by Exponential Labs, a small start-up out of Toronto, Canada. “We’ve been monitoring Google+ since it launched, and our extensive knowledge and experience has made us somewhat of an unofficial authority,” it says.

    The majority of Google+ users in South Africa, 36.32%, are Married; 31.92% are Single; 42.42% are looking for networking; and 39.40% are looking for Friends.

    Approximately 71% of users are male, while the majority of users in SA – at 37.3% – are aged 25-34, followed by 18-24 year olds comprising 35.8%.

    Just less than 28% of users originate from Johannesburg, with about 14% coming from Pretoria, according to PlusDemophraphics.com.

    The majority of users are students, which follows the global pattern.

    Up to 70.38% of global users of Google+ are male, with the majority of users, at 50.4%, in the 18-24 years category.

    Of the South Africans on Google+, Exponential Labs says 45.82% are also active on Facebook, while 44.83% use Twitter.

  • The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said it will soon provide wide Internet access to students in universities across the country. ProfessorCleopasAngaye, the Director-General of the agency, said this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

    'We are looking at situation whereby we can provide wide internet service to universities, at least, get a pilot scheme to look at maybe two or four; how we can provide internet access to 20,000 students simultaneously.

    'That will actually be breakout of the traditional system in which Internet is only provided between maybe 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., during day light hours.

    'But if we can do that wide area Internet network for universities, students can use this Internet access 24 hours. We are looking for ways of doing that.

    'Like I said, it depends on whether it will be approved in the budget. If it is, we will provide more research, more computing and more interaction among students in universities.'

    He said the project would fast-track economic development through the use of Information and Communication Technology (CIT).

    Angaye stated that the project, if approved, would commence with a pilot scheme with few universities and would be extended to other universities.

    He reiterated the determination of the agency towards the transformation of the economy through the deployment of series of Information Technologies that would benefit Nigerians.

computing

  • MyMilpark, Milpark Business School's new online learning environment, provides a platform for students with their own e-mail address.

    Milpark recognises that the student is the principal player in the teaching-learning transaction and should be encouraged to take charge of his/her own learning experience.

    One of MyMilpark's primary aims is to provide an improved learning experience for distance learners through increased interaction and access to learning resources.

    The website will be used to deliver all learning related information (assignment due dates, exam information) content (assignments, cover sheets, subject specific information) and functionality (assignment uploads, forums etc) to Milpark students.

    All current students have access to MyMilpark and will be notified of their usernames and passwords. The platform is also available on mobile devices through a mobisit, to which tablets and smart phones will automatically be redirected.

  • National Police's anti-gender based violence (GBV) offices received computers and cameras worth Rwf 8.5 million from Actionaid Rwanda to support their efficiency in curbing the vice.

    The equipment will be dispersed to Police GBV offices in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province and Musanze District, Northern Province, in a bid to circulate capacity of all their offices.

    Upon her tour of police facilities, Joanna Kerr, the Chief Executive of Actionaid International, pledged more support in terms of training and equipment to aid police.

    She singled out the police hospital in Kacyiru, Kigali, as a facility that Actionaid would assist in order to foster partnership.

    "At Actionaid, we are motivated to provide relief to women and children who suffer domestic violence just because of their gender; the National Police is utilising the few resources at its disposal to perform an extraordinary task that is beneficial to the vulnerable groups in Rwanda," she said.

    Police Spokesman, TheosBadege, commended Actionaid for lending a hand in the fight against domestic violence.

    "We run anti-GBV desks in all its offices countrywide, with councillors, legal advisors and activists. We work with various stakeholders, both from government and the private sector, to ensure that peace prevails because its part and parcel of the country's development," he said.

    Police statistics indicate that there were 4,680 GBV related cases reported and acted upo

  • Ministry of Health launched a Human Resource for health Information System a digitalised information system for managing human resource in the Ministry. The purpose of the system is to improve for better planning purposes and to easily identify vacancies and fill them.

    "Managers who will access this information will be able to report any vacancies to the Ministry so that they are filled on time," Vincent Oketcho Chief of Party, Uganda Capacity at IntraHealth said.

    He said previously there were difficulties in obtaining reliable data and this made it difficult to plan accordingly for health services because details were stored manually and sometime s the papers would be misplaced but this is bound to change with the electronic system.

    Oketcho says the information will only be restricted to managers and administrators of the hospitals for security purposes because information can easily be altered.

    During the launch at Hotel African in Kampala on Feb 7, John Mark Winfield the USAID Deputy Director says maternal health activists have pointed to the absence of trained personnel as the reason for the majority deaths in the labour wards but Winfield hopes if this gap is filled then we shall see the number if those dying going down.

    Richard Nduhura the State Minister for Health says the system which was introduced in 2006 will see to the equitable distributions of health workers through out the country. He says well as 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the rural areas, only 20 percent of the health workers are distributed in the rural areas and the remaining 80 percent of the health work force in concentrated in towns with a population of 20 percent.

    He says says the shortages have been translated to work loads where the only available health workers have to cater to the over load of patients which in the end results to poor health service care in the end.

    Nduhura says the system will see to effect that absenteeism, ghost workers some of the challenges widespread in the health work force are reduced. "There will be consistent monitoring which will help us to quickly identify the gaps and quickly fill them immediately," he said.

    He says the government with the support of the World Health organisation and the World Bank will extend the system to 40 other districts. So far 69 districts have been installed on the system and by 2014; the Ministry hopes the system will be installed in all the districts in the country.

    The system will also be adopted by the Public service and all government agencies to recruit and transfer staff.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A tax row between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and telecoms company MTN has been scheduled for arbitration starting February 15 after failed attempts to resolve the matter in the boardroom and court.

    The two entities are locked in a contest over Shs136 billion that according to URA, was incurred as a tax liability by the telecom company between 2003 and 2007. However, MTN Uganda insists the tax liability is unfounded and had earlier sought court intervention to block the claim.

    According to court documents, the dispute started when URA in 2009 suspected MTN of defaulting on its obligations related to management fees, a tax normally charged on income of expatriates, which the telecom employed between 2003 and 2007.

    URA also contends that over the same period, the telecom, despite massively building its brand in Uganda, did not pay what is due in terms of taxes in that regard, yet it earned income off the brand.

    Coupled with the failure to remit PAYE on bonuses advanced between the periods, URA wrote a letter in December 22, 2011, to MTN to assess the tax liability of the telecom estimated in excess of Shs136 billion.

    “On December 22, 2011, URA issued a letter that found MTN to have tax liability in respect of management fees, brand, PAYE on bonus and penal tax of Shs136 billion,” a court document, seen by this newspaper reads in part.

    The same document says the telecom is adamant to pay the Shs136 billion because URA’s demand is outside the law. MTN further claims that URA’s intention is driven by the desire to collect more revenue and not by rational decision of equity.

    URA claims
    On the other hand URA argues the Shs136 billion tax liability, it claims MTN incurred between 2003 and 2007, was accrued on incomes sourced and earned in Uganda, therefore subject to taxation. Tax analysts Daily Monitor spoke to on the matter, said incomes sourced and earned within the country are normally subjected to taxation, unless there is a prior arrangement, or provision within the law that bars it application.

    When contacted early this week, Mr ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, said: “This is not something new. We are aware about it.” Also, a statement it issued later on did not elaborate much except stating: “This matter is currently in court and owing to the sub-judice rules we are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

    URA spokesperson Sarah BirungiBanage could not also comment on the matter, saying it is not the agency’s practice to discuss tax matters in public.

  • The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

    Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

    Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

    Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

    Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

    Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

    Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

    "Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

    "Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

    "Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

    Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

    According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

    LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

    "We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

    According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe- Econet Wireless has started offering video conferencing facilities to companies and parastatals that can afford the service.In an interview after handing over 350 cellphone handsets and lines to junior parliamentarians in Harare on Wednesday, EconetChief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the only hindrance was the bandwidth, but now with the coming in of the fibre optic system the future looks very bright.

Digital Content

  • Keeping things local is what the 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards is all about. Against this background, Eat In - the ultimate foodie shopping guide that takes the form of an annual magazine and www.eat-in.co.za, has announced a new award for best local food blog this year.

    This accolade acknowledges the role that local bloggers play in South Africa's food industry. For most of them blogging is a labour of love undertaken in their spare time, yet thousands of consumers trust their favourite bloggers' opinions and follow their cooking and shopping advice.

    "In order to recognise local bloggers that are doing their bit to uplift local produce and small producers, we decided to introduce a new category in this year's awards. We also hope to encourage more bloggers to support the little guys this way," explained Eat In editor AneldeGreeff.

    After nominations were accepted from the public, the judges settled on 10 finalists for the blog award, as well as the winners of the other categories such as best new product, best small producer (in sub-categories like grocery, dairy and bakery) and best organic producer, among others. Appropriately, the blogger award is the only one determined by Eat In readers' votes. Members of the public can vote once each for their favourite blogger on Eat In.

  • The state-owned Angola Airline Company (TAAG) will launch this year an electronic service that enables customers to locate their luggage by inserting a number on the system, ANGOP has learnt.

    This was announced on Tuesday by TAAG's director for operations, RuiCarreira, who added that the customer will enter into the system through a computer connected to the Internet, an operation that enables the person to make complaints in the same manner.

    "The implementation of this system will facilitate the luggage recovery process, said the source, when speaking to the press on the fringe of a seminar on Consumers and the Airport Services, held by the National Institute for Consumers Defence (Inadec).

    The gathering had the participation of representatives of the National Firm for Airports Exploration and Air Navigation (Enana), National Civil Aviation Institute (Inavic), Ghassist firm, Lardef association and operators linked to airport services.

  • The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving Africans' problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest.

    The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

    The first prize, worth US$15,00, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.

    It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data.

    Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

    The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayerInc, a US-based company that develops apps and application programme interface products.

    "There's a great deal of significance in the market being created.

    "Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online," he said.

    Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: "This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes".

    Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.

    He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices.

    But team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. "We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers," he added.

    Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, a software and agribusiness company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.

  • A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.

    In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.

    In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: "It's the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It's an invention that could save numerous human lives", explains Arthur Zang.

    In fact, Cameroon's thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country's economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation.

    The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

    In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.

    "The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse's tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.

    Software built into the device allow the doctor to give computer assisted diagnosis", explains the young engineer.

    It wasn't possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment"

    "The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations", Arthur Zang hopes.

    However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country's remote regions do not have access to electricity. "The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours", the engineer assures.

More

  • - Telecommunications group Telkom SA (TKG) on Wednesday advised that Polelo Lazarus Zim has been re-appointed as the chairman of the Telkom Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Issue no 591 10th February 2012

node ref id: 24102

Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook grew in Africa was startling but the story is now well-known. Lithuanian social network Eskimi is designed for low-end handset users and in a little over 18 months it has gone from nothing to 2.5 million users. Anyone who believes that mobile content is important has to understand why this has happened. Russell Southwood picks over the bones with Vytas Paukstys, CEO, Eskimi and Nigerian Ayo Alli who has taken on the promotion of the site.

    There’s a cycle of events before the content moment arrives. International fibre connections have to be in place: content and apps don’t grow on satellite bandwidth. Wholesale bandwidth prices have to come down so that retail prices for the individual user come down: operators have to stop selling shortage. Then international brands like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter begin to grow. From research we have done elsewhere, this is generally followed by local versions of the international brands, particularly in larger markets.

    The Eskimi story is one of a social network that didn’t come from the usual places and chose to break out in emerging markets rather than the crowded European and North American markets. Also as with the “iTunes for Africa” site, Spinlet (which formally launches at Mobile Web East Africa next week), this is a collaboration between a small European country and Nigeria. The trading centre of gravity in the world is slowly beginning to tip on its axis.

    According to VytasPaukstys, CEO, Eskimi:”We started experimenting in the Baltics and it went great there. So we decided to go international and do test marketing elsewhere in the world. We started in Asia and then went to Africa. We focused on four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.”

    All this has taken it to the point where at the beginning of November 2011, 1.7 m of its 3 m global users were Nigerian. But also use at that point in other African countries was also growing: 250,000 registered users in Ghana, 35,000 users in Kenya and over 30,000 in Namibia. Now it has 5 million global users, of which half are in Nigeria. Overall, Africa now has 1 million users. In other words, it is gaining critical mass in Ghana and other places, making it more than a one-hit, one country wonder.

    Eskimi is a low-end, mobile web product and it is building an Android app but it believes, it’s too early for a smartphone application. The pattern of use must be reassuring for Nokia as in November 2011, 73% were using the Opera Mini browser which is most frequently found on its handsets. At this point, 90% of use is on Opera Mini or the proprietary browser on the handset. Critical mass needs a wide potential user base as not everyone who has the right phone will use the product or service.

    So if there are say 1 million smartphone users, only 10-30% may use a particular service and only a smaller percentage use it regularly(see look and feel in graphic) Also this year, Eskimi will go out to local developers to develops to help create more services around the platform.

    What are they all using it for? What a small number of them used to lurk in cyber-cafes and do: discovering new friends, messaging, public chat, fan boards, picture sharing and dating tools and games. In other words, flirting, dating, romance and much, much more. 86% of them in Nigeria are in the social category that moves technology change across Africa, 18-34 year olds. You can guess that these people are less deferential and probably more in a hurry than their parents. Usually these things are heavily focused on the capital or the main city but not Eskimi. Only 32% of its users are in Lagos, the majority of the rest being spread across seven cities.

    Part of its growth phenomenon is down to how it was marketed. In the early days, it paid special attention to feedback from users, fine-tuning the product at that stage. And although it has spread throughout Africa, largely by word of mouth, it has offered incentives for users to write to their friends and connect with them, giving them some of the virtual currency available to users.

    The business model for the site is two-fold: sale of virtual currency (purchased through operator and which it shares with them) and advertising. For the latter, the 18-34 year old audience is attractive and can be highly targeted. Where African media is researched, the methodology is often open to question and where it is not, who knows how many people actually listen to, watch or read it?

    Eskimi knows enough about its list users to be able to target very precisely and it is getting a 20% response rate on those targeted lists. It can also trade its virtual currency to advertisers to use in competition promotion and for other incentives.

    Elsewhere the breakdown of revenues has been half from virtual currency and half from advertising revenues. In Africa, this has been more like 20% virtual currency and 80% advertising. But Eskimi’sPaukstys is not just chasing the traditional advertisers:”Africa’s at the media creation stage. Classifieds, business listings, news portals, etc are all growing. Revenues will come from these media creation businesses.” Media creation? Uh? Think people like Mocality and Jobberman who have to also get to critical mass for their businesses to succeed. Another source of revenue will be mobile money operators: there are ten licences in Nigeria, making their climb to critical mass a daunting task without a carefully focused marketing platform. It can also provide a platform to do the kind of research about media consumers that is currently sorely lacking.

    So in the cycle of events described at the beginning of this article, things are still largely at the stage of the arrival of international brands. Brands like Flickr and Tumblr have yet to make a noticeable impact on the continent. But local entrepreneurs – particularly in the larger markets need to think about what will work (probably in a vernacular language) that is not just a “me-too” product and developers who are all hyped up about smartphone apps need to think about whether they might be doing something more responsive to the market (most likely on feature phones) in the short to medium term.

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

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria.
    It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

    Also to understand how social media is used in Africa:
    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Past clips on downloading and streaming content

    Conrad Nkutu, CEO, Fast Track Productions on its download platform:

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    LippeOosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

telecoms

  • TurkCellIletisimHizmetlera AS (TurkCell) has confirmed that talks with South African mobile operator MTN (MTN) are ongoing, with the former looking to bring a case against MTN and its subsidiary, Irancell, in a US court.

    MTN, which owns 49% of Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence – said last Thursday that it had been informed by TurkCell that it believes it has a claim against MTN and its relevant subsidiary,

    This is arising out of the award of the second GSM Licence based on alleged violations of US laws, and TurkCell has indicated an intention to bring such a claim before a US court.TurkCell claimed that MTN had asked South Africa to support Iran’s nuclear development in return for a license.

    A spokesperson for TurkCell told BusinessTech: “As the discussions between our company and MTN have been continuing pertaining to the issues mentioned in the press announcements of MTN, we cannot make further comment on this issue. And we will not make any public announcement until the discussions are finalised.”

    Turkcell would not comment on any of the legal action MTN referred to last week.
    MTN said it would not comment further following its announcement made on Thursday (February 2, 2012). It said that, so far, no such claim had been filed in the courts or served on MTN.

    TurkCell has been listed on the NYSE since July 2000, and is the only NYSE-listed company in Turkey.

    The spokesperson alluded to a statement filed with Capital Markets Board (CMB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in TurkCell’s Q3 2011 IFRS report relating to the dispute with the Iranian GSM tender process.

    “The company has initiated an arbitration case against Islamic Republic of Iran for not abiding by the provisions of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and demanded its sustained loss, on 11 January 2008 at the arbitration court which is established pursuant to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules. The arbitration process is still pending,” TurkCell said.

    Through a 49% holding in Irancell, MTN boasts 33.314 million subscribers and a 44% market share.

  • Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    The firm was given a three-year grace period in early 2009 to grow its local shareholding to at least 20 per cent after Information minister Samuel Poghisio granted businessman NaushadMerali exception to sell 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in then Zain Kenya to Kuwait-based Zain Group.

    The Kuwaiti firm sold its stake to India’s BhartiAirtel in June 2010 and handed the new owners the responsibility to either search for local shareholders or seek an extension in the first quarter of this year.

    Airtel says it has been granted extension on the strength that it is yet to settle in the loss-making Kenyan business — a move that will halt the jockeying for the stake among local businessmen.

    “BhartiAirtel has in accordance with the government policy obtained the requisite exemption from local shareholder requirements,” said ShivanBhargava, the chief operating officer of Airtel Kenya.“Airtel is committed to always comply with the requirements of the government policy.”

    Airtel did not disclose the period of the extension, but sources at the Communications Commission of Kenya said it will run for three years or until 2015.

  • Telecoms with poor service quality will soon start to pay 10 per cent of their gross income in penalties, if the communications regulator goes ahead to implement a new penalties schedule that seeks to curb the continued deterioration in service provision.
    Uganda Communications Commission told Daily Monitor yesterday that in consultation with stakeholders, the regulator had formulated a penalties schedule for telecoms that have failed to meet contractual obligations.

    Fred Ottunu, the UCC Communications and Consumer Affairs Manager, told Daily Monitor that effective next month, there shall be a schedule indicating fines to be paid for poor services."We are in consultations with all telecoms to come up with a detailed report indicating how much to be fined for which offense. The law allows us fines of up to 10 per cent in comparison to gross income," Ottunu said.

    Network failure applies to all core telecom services including; dropped and blocked calls, failure in sending and receiving SMS and related services like mobile money and internet.

    UCC said public outcry regarding the detoriating quality of service for telecoms had forced the commission to devise means of bettering the services.However, operators argue that they have not reached any conclusion on the matter and do not expect penalties to come in form of fines.

    Shailendra Naidu, the Warid chief commercial officer, said: "There is nothing conclusive yet and I hope the commission will first consult widely before it introduces penalties."

    ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, declined to comment saying, he was yet to receive information regarding the matter.

    Utl's Jamal Sultan said: "Even as UCC's recent Quality of Service report placed Utl in the lead in terms of service, we have not tired of laying strategies for improving our services."

  • GilatSatcom, a provider of domestic and international fiber and satellite-based connectivity services in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has announced that it has released to market SuricatePRO, a communication solution that provides people in underground and other closed facilities with the ability to communicate over Iridium satellite phones. Providing coverage extension for Iridium devices, SuricatePRO extends telephony throughout the facility without loss of signal quality.

    SuricatePRO is the perfect solution for using Iridium devices without sky view. Satphone users in mines, secure military installations, underground facilities and remote locations without sky view can quickly set up a SuricatePRO communication link that enables seamless communication with the Iridium satellite constellation.

    GilatSatcom’s Mobile Satellite Director, Ami Schneider, declared, “With SuricatePRO, we delivertelephone communication to formerly impossible-to-reach locations and secure facilities. Now, after only a very simple installation of small, lightweight equipment, Iridium subscribers can gain reliable access to the Iridium network.”

    SuricatePRO takes advantage of Foxcom’s leading RF-over-fiber technology. To enjoy the benefits of SuricatePRO, customers need only to install outdoor and indoor units connected via fiber (up to 3 km). Immediately, Iridium satphone users in the room can access the Iridium constellation as if they had clear sky view.JackHotz, Foxcom’s CEO, stated, “SuricatePRO takes advantage of our innovative fiber-based solutions. This new product provides customers with an easily installable, complete solution to satphone telephony from challenging and even otherwise-impossible circumstances.”

  • Airtel Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of its 3G mobile platform in the country, which promises to change how subscribers experience the web on internet-enabled cell phones. The improved technology will enhance multimedia functionality, high speed mobile broadband and internet access; allowing  users to make video calls, watch live TV, send and receive emails, and download music from the handheld devices.

    “3G technology will give our customers the opportunity to interact with cellular technology in a different way,” explains R.V.S. Bhullar “This is why Airtel doesn’t see 3G as a product, but rather as a platform that enables our subscribers to experience data better.”

    There are currently about 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to data from McKinsey & Co. Telecommunications is one of the continent’s fastest growing industries with a rapidly expanding cellular phone market that now includes internet access, mobile banking and mobile commerce.

  • Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia will establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number Kenya's software developers to cultivate applications for its African market.Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said in Nairobi last week that the mobile telephony giant intends to use the local talent to develop mobile applications to rejuvenate its falling handset sales.

    The move is set to boost the earnings of local software developers and catapult the country's IT experts to global prominence."Kenya not only has the pool of talent required but has also demonstrated that it can produce mobile applications that can be used globally," said Mr Elop, adding Nokia will use a yet-to-be established regional research unit to develop applications that are relevant for Africa's users.

    Mobile application are Internet based software such as the Safaricom's mobile money transfer services M-Pesa or Ushahidi that run on smartphones and other mobile devices designed to help users to solve their day to day problems.

    Elop, who is in Nairobi to meet the local software developers, says Nokia is keen on mobile applications tailored to education, health and e-commerce sectors. He met about 50 software developers at iHub - an innovation centre that houses more than 3,000 software developers.

    Nokia is facing stiff competition in the handset market with firms such as Samsung, Apple and ZTE gaining marketshare and is looking at emerging nations to spur sales. The firm has shed more than 30,000 jobs in three years and moved production to Asia from Europe to cut costs. The Finnish giant last year downgraded the Kenya office from a regional hub to a sales and marketing office under South Africa.

    A report released by Gartner in November indicates that Nokia's global marketshare dropped to 22.8 in August from 30.3 per cent same period last year, with its overall pieces sold over the period dropping to 97,869.6 from 111,473 in 2010.

    ZTE, which has introduced cheaper smartphones, increased its global marketshare to three per cent in August 2011 from 1.8 per cent in the same period last year while Apple's increased to 4.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent in the period under review.

    Kenya's software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms - Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd - won global awards. Virtual City won the $1million Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award for innovators who would create mobile products that can improve lives of people in developing nations.

    Taka Taka Solutions, a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste, won Sh4.2 million Dell Social Innovation Award for 2011 for a software to help authorities locate garbage.

  • Nigerians who were hoping to see the rollout of newly licensed Fixed Line operators may have to wait a little further, following a recent revelation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    NCC said in Lagos that the Commission was aware of the shortage of Fixed Line operations in the country, but that it was not in a hurry to licence additional operators, as a result of the low broadband penetration in the country.

    Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Eugene Juwah who gave the defence during an interactive session with telecoms reporters in Lagos, said "modern Fixed Line telephony is deployed over broadband, and we cannot issue licence for Fixed Line operators, when broadband deployment is not well spread in the country."

    According to him, the Commission would facilitate the wide deployment of broadband, especially in hinterlands and rural communities, hence its drive in empowering private sector participation in broadband deployment.NCC had in 2001 and 2003, issued Fixed Line licenses, alongside GSM(mobile) licences to MTN and Globacom respectively, but the operators decided to roll out their GSM services, leaving out the Fixed Line service.

    Both Globacom and MTN had promised that they were going to roll out fixed lLine services and they have connected fibre optic cables round most cities of the country, yet none of the operators have rolled out fixed lines service.

internet

  • For a first-time mother, it is usually her own mother who becomes the primary source of motherhood advice. Other female relatives and friends who already have children are often second on the speed-dial. And while online communities and forums are a popular source for information, they can be unreliable.
    Inspired by all this, SuperMama was born.

    Launched last October, SuperMama is the first of its kind, a website and online parenting community targeting mothers and mothers-to-be around the Middle East. The bilingual Arabic and English site provides essential information on almost every aspect of mothers’ lives and childcare.

    Two dynamic young ladies, Yasmine al-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, are the masterminds behind SuperMama. In June, prior to the launch, they teamed up with Sherine al-Sammaa, the marketing director, aiming to complement each others' experience.

    SuperMama acts as an information hub, offering content for all aspects of a mom’s busy life, including pregnancy, parenting, cooking, home maintenance, and the mother’s own personal lifestyle and interests. All content is created by specialists, such as physicians, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, professional cooks and home management experts.
    The unique aspect of the site is its localized content, which distinguishes it from foreign websites that often offer advice irrelevant to Arabs' normal lifestyles.

    Hitting more than 2,000 registered users and over 20,000 unique visits in the first month of the launch,SuperMama has already proven a success.
    “Our aim is to become, in the near future, the first website for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mehairy says.

  • When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving.

    "It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance," said Adrian Louw, program integrator at Bush Radio.

    The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply.

    Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of color. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. "The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that
    knows our internet protocols," said Louw.

    The station has a rich history of defiance during the apartheid era. Back then it broadcasted illegally after repeated applications for a license were turned down. Since the granting of a broadcasting license in 1994, the station has evolved with the times. "If blogging works, why do we have to pay thousands of (South African) Rands to get a designer to design a fancy website for news when a free CMS (content management system) works?" asked Louw.

    Bush Radio is also renowned for training young people in broadcasting. Social media has enabled them to spread the message quicker. "For instance we had a recruitment for news volunteers. We had a response from over sixty applicants within three days." For Bush Radio, social media complements the weaknesses of radio – its immediacy and transient nature. With social media, the station can now relay important messages that have a presence on the internet.
    "We seriously believe that technology must be used in bettering people’s lives," said Louw.

    Across town in South Africa’s biggest single township of Khayelitsha, Radio Zibonele has a lot in common with Bush Radio. Radio Zibonele’s listenership has steadily increased with the station’s meteoric rise from its days of broadcasting under the bed of a shipping container truck in 1995. With over 220 000 listeners, feedback grew and inundated the single studio phone line. The advent of social media has been a welcome development for Radio Zibonele.

    Like most community media, Radio Zibonele traditionally interacts with its audiences through outreach programs such as road shows and other sponsored community activities. However, of late, dwindling sponsorship has been a hindrance. Social media, said NtebalengShete, the station’s program manager, fills the gap by reconnecting with the community.
    Radio Zibonele broadcasts mostly in the local language, isiXhosa. Its flagship program discusses various social problems, and feedback peaks during this two-hour program.

    The high penetration of mobile phones with internet connectivity has also boosted the number of listeners who log onto social networks. According to latest figures provided by Cellular Online, a mobile portal, South Africa has a growing subscriber base of close to 20 million users.
    "I think people are growing with technology…many of the people want to be on Facebook and Twitter," said Shete.

  • Google has added five Western Cape wineries to its popular Street View service in Google Maps and will begin collecting images in Botswana in the next few weeks, the Internet giant says in a new blog post.

    The five new wineries – Boekenhoutskloof, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Môreson, Rustenburg Wines and Warwick – bring to 30 the number of wineries now available in Street View. Google uses specially equipped trikes and cars to take the images.

    The company says it will use Chevrolet Capitva vehicles to add a range of places in Botswana, including Gaborone, Francistown and the country’s tourist and wildlife destinations. These include Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and KgalagadiTransfrontier Park.

    Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date, Google says

  • SkyVision Global Networks, a provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic networks, has announced that it has partnered with CMC Networks, a leading ISP based in South Africa, to establish SkyVision South Africa (Pty)., a local subsidiary and addition to its rapidly growing local African presence.

    In this latest strategic move, SkyVision, winner of the coveted AfricaCom Satellite Service Provider of the year Award, opens a local South African office, expanding its local footprint into Africa's most vibrant business hub. This move places the company in a prime tactical position to answer Africa's growing need for high quality communication services over fiber, wireless and satellite, like never before.

    "We are thrilled to combine SkyVision's pan-African satellite coverage with CMC Networks impressive global infrastructure and extensive fiber connectivity services to bring SkyVision South Africa customers high quality connectivity from and to anywhere in Africa, Europe, the USA  and the Middle East", stated Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision.

    Providing customized, Virtual Private Network and Internet Access services over its IP/MPLS and satellite networks, SkyVision South Africa will operate an iDirect HUB in Johannesburg, providing coverage over all of South Africa as well as the Sub Saharan African countries.
    "SkyVision and CMC Networks will now jointly offer a network of 36 MPLS POPs across Africa and 20 additional global POPs to enable global corporates to share business-critical information via voice and data applications where traditional terrestrial networks have been thus far unsuccessful.

    “CMC Networks embraces the opportunity to extend its African VSAT footprint with SkyVision. The two networks combined will extend the service offerings, increasing reach and deliverables reinforcing our aggressive expansion within the continent to provide a one stop shop for holistic hybrid connectivity throughout Africa. We foresee this new network to be the most expansive in Africa once complete” stated Grant Walker CEO of CMC.

    Additional services will include: Unified Threat Management value-added services, business continuity and disaster recovery services, collocation and hosting.

  • Canadian start-up Exponential Labs claims to have monitored Google+ since it launched and have made statistics about the social network available onlineNew statistics from PlusDemophraphics.com finds as many as 466,828 Google+ users in South Africa, and counting.

    Globally, PlusDemophraphics.com notes approximately 90 million Google+ users worldwide, against more than 800 million active users on Facebook – and approaching five million active users in South Africa.

    PlusDemophraphics.com is owned and operated by Exponential Labs, a small start-up out of Toronto, Canada. “We’ve been monitoring Google+ since it launched, and our extensive knowledge and experience has made us somewhat of an unofficial authority,” it says.

    The majority of Google+ users in South Africa, 36.32%, are Married; 31.92% are Single; 42.42% are looking for networking; and 39.40% are looking for Friends.

    Approximately 71% of users are male, while the majority of users in SA – at 37.3% – are aged 25-34, followed by 18-24 year olds comprising 35.8%.

    Just less than 28% of users originate from Johannesburg, with about 14% coming from Pretoria, according to PlusDemophraphics.com.

    The majority of users are students, which follows the global pattern.

    Up to 70.38% of global users of Google+ are male, with the majority of users, at 50.4%, in the 18-24 years category.

    Of the South Africans on Google+, Exponential Labs says 45.82% are also active on Facebook, while 44.83% use Twitter.

  • The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said it will soon provide wide Internet access to students in universities across the country. ProfessorCleopasAngaye, the Director-General of the agency, said this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

    'We are looking at situation whereby we can provide wide internet service to universities, at least, get a pilot scheme to look at maybe two or four; how we can provide internet access to 20,000 students simultaneously.

    'That will actually be breakout of the traditional system in which Internet is only provided between maybe 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., during day light hours.

    'But if we can do that wide area Internet network for universities, students can use this Internet access 24 hours. We are looking for ways of doing that.

    'Like I said, it depends on whether it will be approved in the budget. If it is, we will provide more research, more computing and more interaction among students in universities.'

    He said the project would fast-track economic development through the use of Information and Communication Technology (CIT).

    Angaye stated that the project, if approved, would commence with a pilot scheme with few universities and would be extended to other universities.

    He reiterated the determination of the agency towards the transformation of the economy through the deployment of series of Information Technologies that would benefit Nigerians.

computing

  • MyMilpark, Milpark Business School's new online learning environment, provides a platform for students with their own e-mail address.

    Milpark recognises that the student is the principal player in the teaching-learning transaction and should be encouraged to take charge of his/her own learning experience.

    One of MyMilpark's primary aims is to provide an improved learning experience for distance learners through increased interaction and access to learning resources.

    The website will be used to deliver all learning related information (assignment due dates, exam information) content (assignments, cover sheets, subject specific information) and functionality (assignment uploads, forums etc) to Milpark students.

    All current students have access to MyMilpark and will be notified of their usernames and passwords. The platform is also available on mobile devices through a mobisit, to which tablets and smart phones will automatically be redirected.

  • National Police's anti-gender based violence (GBV) offices received computers and cameras worth Rwf 8.5 million from Actionaid Rwanda to support their efficiency in curbing the vice.

    The equipment will be dispersed to Police GBV offices in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province and Musanze District, Northern Province, in a bid to circulate capacity of all their offices.

    Upon her tour of police facilities, Joanna Kerr, the Chief Executive of Actionaid International, pledged more support in terms of training and equipment to aid police.

    She singled out the police hospital in Kacyiru, Kigali, as a facility that Actionaid would assist in order to foster partnership.

    "At Actionaid, we are motivated to provide relief to women and children who suffer domestic violence just because of their gender; the National Police is utilising the few resources at its disposal to perform an extraordinary task that is beneficial to the vulnerable groups in Rwanda," she said.

    Police Spokesman, TheosBadege, commended Actionaid for lending a hand in the fight against domestic violence.

    "We run anti-GBV desks in all its offices countrywide, with councillors, legal advisors and activists. We work with various stakeholders, both from government and the private sector, to ensure that peace prevails because its part and parcel of the country's development," he said.

    Police statistics indicate that there were 4,680 GBV related cases reported and acted upo

  • Ministry of Health launched a Human Resource for health Information System a digitalised information system for managing human resource in the Ministry. The purpose of the system is to improve for better planning purposes and to easily identify vacancies and fill them.

    "Managers who will access this information will be able to report any vacancies to the Ministry so that they are filled on time," Vincent Oketcho Chief of Party, Uganda Capacity at IntraHealth said.

    He said previously there were difficulties in obtaining reliable data and this made it difficult to plan accordingly for health services because details were stored manually and sometime s the papers would be misplaced but this is bound to change with the electronic system.

    Oketcho says the information will only be restricted to managers and administrators of the hospitals for security purposes because information can easily be altered.

    During the launch at Hotel African in Kampala on Feb 7, John Mark Winfield the USAID Deputy Director says maternal health activists have pointed to the absence of trained personnel as the reason for the majority deaths in the labour wards but Winfield hopes if this gap is filled then we shall see the number if those dying going down.

    Richard Nduhura the State Minister for Health says the system which was introduced in 2006 will see to the equitable distributions of health workers through out the country. He says well as 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the rural areas, only 20 percent of the health workers are distributed in the rural areas and the remaining 80 percent of the health work force in concentrated in towns with a population of 20 percent.

    He says says the shortages have been translated to work loads where the only available health workers have to cater to the over load of patients which in the end results to poor health service care in the end.

    Nduhura says the system will see to effect that absenteeism, ghost workers some of the challenges widespread in the health work force are reduced. "There will be consistent monitoring which will help us to quickly identify the gaps and quickly fill them immediately," he said.

    He says the government with the support of the World Health organisation and the World Bank will extend the system to 40 other districts. So far 69 districts have been installed on the system and by 2014; the Ministry hopes the system will be installed in all the districts in the country.

    The system will also be adopted by the Public service and all government agencies to recruit and transfer staff.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A tax row between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and telecoms company MTN has been scheduled for arbitration starting February 15 after failed attempts to resolve the matter in the boardroom and court.

    The two entities are locked in a contest over Shs136 billion that according to URA, was incurred as a tax liability by the telecom company between 2003 and 2007. However, MTN Uganda insists the tax liability is unfounded and had earlier sought court intervention to block the claim.

    According to court documents, the dispute started when URA in 2009 suspected MTN of defaulting on its obligations related to management fees, a tax normally charged on income of expatriates, which the telecom employed between 2003 and 2007.

    URA also contends that over the same period, the telecom, despite massively building its brand in Uganda, did not pay what is due in terms of taxes in that regard, yet it earned income off the brand.

    Coupled with the failure to remit PAYE on bonuses advanced between the periods, URA wrote a letter in December 22, 2011, to MTN to assess the tax liability of the telecom estimated in excess of Shs136 billion.

    “On December 22, 2011, URA issued a letter that found MTN to have tax liability in respect of management fees, brand, PAYE on bonus and penal tax of Shs136 billion,” a court document, seen by this newspaper reads in part.

    The same document says the telecom is adamant to pay the Shs136 billion because URA’s demand is outside the law. MTN further claims that URA’s intention is driven by the desire to collect more revenue and not by rational decision of equity.

    URA claims
    On the other hand URA argues the Shs136 billion tax liability, it claims MTN incurred between 2003 and 2007, was accrued on incomes sourced and earned in Uganda, therefore subject to taxation. Tax analysts Daily Monitor spoke to on the matter, said incomes sourced and earned within the country are normally subjected to taxation, unless there is a prior arrangement, or provision within the law that bars it application.

    When contacted early this week, Mr ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, said: “This is not something new. We are aware about it.” Also, a statement it issued later on did not elaborate much except stating: “This matter is currently in court and owing to the sub-judice rules we are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

    URA spokesperson Sarah BirungiBanage could not also comment on the matter, saying it is not the agency’s practice to discuss tax matters in public.

  • The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

    Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

    Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

    Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

    Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

    Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

    Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

    "Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

    "Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

    "Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

    Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

    According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

    LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

    "We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

    According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe- Econet Wireless has started offering video conferencing facilities to companies and parastatals that can afford the service.In an interview after handing over 350 cellphone handsets and lines to junior parliamentarians in Harare on Wednesday, EconetChief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the only hindrance was the bandwidth, but now with the coming in of the fibre optic system the future looks very bright.

Digital Content

  • Keeping things local is what the 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards is all about. Against this background, Eat In - the ultimate foodie shopping guide that takes the form of an annual magazine and www.eat-in.co.za, has announced a new award for best local food blog this year.

    This accolade acknowledges the role that local bloggers play in South Africa's food industry. For most of them blogging is a labour of love undertaken in their spare time, yet thousands of consumers trust their favourite bloggers' opinions and follow their cooking and shopping advice.

    "In order to recognise local bloggers that are doing their bit to uplift local produce and small producers, we decided to introduce a new category in this year's awards. We also hope to encourage more bloggers to support the little guys this way," explained Eat In editor AneldeGreeff.

    After nominations were accepted from the public, the judges settled on 10 finalists for the blog award, as well as the winners of the other categories such as best new product, best small producer (in sub-categories like grocery, dairy and bakery) and best organic producer, among others. Appropriately, the blogger award is the only one determined by Eat In readers' votes. Members of the public can vote once each for their favourite blogger on Eat In.

  • The state-owned Angola Airline Company (TAAG) will launch this year an electronic service that enables customers to locate their luggage by inserting a number on the system, ANGOP has learnt.

    This was announced on Tuesday by TAAG's director for operations, RuiCarreira, who added that the customer will enter into the system through a computer connected to the Internet, an operation that enables the person to make complaints in the same manner.

    "The implementation of this system will facilitate the luggage recovery process, said the source, when speaking to the press on the fringe of a seminar on Consumers and the Airport Services, held by the National Institute for Consumers Defence (Inadec).

    The gathering had the participation of representatives of the National Firm for Airports Exploration and Air Navigation (Enana), National Civil Aviation Institute (Inavic), Ghassist firm, Lardef association and operators linked to airport services.

  • The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving Africans' problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest.

    The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

    The first prize, worth US$15,00, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.

    It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data.

    Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

    The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayerInc, a US-based company that develops apps and application programme interface products.

    "There's a great deal of significance in the market being created.

    "Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online," he said.

    Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: "This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes".

    Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.

    He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices.

    But team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. "We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers," he added.

    Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, a software and agribusiness company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.

  • A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.

    In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.

    In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: "It's the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It's an invention that could save numerous human lives", explains Arthur Zang.

    In fact, Cameroon's thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country's economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation.

    The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

    In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.

    "The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse's tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.

    Software built into the device allow the doctor to give computer assisted diagnosis", explains the young engineer.

    It wasn't possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment"

    "The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations", Arthur Zang hopes.

    However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country's remote regions do not have access to electricity. "The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours", the engineer assures.

More

  • - Telecommunications group Telkom SA (TKG) on Wednesday advised that Polelo Lazarus Zim has been re-appointed as the chairman of the Telkom Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Issue no 590 3rd February 2012

node ref id: 24037

Top story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Things that drive traffic…new clips

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria
    . It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

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

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

    Things that drive traffic…past clips

    Reg Swart, Fundamo on M-money services in Africa

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

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

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

telecoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

internet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

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

Digital Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Issue no 589 27th January 2012

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Top story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    An Agenda for 2012 – Part 3

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

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

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

    Publicly funded fibre networks for rural users

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

    Creating a developer community to create apps and services

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

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

telecoms

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

internet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

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

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

Digital Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More

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

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

Issue no 588 20th January 2012

node ref id: 23913

Top story

  • Last Saturday in Milan, Vodafone Egypt threw in a free concert with the famous Egyptian singer Nancy Ajram to launch its first MVNO under the label “Bladna”. Bladna which means homeland in Arabic. It is an MVNO targeted at the Egyptian diaspora living in Italy. Isabelle Gross spoke to Arkadi Panitch, CEO of Effortel, the company that has set up and will run the backend of Bladna’s operations in Italy.

    Effortel has been set up in Belgium in 2005 by a group of telecoms experts with Arkadi Panitch at its head. The company specialises in building MVNOs for other clients, none telecom clients like supermarket chain Carrefour or perfume and body care company FM as well as telecoms clients like Vodafone. The just launched MVNO Bladna by Vodafone Egypt is primarily targeted at the Egyptian and the other North African emigrants that have made Italy their home.

    Bladna will of course offer cheap phone calls to Egypt and other North African countries as well as credit transfers from Bladna customers to Vodafone Egypt customers (a clever way to enter the remittance segment at the same time). Bladna is all in Arabic language and it will be promoted by viral marketing, looking at the specific channels and shops that the Egyptian diaspora use. Rather than traditional marketing and expensive outlets, Bladna will get its SIM cards and calling credits to potential customers using these outlets in Egyptian diaspora communities. There are over one million Egyptians emigrants in Italy and Bladna hopes to reach 150,000 subscribers after four years.

    Although Bladna is Vodafone Egypt’s first MVNOm there is no reason that this will be the only one. According to Arkadi Panitch, if the mobile operator develops a consistent strategy at targeting Egyptian and North African emigrants, it will be in position to launch more MVNOs in a few other European countries. Arkadi explains further that large mobile operators will be looking at doing more of this kind of MVNOs in the future – in other words going out in the market or abroad under a new brand name to target specific customers segments that their current offering doesn’t manage to capture. In Italy again, Effortel has also helped a Chinese entrepreneur to set up an MVNO labelled Daily Telecom which offers mobile calls to China and Hong Kong for the price of a local call. The MVNO has already 300,000 customers most of them Chinese emigrants.

    Other mobile operators in North Africa have launched MVNOs in European countries with less success. In 2007,  Maroc Telecom launched a MVNO under the label Mobisud in France and Belgium targeting the North African emigrants. For Arkadi Panitch, the success of an MVNO like Bladna or Daily Telecom is to keep costs as low as possible across every department. Effortel provides the platform and the technical implementation at an affordable price but alongside this, marketing costs and all other costs (finance, administration, customer support) have to mirror the revenue potential of a low cost offering. At Daily Telecom for example there are only two people on the management side of the MVNO. According to Arkadi Panitch, traditional mobile operators are not good at rolling out low cost offerings targeted at emigrants or other customers segments. Their marketing approach is still too focussed on tailoring offers for the bulk of their customers rather than attractive offers targeted at meeting the needs of specific customer segments. An additional innovation from Effortel includes a feature that allows street vendors to activate a Bladna SIM card directly upon purchase. The details of the new customers and a photo are captured on a smartphone and the data are later uploaded into a central database in order to comply with Italian mobile subscribers’ registration requirements.

    Africa has a huge diaspora outside the continent but also on the continent. Just ask yourself how many people from Burkina Faso live in Côte d’Ivoire or how many people coming from Zimbabwe live at present in South Africa? Africa also doesn’t lack of entrepreneurial people keen to make a living by venturing in new business areas. Effortel is currently having advanced talks regarding the launch of an MVNO in West Africa and more African countries are on the roadmap. There are also potentials outside the continent in particular in Europe. What about an MVNO in the UK targeting Nigerians or Ghanaians emigrants? This is an idea that should give some second thoughts to mobile operators like MTN, Globacom or Vodafone.

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

    An Agenda for 2012 – Part 2

    High-end internet offerings
    John Kamau, General Manager, Jamii Telecom on the first phase of its FTTH roll-out


    Using satellite in a post-fibre world

    Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision on changes in the satellite market in Africa - Africacom 2011

    Online content browsing for feature phones
    Gour Lentell, CEO, biNu on this new feature phone platform taking off in Africa

    A cloud phone for low-income and rural users

    Nigel Waller, CEO and founder of Movirtu on the Cloud Phone and low-income and rural users

    What are TV White Spaces and what can they do?
    Steve Song, CEO, Village Telco on the TV White Spaces Workshop

telecoms

  • Vodacom Group Ltd., the phone company with most South African customers, is close to resolving a dispute that has blocked investment in its Democratic Republic of Congo unit for the last two years.

    “We’re making good progress and getting closer to a solution,” Johan Dennelind, Vodacom’s head of international operations, said yesterday in an interview at the group’s Johannesburg headquarters. Vodacom is 65 percent owned by Newbury, England-based Vodafone Group Plc.

    Vodacom has been at odds with local minority partner, Congolese Wireless Network SPRL, since at least early 2010, following a plan to inject $484 million into the business, Vodacom Congo SPRL. CWN has said the recapitalization would dilute its 49 percent share because its shareholders don’t have the money to support their half. Vodacom said last year it had agreed with CWN to “explore options” for the unit after disagreements over the funding and operational structure.

    Vodacom Congo had 4.8 million subscribers at the end of September, Vodacom said on Nov. 7. It is the third-largest operator in the country, which has over 71 million people and a mobile penetration rate of 17 percent, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.

    “We’re having constructive discussions with our partners on the Vodacom Congo board,” said Dennelind. , adding that the parties are “nearing completion.”

    The South African operator has said it won’t invest further in the Congo unit until the conflict is solved, and Chief Executive Officer Pieter Uys said in May last year Vodacom may sell its 51 percent stake to end the struggle. The parties have appointed London-based NM Rothschild & Sons Ltd. to advise on the options. Vodacom last week named Ivan Dittrich as Chief Financial Officer from about July 1.

    The Congo unit hasn’t reported a profit since Vodacom bought a stake in 2001, while the potential for expansion exists as the country’s mobile penetration rate is 17 percent. The group’s international operations, which include the Congo unit, reported an operating loss of 267 million rand in the six months ending Sept. 30. Tanzania is Vodacom’s second-biggest market, where it owns a 65 percent stake in the local unit which had 10.2 million customers at the end of September.

  • Alarmed by the marginal increment in landline subscribers and a revenue shortfall from the targeted 9.8 billion Br of its operations last year, ethio telecom has reduced tariffs across zones for telephone calls made from landlines, beginning January 1, 2012.

    The number of fixed line subscribers in Ethiopia is slow to grow compared to mobile, increasing by 37pc since 2005. Despite being launched over a centaury ago, landline subscriber numbers reached only 836,000 last year, while mobile users reached 10.5 million in 2011, up 931pc from only six years ago.

    Managers at ethio telecom, contracted from Orange Telecom of France, want to change such marginal growth. In their bid to increase both the number of calls and their durations, they have reduced tariffs, for the first time, for peak hours, from 7:00am to 9:00pm, by 66.3pc to 83 cents on the Birr a minute.

    A more significant reduction is seen in off peak hours, including during weekends and holidays. Calls during these periods will be charged 35 cents a minute, dropping by a whopping 228pc.

    "This is to encourage subscribers to use it more frequently than they used to, which, in turn, increases the revenues of the company," Abdurahim Ahmed, public communications head at ethio telecom, told Fortune. "The traffic from subscribers making calls is the way to generate more revenue."

    This is part of the new business plan of the telecom service monopoly of the country that took over the former Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC), two years ago, for 42.3 million dollars.

    "The aim is to avoid the price variations of calls in town and out-of-town," Abdurahim told Fortune.

    ethio telecom only charges 20 cents for six minutes in town, below even the tariff rate for calls from its public phones that are charged the same price for three minutes. The number of public payphones in operation was only 5,025, as of September 2009. Despite recent efforts to register and license public phone call providers, the majority of kiosk phones are not regulated, according to the Ethiopia ICT Sector Performance Review 2009/2010.

  • Orange Uganda has introduced the latest phone from Apple on the market, the iPhone 4S.The iPhone 4S goes for Shs 2,399,000 for the 16GB model, Shs 2,699,000 for the 32GB model and Shs 3,099,000 for the 64GB model. The phone can be found in all Orange outlets. The phone comes packed with new features including Apple's dual-core A5 chip for fast performance and graphics; a new camera with advanced optics and full 1080p HD (High Definition) resolution video recording.

    Iphone 4S comes with iOS 5, the world's most advanced mobile operating system with over 200 new features; and iCloud, an advanced storage system, among others. Importantly, iPhone 4S stands out from other iPhones because of its Siri service. Siri lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more.

    "By asking Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk, Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back. You talk to Siri as you would to a person," notes a press statement. Philippe Luxcey, Orange CEO said: "At Orange, it is always a pleasure to introduce a wide range of devices to our customers and not to forget the clear-cut bundles that go along with them.”

    “It is also very important to note that what is before you today is the original iPhone as Orange is the only official distributor for iPhone in Uganda. So, customers are assured of a great device coupled with exceptional quality of service on the largest and fastest 3G+ network in Uganda."

    According to EdouardBlondeau, Orange Uganda's Chief Strategy Officer, iPhone 4S demonstrates the world is moving closer to a phone that has no difference to a computer. With iPhone, Orange targets to tap into the market of companies that seek to equip their staff with the latest phones, which enable their staff to for example do a power point presentation.

  • Globacom announced that on January 19, 2012, it would formally begin commercial operations on its network in Ghana. However, today, the 20th of January it has only started a “number reservation campaign”.

    Speaking at the Glo CAF Awards which held in Accra, George Andah, the Chief Operating Officer of Glo Ghana, said that the company would pre-empt the launch by holding a series of 'activities' designed to ensure that Glo Mobile's 'superior services' get the launch they deserve. In other words, they’re still not ready yet….

    Globacom has operations in Gambia, Senegal, Nigeria, Benin and Cote d'Ivoire. Having received its licence in November 2008, the fledgling operation has found itself mired in delay and controversy. In November this year the cellco's Nigerian parent postponed the latest revised launch of its Glo Mobile service, citing 'logistical constraints.'

    Globacom had earlier announced that its official launch in Ghana would take place on November 17, 2011, three years after first receiving a licence to offer services. Glo Mobile Ghana plans an aggressive entry to the domestic mobile market, and claims it would go live with almost 100 per cent coverage.

    The Nigerian owned telecom company is said to have invested about $600 million in Ghana since receiving its concession to deploy a 'unique, seamless and world class LTE network'. Glo Mobile said it has initial capacity for at least ten million customers for starters and that its network capacity was expandable.

    The newcomer has five switching centres, 18 base station controllers, 1,600 base transceiver stations, 800 3.5G cell sites, 2,850km of fibre, 25 retail outlets across the country, and around 400 staff.

  • Somalia’s militant Islamic group Al-Shabaab reportedly took over the running of an independent broadcaster and abducted a reporter in a new round of restrictions in areas of the country that it still controls.

    The move has left telecom executives in Somalia and in neighbouring Kenya worried that the militant group could attempt to shut down more communications and hinder citizen’s ability to use telecommunications.

    “It is definitely something that we must keep an eye on in order to know where the whole sector is heading right now. It is tense in Somalia and nobody is going to be interested in boosting telecom infrastructure. It’s just too risky,” a communications official within the Somali government said.

    According to a witness, Al-Shabaab militants stormed the premises of Radio Afgoye and seized most of the equipment before abducting radio journalist Ayub Yusuf Dalmar.

    The group has a history of forcibly taking over independent media outlets in Somalia.

  • The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has slapped a fine of $500,000 on GSM operator Lonestar for “negligence and omission on the part of the Lonestar management” which led to an outage on its network on November 7, 2011.

    The LTA said that the fine is to be paid “within a week” and ordered Lonestar, which is part of South Africa’s MTN Group, to give all its subscribers four hours of free call time on a day to be determined by the LTA.

    “The LTA will work closely with Lonestar to ensure the successful implementation of this order,” the regulator said in a statement.The LTA said that it had spent the past two months investigating the outage, which occurred during a “politically motivated” riot in the capital city of Monrovia.The LTA said that Lonestar’s explanation for the outage “did not jive” with the results of its investigation.

    However, in a statement sent to CommsMEA, MTN Liberia’s Corporate Communication Executive, Dr. Laurence Bropleh, said that the network outage was the result of an “unprecedented volume of calls at a base station provisioned to handle traffic in certain parts of the Monrovia network coverage area”.

    He added that the outage lasted for about 90 minutes and was isolated to a specific location and did not affect the entire network. “The LTA has since requested more data and information for further analysis and a final decision. MTN Lonestar Cell has offered additional details to assist the LTA in its reassessment of its findings,” Bropleh said.

    The LTA added that LaminiWaritay, Liberia’s Commissioner for Public and Consumer Affairs, hoped that the fine would send “an unmistakable message not only to Lonestar, but other network operators” that their licensing terms require them provide proper services to their subscribers at all times.

    In the statement, the LTA added that LaminiWaritay, Liberia’s Commissioner for Public and Consumer Affairs, hoped that the fine would send “an unmistakable message not only to Lonestar, but other network operators” that their licencing terms require them to provide proper services to their subscribers at all times.

internet

  • Internet users in the country now have the luxury of the fastest internet yet which is the 3. 75G service provided by Airtel Ghana.The telecom giant has upgraded its 3. 5G network to 3. 75G, the first to be launched by any internet and mobile network provider in the country.

    In an interview with Citi Business News at the launch of the 3. 75G network, the Managing Director of Airtel Ghana, Philip Sowah, indicated that about 300 additional cell sites would be deployed across the country within the next three months to boost the accessibility of the high speed internet by its customers.

    “What we have done is, since we have the 2G covering the whole of the country and the 3G in the key areas where the data traffic is a lot."But more importantly we will be increasing our 3G coverage by 50% so we are putting a number of cell sites across the country,” he said.

  • An Indonesian hacker has caught Kenya government tech gurus napping. In an unprecedented occurrence, an Indonesian hacker known as direxer has taken down 103 government of Kenya websites.

    According to a Tuesday discussion on Kenya's online tech forum, Kictanet, the hacker is part of an online Indonesian security forum known as Forum Code Security and says he took down the websites following tutorials from the forum.

    The news of the hacking was first exposed on the site code-security.net/archives/114, a forum on code security.

    The title on the website read: "Joint Discussion -- Forum on Code Security".

    "Such tutorials usually exploit programming errors in code, known as bugs, which have not been fixed. The hacker appears to have a website at http://www.direxer.com/ though this has not been updated to reflect the hacking.

    In a message in the forum, the hacker says:

    show off by me...

    thanks for tutorial in www.code-security.com all...

    i have exploit from cs web, and i attacking to server Government Kenya,,,, and then,,, success full... this is deface in this night...

    The government has reportedly moved fast to take the affected websites offline through a Cyber Incidence Response Team (CIRT) based at the Communications Commission of Kenya.

    The CIRT was formed to handle such situations and ensures Kenya's security in cyber space. In a comment, Vincent Ngundi who heads CIRT said: "We're on it. Thanks for the heads-up and comments" in Kenya's Security Forum where the news first broke.

    The websites included those of various government ministries, departments and local authorities.

    The government normally hosts several websites in one server at The Treasury thus compromising the server may expose several websites to a hacker.

    The Administration Police website has been hacked several times in the recent past. At the same time, most of the websites hacked appear to have been running the Joomla Content Management system:

  • Vox Telecom plans to launch a "low-cost satellite internet broadband" service in June and the company expects to sign up about 40000 subscribers in the first three years of operation.

    Vox has signed an agreement with Abu Dhabi-based Yahsat, which next month will launch its YahClick satellite called Y1B, to sell capacity and market the satellite in SA. The satellite will cover 26 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

    Vox product manager Jacques Visser said yesterday the satellite would provide connectivity to rural and remote areas that were not covered by traditional telecommunications infrastructure.

    "YahClick is a perfect broadband option for those who can’t get ADSL service, or who need a backup service in case of outages," Mr Visser said. Although the use of satellite telecommunications has been in practice for years in Africa, high costs have prohibited take-up.

    "Satellite has traditionally been seen as an expensive option that’s only suitable for remote sites of large enterprises," he said. "But the technology has changed so much in recent years that it’s a real option as a primary broadband connection."

    YahClick is based on the high performance Ka-band spot-beam technology, making it possible to offer efficient and low-cost service.

    Vox will target farms, clinics, game lodges and schools in remote areas. It will sell the service through existing resellers and also subsidiaries such as @lantic and VoxTelepreneur. Vox’s primary focus is on internet data but it will test the viability of a voice service later.

  • SpaceDSL service from ‘Afrique Telecom’, enabling high-speed internet via satellite, was launched on 18th January, 2012 in Paris. It is available in 32 countries across Africa including Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana (see the full map here). The objective is to extend internet access especially in remote rural areas where there is no other broadband internet access alternatives, writes Sylvain Beletre.

    The launch of SpaceDSL is a small revolution in the field of broadband internet access in Africa because it is more affordable than existing solutions and has no strings attached: its price structure is not based on a long term subscription but on pre-paid, pay-as-you-go options which can be stopped anytime and recharged via a dedicated and secured web portal from anywhere in the world.

    It is "a mini-VSAT", said Philippe Tintignac - the CEO of Telecom Africa - during the press launch. In other words, SpaceDSL is a smaller satellite system with the qualities of larger models with "99% availability, high bandwidth, low cost, stand-alone DIY installation and no subscription" benefits. 
    The complete SpaceDSL kit includes a 1 meter diameter metallic antenna, a sophisticated modem, 30 meters of protected cable, a ‘Point & Play’ device for self-installation and a 1 year guarantee with onsite and phone/email service. The dedicated web portal (http://www.spacedsl.com) allows to purchase cards and refills.

    Afrique Telecom has been established in Africa since 2005 and has set up around 700 V-sat stations in 22 countries across Africa. The company has a network of partners across Africa and is currently looking for more resellers.

    Find out more here and here

  • MEASAT Satellite Systems Sdn. Bhd. (“MEASAT”) has announced an agreement with SkyVision Global Networks Ltd.(“SkyVision”), for capacity on the AFRICASAT-1 satellite across the African region.

    The multi-transponder agreement enables SkyVision to continue providing its existing cost effective, reliable, tier-one internet connectivity solutions to ISPs, enterprises, telcos and mobile operators in the region. SkyVision offers a wide variety of connectivity options and provides direct access to the internet backbone via tier-one internet providers. SkyVision was chosen as the Satellite Service Provider of the Year 2011 at the recent AfricaCom exhibition and conference in Cape Town.

    “Extending existing contracts with leading satellite suppliers is part of our strategy to offer reliable coverage over vast geographies,” said Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision. “I am confident that SkyVision’s customers will benefit from the competitive edge our satellite infrastructure is offering.”

    “MEASAT is delighted to provide satellite capacity and support SkyVision for its services and expansion plans in the African region,” said Jarod Lopez, Senior Director, Sales and Marketing, MEASAT.

    The AFRICASAT-1 satellite which is located at the 46°E orbital slot provides C-band coverage across the African region as well as the Middle East and parts of East Europe. The slot will be enhanced with the AFRICASAT-1a satellite in Q4 2012.

  • Jamii Telecoms Ltd JTL is upgrading its entire fibre optic network at a cost of Sh261 million in a move aimed at making the infrastructure more secure and positioning itself for government’s Internet tenders to connect the Counties ahead of its rivals.

    The upgrade will see the JTL fibre network moved to a superior technology (Internet Protocol /Multiprotocol Label Switching MPLS) which is more secure than the one it is currently using ( Ethernet network ), giving it a competitive edge over its rivals such Kenya Data Networks (KDN) and Telkom Kenya.
    JTL is also offering services to banks who demand high security on their data.

    The demand of high security networks by banks stems from the fear that the country is now more exposed to cyber crime activities such as hacking than before after it got connected to the three undersea fibre optic cables, TEAMs, Seacom and Eassy, which not only exposes the banks to risk but also their clients.

    The cost of the project will be met through vendor financing where ECI Telecoms, an Israel firm will supply JTL with equipment on credit to be repaid in instalments.

    Joshua Chepkwony, the chairman Jamii telecoms, said the upgrade exercise which begins next week is supposed to be complete by end March and will cover Nairobi, Mombasa, Naivasha, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kisumu, Kitale, Bugoma, Busia, Kakamega, Thika, Kisii and Kericho.

    “The upgrade will give us a head start over our rivals, especially in the counties where banks and government will require secure internet connections due to the sensitivity of the information they handle,” said Chepkwony.

    He said that other than the banking institutions it is targeting, the firm has also set eyes on the government tenders –to connect learning institutions, health facilities and the administrative offices in the devolved government.

  • Local information technology experts have expressed misgivings over the move by the US government to enact laws aimed at controlling internet use.Speaking in Dar es Salaam yesterday, they noted that the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and protect IT Act (Pipa) would curtail the people's right to interact, as well as obtain information and useful data.

    Thousands of websites were shut down for 24 hours last week, to protest the proposed law over concerns that it will infringe on the people's rights to communicate and access free information. One of them was the popular Wikipedia. Sebastian Nkoha, a Dar es Salaam-based ICT expert, said the decision by the bigger websites to shut down would affect millions if not billions of people worldwide.

    He said it was unfortunate that this was happening even before the law was introduced."Who knows if the Wikipedia or any other website will decide to shut down its services completely when the Bills are passed...it is alarming because it will create a knowledge vacuum," he said.

    Nkoha said if the US House of Representatives passes the bill, more than 75 per cent of websites, whose servers are located in the most powerful country in the world, would be affected.His comments were echoed by University of Dar es Salaam Deputy Managing Director for ICT services, Dr Respickus Casmir, who noted that Tanzanians would be affected by the law.

    Elaborating, he said a lot of websites in the country have their servers in the US and it was dangerous if the US government gives itself powers to control them.

    "Tanzania websites are dependent on US servers. So, if US government does anything to the servers, it means that we are going to be the victims with little options to defend our rights," he lamented.

    "If passed, the bills will also limit the right of people to express their opinions as well as accessing information," he said. For his part, GodblessMushi, a system administrator at one of the local telephone companies, said the Bills, if passed, would "colonise the internet industry," and elaborated: "Since most servers are in the US, the country would dictate what should or should not be online."

    However, the US government maintains that Sopa and Pipa has been designed to basically thwart copyright infringement but the protesting websites warn that such concentrating such power in one authority could threaten the functionality of the internet.

    In addition to Wikipedia, other major websites like google also joined the protest. Google placed a black redaction box over its logo on its much-visited US home page to draw attention to the bills, while social news site Reddit and the popular Cheezburger humour network was planning to shut down later last week.

    The legislations which are backed by the Hollywood, the music industry, the Business Software Alliance, the National Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce, seek to allow the Justice Department and content owners to seek court orders requiring search engines to block results associated with piracy.

    The critics, however, seem to have managed to make their point as on Saturday, the White House issued a statement that appeared to side with critics of the legislation.It said: "While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cyber-security risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet."

  • Minister of Communications and Information Technology Dr. Mohamed Salem and his Ethiopian counterpart signed an agreement that implies benefiting from the Egyptian expertise in human development and the provision of information and communications technology (ICT) training.

    A statement by the Ministry on 18/1/2012 said that the cooperation includes several domains, such as securing cyberspace, frequency spectrum management and pumping investments in this field.

    The agreement also includes enhancing the knowledge of the Ethiopian side in electronic applications and e-government services and creating a regulatory and legislative environment for the ICT policies, especially when it comes to frequency spectrum management.

computing

  • When techno-whiz Seth Owusu left Ghana for the United States in 1991, he had never used a computer before.But two decades later, he’s using the power of technology to provide computer literacy to the children of rural Africa, one refurbished computer at a time.

    Owusu is the founder of the Entire Village Computers Organization (EVCO), a Washington-based charitable organization that donates reconditioned old computers and accessories from the developed world and delivers them to those schools in need in the developing world.

    “We try to put the computers there as electronic tools, also as a library, also to a place where not just the school but the entire villages around that school can come in and benefit from the computer,” says Owusu, who moved to the United States at the age of 24.

    Growing up under difficult conditions in rural Ghana, Owusu was inspired at a young age by a group of missionaries who visited his school, willing to make a long and difficult journey to help strangers.He says that that incident has motivated him ever since to try and make a difference in the lives of others.

    “It showed me that regardless of how little you have, you can do something for somebody which can be great for their life and their future,” says Owusu.
    Since 2004, EVCO says it has built and donated 25 computer labs in village schools and communities in Ghana and Nigeria for a total of 233 computers.

    The non-profit organization is funded entirely by Owusu, his family and a small pool of committed donors.But besides money, Owusu, who did computer studies in the USA and now works for an electronics company in Washington, also dedicates his personal time, putting a lot of hard work on the project that’s become his mission in life.

    Using the monitor-crammed garage of his house in Washington as his base, he tests, fixes and upgrades all the donated computers himself before shipping them to Africa.

    He says it’s all worth it: “I feel very excited because it takes a lot to do it and finally when you get it done like this it’s just joy,” says Owusu. “You feel overjoyed because finally you know that you’ve reached the destination and somebody is going to benefit from all the hard work that you have to put in,” he adds.

    But EVCO goes much further than just shipping hardware to African villages.
    The group also runs training workshops for teachers and students and provides technical support, maintaining an ongoing relationship with the recipients of their computers.

    “When we do the donation, we enter into a three-calendar year agreement with the kids, with the school, to go back and fix them and make sure everything is working for the next three years,” says Owusu, who runs EVCO with the help of four volunteers in Ghana.

    The non-profit organization also promotes local involvement and development, trumpeting Owusu’s belief that an entire community benefits when computers are introduced in local schools.

    “The whole concept about our donation process is first, not just the computers, but getting the entire community involved in the process” he says. “That makes them part of the process, so they know the kids are learning and so they can feel proud to have them go to school rather than tell them to go to the farm.”

    Owusu has visited his native Ghana 11 times after the launch of EVCO — there, he doesn’t only organize computer workshops but he’s also giving motivational speeches and raises awareness about issues such as HIV and teenage pregnancy.

    He says that his goal is to run EVCO as a full-time project and be able to bring his work to many more rural areas across Africa — he’s currently working to implement the project in Sierra Leone but admits that he has had to turn down calls for help from people in other African countries due to funding difficulties and logistics issues.

    Yet, despite all the difficulties, Owusu is determined to carry on with his dream of introducing the world of computers to children across Africa.He hopes that by re-building old computers, he will also be give them the tools to compete globally.

    “If we want to change the world we have to start by changing the people who are going to be the world tomorrow, who are the kids,” says Owusu.

    “So any seed we sow today are what’s going to bloom tomorrow to shape our world and make a better world, so anything that you can do, regardless of how little it is, goes toward making the world a better place,” he adds.

  • The ICT Board is planning a Sh34 million project to digitise records at the Kenyatta National Hospital, to increase efficiency and improve service delivery.
    Commencing in April, the project will see 4 million documents scanned and stored in digital format.

    "We want to improve back office operations such as finance and accounting at the hospital," said ICT Board CEO, Paul Kukubo.A tender invitation was issued by the board on Thursday for bids to supply and install software and hardware for the project.

    The move comes at time when the technology community is fraught with anxiety over cyber security after 103 government websites were hacked and defaced on Tuesday.However, the hospital remains confident that sensitive medical data will remain protected with concerted efforts from various government authorities.

    "The paper-based data is no safer than electronic data. We plan on restricting access to the information and adhering to e-security guidelines that are being developed by the ministry of communication," said Mr Ambrose Kwale, the hospital's ICT manager.

    The digitisation is part of a master plan to automate processes not only at Kenya's main referral hospital, but across the country's health sector.

  • Maputo — The Mozambican government needs 40 million US dollars in order to computerise the civil registration system throughout the country, reports the electronic newsheet "Canal de Mocambique".

    The National Director of Registry and Notary Offices, ArlindoMagaia, said this sum is needed to equip all registry offices and health units with computers so that they can register children within days of their birth. Some of the money would also go to building other specialist registration facilities.

    Magaia said that a computerized registration system would contribute to the government's goal of implementing a Single Citizen Identification Number (NUIC), so that all personal documents, including birth certificate, identity card, passport and driving licence carry the same number.

    Magaia recognised that it is not only a shortage of computers that hinders modernisation of the civil registration system, but also the fact that electricity supply, though greatly improved in recent years, is still erratic in much of the country, and access to the Internet remains difficult, if not impossible, in many rural districts.

    Currently the Ministry of Justice, with the support of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is carrying out free registration, throughout the country, of children aged from 0 to 14 who were not registered by their parents immediately after their birth.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Shares in Net1 UEPS last week jumped as much as 37% to an intraday high of R79.50 after the company said its subsidiary, Cash Paymaster Services, had won a five-year tender to distribute social grants in all provinces.

    Net1, which is listed on the Nasdaq and JSE, has been paying social grants to 15-million people since 2006 after a tender process. But over the past year, it has had a temporary contract with the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa).

    The contract had price and volume reductions, which shrank Net1’s revenue and operating income. This threatened the profitability of Net1’s local operations, which make the bulk of their money from the Sassa contract.

    Herman Kotze, the chief financial officer of Net1, has warned that there may be a short-term negative financial effect.

    "Given the magnitude of the Sassa tender award, we expect a significant impact on the group’s financial affairs when the contract period commences as a result of new volume and pricing, additional costs, capital expenditure and additional contractual obligations. These may have different financial effects in the short term relative to the long-term benefits to the group," Mr Kotze said.

    Net1 beat the big banks that were eyeing the business, which could have opened the door to tenders for banking services.

    The number of welfare grant recipients in SA is expected to reach 16,3-million by the end of March. SA plans to spend more than R104bn on grants in the 2012 financial year.

    Serge Belamant, the chairman and CEO of Net1, said the company’s biometric technology enabled it to provide Sassa with a comprehensive, cost-effective solution for the payment of about 15-million monthly grants to 10-million recipients in rural and urban areas.

  • Eaton Towers, an African towers network operator has secured a US$30 million loan to fund its expansion into Ghana.

    The transaction was signed last month and provides for a 5-year senior secured term loan facility to fund the enhancement and upgrade of towers under a Site Sharing and Maintenance Agreement contract with Vodafone Ghana.

    It will fund further capital expenditure in relation to the build-out of up to 300 additional wireless towers in Ghana.

    Peter Lewis, Chief Financial Officer of Eaton Towers, says: "We are delighted to have completed our first bank debt financing with Standard Bank Group. Given our strong deal pipeline and the interest we are seeing from financial and development institutions, we are confident that this will be the first of many such financing deals. This debt facility is an endorsement of our business model and demonstrates our ability to leverage our assets in Africa in a highly efficient way."

    The company had already secured $150 million of private equity funding last September.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - South Africa's MTN is offering 20% of free airtime with PrePaytopups until the end of March.

    - A Nigerian company, called ZodaFones has awarded an LTE contract to Huawei covering the capital city and surrounding area.

    - Tigo Tanzania has launched Voice SMS, which allows subscribers to send messages by voice, eliminating the need to type. The service is supplied by Kirusa.

    - Airtel Zambia has launched a HSPA+ network upgrade offering theoretical peak rate download speeds of up to 21Mbps.There are currently 280 airtel 3.75G sites across Zambia -- covering all provincial districts -- with the aim to roll out up to 400 by the end of this yearAccording to Mr.Fayaz King, Managing Director, airtel, the company will be rolling out its data network across all its markets in Africa with the objective of building the largest 3G network across the continent.

Digital Content

  • The Internet is changing, and the greatest impact may be felt in Africa. With the exploding use of the web globally and the planned 2012 expansion of the top-level domain name system, the future of the web is on the mind of most non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

    International attention has largely been focused on groups and companies in the global north that see the potential for profit in new online real estate. However, some of the biggest changes - and some of the greatest benefits - may be felt in the global south (and in Africa specifically) by NGOs taking up a new community extension designed for them: (dot)NGO (.NGO).

    The aim of the initiative is to create a definitive online home for NGOs around the world. The extension .NGO (or .ONG for countries using French, Spanish and Portuguese, for example) would be exclusively for NGOs, giving them an immediately recognizable identity as members in good standing of the global non-profit community.

    The Public Interest Registry (PIR), which runs .ORG and is applying for the .NGO and .ONG domains, has designed the new extension as a cornerstone of the next phase of online community-building for NGOs. The goal is to help NGOs gain real recognition and to network and fund-raise more, including conducting online fundraising with the growing African diaspora populations around the world.

    As part of the initiative, Andrew Mack of AMGlobal Consulting spoke recently to assemblies of NGOs in Yaoundé, Douala and Dakar, including regional public service leaders, press and government supporters from some 10 Central and West African nations. The events were designed to introduce the initiative, but also to get feedback from the African NGO community about their needs and the best ways to include ongoing NGO participation as standards and new products are developed.

    The meetings touched on a range of issues, from how the new extension could help with the sharing of best practices, to how NGOs could use a dedicated online community to help them combat cybercrime and other security risks. Guy TeteBenissan, of the regional NGO association REPAOC, attended the Dakar meeting. He said, "I appreciate PIR's approach. They are collaborative. They came here to listen as well as to seek our support. And I feel a high level of trust. I think PIR understands us because they, too, are an NGO."

    A final decision on the applications for .NGO and .ONG is expected later in 2012 when the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers finishes its evaluation process.

    "In the end," said Mack, following one of the meetings, "the future of NGOs in Africa is as much online as it is in the field. The creation of a new .NGO extension can really help capacity-strained African NGOs. And the way the .NGO initiative is structured, African NGOs can have a real voice - not just now, but over the long term - in the design and management of this great new tool. Africans can make history in the next phase of the Net."'

More

  • - South Africa’s third-biggest cellular operator, Cell C, on Thursday announced it had appointed the former head of Vodacom , Alan Knott-Craig, as its new chief executive officer.He will take up the position from the beginning of April.Knott-Craig was CEO of the country’s biggest cellular operator, Vodacom, for 12 years up to 2008, and managing director of the company from 1993 to 1996.

    - Telecom Egypt has named Eng. TarekAboualam as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director with effect from 19 January 2012.Telecom Egypt's current CEO, Eng. Mohammed Abdel RehimHassanein is stepping down when he reaches the age of retirement, in line with TE's corporate policy.

  • IP Network Support Specialist

    Posted date: Fri, 20th Jan

    Location: Rwanda

    IP network support specialist to work on a 12 month extendable contract for a market leading client of mine in Rwanda.

    All applicants MUST be able to work in Rwanda without requiring work sponorship.

    Please e-mail eeracleous@rize.co.uk for further information

    To apply on line please follow this link

Issue no 587 13th January 2012

node ref id: 23854

Top story

  • The reach of Africa’s fibre networks is extending relentlessly in ways that would have been barely imaginable ten years ago. The speed and the capacity of the new fibre networks have made the use of them more essential, both by businesses and individuals. Gone are the days when the like’s of Burkina Faso’s Onatel could shut the Internet down for three days with only a “sorry everyone” ad in the newspaper. New speed and capacity have encouraged Service Level Agreements that measure delivery. But this week’s news of the burning down of the SAT3 landing station in Benin raises serious questions. Russell Southwood looks at the root of the problems.

    This week we learned that the SAT3 landing station burnt down in Benin because of an electrical fault that started a fire. There seem to have been no security personnel at the landing station, neither was there a fire alarm to alert the staff of Benin Telecom. This is an accident that should not have happened: wiring needs maintaining.

    As a result of this accident, Niger has no direct access to its usual landing station and Togo will have to divert its traffic completely to Ghana. Benin itself will presumably have to use the Suburban Telecom link into Nigeria.

    However, this is not the first time Benin Telecom has shot itself in the foot through failure to maintain its networks. The Parakou fibre link to Niger has always been unreliable but Niger’s incumbent Sonitel relies on it for its international fibre connectivity. Benin Telecom’s failure to repair the link in a timely fashion has meant that Sonitel maintenance staff have crossed the border to effect the repairs.

    Last year’s trip to Nigeria revealed for us that there were several links to Nigerian cities (some with more than one fibre link) that had only 80% up-time. As we have observed before, that’s just over two months in every year when the link is down: this is not a fibre service but the equivalent of a motorway that is closed every 5 days of the year.

    This is not a problem that affects only Government-owned incumbents but they are disproportionately responsible for some of the worst failures as the news above demonstrates. The problem for customers and operators in Africa’s new and shiny fibre future is that unlike with roads, you cannot simply leave the potholes there for another day. Everybody on the network is affected by the weakest link on the network.

    The pragmatic solution is to ensure that there is redundancy. Niger is a country that despite being connected by international fibre, is still reliant on expensive satellite bandwidth for moments like these. The easiest thing to do would be to build another link across the border to Nigeria but there is not enough demand for any single carrier to make it happen. The operators need to get together as a JV consortium and make it happen. Because Sonitel’s link suffers from two problems: firstly, for reasons not of their making, it’s unreliable and secondly, it’s expensive because as the only international link operator, Sonitel is extracting every last cent from its part of the route to the border.

    The wider problem here is the remaining monopolies on international and cross-border traffic and the lack of competition to keep the incumbents up to the mark in terms of service and maintenance. In Togo and Benin, the Government owned incumbents enjoy a monopoly on national and international connectivity.

    To be fair, the Government in Benin has tried to sell Benin Telecom but failed because they were disappointed by the price. It is not hard to see that there is some connection between the attitude to its assets and the price potential buyers believe it is worth. In Burkina Faso, the privatized Onatel enjoys a monopoly on national and international connectivity which encourages the same behavior.

    If it is human to neglect long-term tasks like maintenance and up-keep, then Africa is more human than many other parts of the world. But if it is to succeed in becoming a different kind of continent, then it will need to pay more attention to these things in the future.

    Stop Press: Two stories seemed to be competing to be the Top Story this week: the arrest of Glo’s Mike Adenuga by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission  and Google’s allegedly contacting Mocality customers based on IP Address and User Agent information.

    The announcement of Mike Adenuga’s arrest (along with others) turned out to be the work of hackers as part of the protest movement against the removal of fuel subsidies. On Google, the company has made no public response as we were going to press so read Mocality’s side of events here:

     


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

    An Agenda for 2012 – Part 1

    Videos from Balancing Act’s You Tube channel that will help you reflect on where your business is going this year:

    Low cost base stations to lower network costs

    Gerry Collins, Head of Business Development, Altobridge on its low cost, remote base station

    Scott Bain, Director of Sales, Range Networks on Open BTS and low cost BTS for Africa

    Content, content, content (and services)

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

    Arvind Rao, CEO, OnMobile on comparisons between African and Indian mobile content

    Sami Leino, COO, Spinlet on the launch of an "iTunes" for Africa

    Widespread, low cost Internet access

    Riyaz Bachani, CTO, Wananchi on its Wazi hot-spots partnership with Google

    Making the Network cost-effective

    Lance Dickerson, CEO, TIA Telecom on optimising African mobile networks

     

telecoms

  • Some farmers in the south of Namibia, especially those farming in the Kalahari, have been cut off from the rest of the world after Telecom Namibia is alleged to have disconnected their phone lines.

    The farmers complained to The Namibian that they have not been able to phone since the end of October last year. Farmers say the switch from the old manual system to the WiMaX network, providing voice services, broadband data and high-speed internet access, was given as the reason for their phone service disconnection. “To make matters worse, we were not even informed about the phone service disconnection,” one farmer fumed.

    The farmers claimed Telecom Namibia compelled them to subscribe to its new WiMAX phone packages or to be left without a phone service. A farmer who preferred anonymity said affordability is the main barrier, preventing some farmers to connect to the new Telecom broadband service.

    Telecom Namibia’s Head of Public Relations, Oiva Angula, said the company had to upgrade its network because the old system had become obsolete and was not financially viable. “We calculate our cost to the customers based on what we pay to provide services,” Angula reacted to the farmers’ affordability claims.

    He said Telecom had reviewed the rental fees following complaints about affordability, adding that customers can now subscribe to a special WiMax package offering voice services and Internet access for a monthly rental of N$199.  

    Customers can also sign up for the faster WiMaX broadband for a monthly fee of N$349.

    Initially, Telecom had offered the farmers a three-year contract at a monthly basic rental of N$1 755. The old system cost farmers N$91 a month. Angula said about 44 farmers were affected by the network switch. He could not say how many farmers have been connected to the WiMaX network, and remarked: “Only a few are resisting. Customers must understand the situation. The telecom industry is moving fast, and we must keep pace.”

    Angula said the WiMax networks will be deployed countrywide, adding that there are currently 64 WiMax base stations in the country. According to Angula, the construction of four WiMax base stations at Okuruso, Okondjatu, St. Elmo and Leonardville is still under consideration but is expected to be completed by mid-December.

  • Amid continued debate over the sale of Zambian fixed line incumbent of Zamtel to LAP Green Networks (LAP Green) of Libya, the latter is reported to be deeply concerned regarding suggestions that the Zambian government could reverse the sale. Zambia’s new president Michael Sata claimed that the sale of 75% stake to the Libyan company could be overturned after the USD257 million purchase was deemed illegal.

    In the most recent development allAfrica cites newly appointed chairman of LAP Green, Wafik Alshater, as saying: ‘LAP Green is now under new leadership as part of broader changes in Libya. The new management is determined to safeguard its legally acquired assets which ultimately belong to the Libyan people, who fought a bitter war of liberation in 2011”.

    “We will pursue all options and do everything possible to retain our stake in Zamtel – a highly prestigious part of our pan-African network … We hope these reports are untrue, as this situation will not only be damaging to the telecoms industry in Zambia but would also send the wrong signal to those looking to invest in this country. LAP Green looks forward to continuing to develop Zamtel into a leading telecoms company, working with its partner in this investment, the Zambian Government.”

    The executive also highlighted the success achieved by his company since taking charge of the operator, noting that Zamtel had attracted more than 400,000 new customers since LAP Green acquired it, while also adding that the Libyan investment company had committed to investing some USD129 million in Zamtel over two years.

  • Mozambique's third mobile phone operator Movitel has launched a test phase of its network one year after it was awarded an operating licence, the company said. “The Movitel network actually covers all the provinces and cities in the country with infrastructure implemented at a national level, comprising more than 1,000 stations with 2G and 3G technology and 5,500 kilometres (3,400 miles) of fibre-optic cable,” it said in a statement received Tuesday.

    The company is a joint venture between Viettel Group, a unit of Vietnam Military Telecommunications Corp, and SPI Gestao e Investimentos, the investment arm of Mozambique’s ruling party and a group of investors known as Invespark.

    Movitel is planning to invest $465 million over the next five years to build its own infrastructure, but will share equipment in some regions. The consortium was awarded a licence in November 2010, joining state-run mCel and South Africa's Vodacom, which is owned by Vodafone.

    Mozambique had 7.2 million mobile phone subscribers in 2010, out of a population of 23 million. The arrival of Movitel is expected to increase competition, with mCel currently enjoying the biggest subscriber base, nearly four million users, against three million for Vodacom. - Sapa-AFP

  • Libya’s transitional government said that it would review ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi-era investments across the country and in Africa. The National Transition Council said it would also be looking at telecommunications investments across the continent, which could see many Libyan investments withdrawn.

    The news has left many companies in Africa with Libyan backing worried that it could leave a shortfall in funding, but Cairo-based securities analyst Hossam Tariq told IT News Africa that “it should not be an issue.”

    He argued that Libyan-backed companies had for the past nine months been without investment and capital, “which means they have all survived without the money so I don’t envision much change to be had in the near future, but it could open up new opportunities for other investors in many locations, especially Sudan and South Sudan.”

    “We have a general view to review all investments in the Arab world, the African continent and elsewhere,” Mustafa Abdul Jalil said at news conference with visiting Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

    “There are some countries where investment will increase and others where projects will stop.”

    “There are investments that are worthy of developing and there may be investments that would be better for the Libyan people for them to be closed,” Abdul Jalil said.

    Under Muammar Gaddafi, Libya invested its oil wealth mostly in Europe but it also made major investments in Africa, the Middle East, North Africa and the United States.

    Some of Libya’s major investments in Africa are managed by the $65-billion Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) through a $5 billion fund known as Libyan African Investment Portfolio (LAP). The African fund investments includes LAP Green Network, a telecom company operating in six African countries, which officials said made losses due to U.N. sanctions.

  • To demonstrate its commitment to key regulatory and policy changes, the government of Sierra Leone has released a road map for activities leading to the revision of telecom laws and full liberalization of the country's international telecom gateway.

    The government stated that deregulation will safeguard open access to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable, which is expected to be operational before the end of the year.

    The ACE system is a 17,000-km cable that will serve 23 countries between France and South Africa and be the first submarine line to land in The Gambia, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Sao Tomé & Principe, and Sierra Leone. It will connect via terrestrial fiber networks the landlocked countries of Mali and Niger.

    "Towards this end, the GoSL [Government of Sierra Leone] intends to liberalize the international gateway before the cable is commercialized," the government announced in a statement. "The GoSL also intends to revise the existing Telecommunications Act to reverse the monopoly of Sierratel over the GoSL international telecommunications and internet gateway."

    To date, the gateway has been monopolized by the national carrier, Sierratel, giving it a strong financial footing as it provides services to other telcos such as Sierra Leone's three major GSM providers Airtel, Africell and Comium, as well as ISPs.

    According to the action plan and timeline released, legislation to amend the Telecommunications Act of 2006 by repealing applicable provisions and replacing them with those that end international gateway monopoly, would be introduced by Feb. 15.

    A consultant that would review and revise the Act "to bring it into conformity with international best practices" would be selected by April 15 and an initial draft of the revised Act would be submitted to the government and other stakeholders by July 15.

    There would be public consultations on the draft till July 30, final recommendation for the act would be submitted to the government by Aug. 5 and approval of the final recommendation would be obtained by Aug. 15. Finally, legislation to replace the Telecommunication Act of 2006 with the final revised act would be introduced by Sept. 15.

    For years, telcos have called for the liberalization of the international gateway in Sierra Leone. After they launched the Sierra Leone GSM Operators Association SLGSMOA in 2008, the telcos called for a transparent examination of its allocation.

    While commemorating the landing of the ACE fiber cable in Freetown last year, President Ernest Koroma cited the liberalization of the gateway as one of the challenges to complete the implementation of the fiber optic system in the country.

    With the current timeline, it is likely that the liberalization of Sierra Leone's gateway would be achieved this year, with the government divesting at least 50 percent of its interest in the ACE consortium to the private sector before commencement of commercial operations.

  • A back-up system to store data from a user's cellphone has been unveiled in Kenya, and is said to be the first such service in Africa. The system, known as M-Wingu, was developed by a team of six Kenyans, at a cost of Sh5 million, and has already attracted 3 000 subscribers since its inception in December.

    “It took us four months to develop and we are glad of the reception it is receiving,” says M-Wingu CEO Charles Musungu.

    Subscribers can log-in to the M-Wingu technology Web site to download the application, or alternatively send the word 'backup' to the short-code 5114. Currently, the service, which uses cloud technology, is limited to back-ups of contacts, diaries and “to do” lists, but it will shortly add back-up for SMS.

    “We are working together with Amazon and Google, which are the largest cloud service providers and are providing us with the infrastructure upon which M-Wingu is based,” says Musungu.

    The Kenyan mobile market has grown exponentially in recent years, to more than 25 million subscribers by June last year, from a population of just under 40 million. It has been driven further by local software development, such as M-Pesa, the mobile money transfer system developed by Kenyan telco, Safaricom, and now exported worldwide.

    However, handset and SIM card losses frequently leave users with serious problems. One of the leading Kenyan telcos is replacing an average of 10,000 SIM cards a month, according to Musungu, making data back-up a real need.

    M-Wingu is moving to target the whole of the East African region and other African countries with the new service. “We expect to roll out the project in the remaining East African countries by the end of January,” says Musungu.

    “In South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana, talks are under way on the legal requirements. We expect to roll it out by February [in those countries]. Our target is to reach about 565 million mobile subscribers in Africa.”

    Kenyan software developers have embraced cloud technology with particular enthusiasm over the past year, with at least three local firms now providing cloud-based services in addition to the already established multinationals.

    This latest M-Wingu application enables users to create a profile in the cloud and store their phone data. In case of loss, they can simply retrieve the data by logging in to their profiles: the transfer is seamless to handsets.

    “M-Wingu gives you all the numbers together with the names as you saved them, with no limit to the number of contacts you can back up and retrieve,” says Musungu.

    The service is equally suitable for low-feature phones and smartphones. “We realised that the majority of mobile phone users do not have high-end phones, and if we locked them out, we would be operating at a great disadvantage to ourselves,” says Musungu.

    The system was developed at a cost of Sh5 million, but the company estimates the cost to expand to other countries will be slightly above the cost of the Kenyan launch.

    “Most of the costs have gone to setting up the infrastructure and also into acquiring permits and licences to set up operations in other African countries, but we are confident that this investment will pay off.”

  • The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has imposed a fine of US$500,000 (Five hundred thousand United States dollars) on Lonestar GSM Company to be paid within a week, for negligence and omission on the part of the Lonestar management in preventing the outage that occurred on its network on November 7, 2011.

    The LTA has also ordered Lonestar to give all its subscribers throughout Liberia a free four-hour call time on a day to be determined by the LTA, as compensation to all its subscribers for the inconvenience they experienced during the four-hour Lonestar network outage on November 7.

    The LTA is requiring Lonestar to sufficiently publicize the date and timing for the free calls to enable as many of its subscribers as possible to benefit from it. The LTA will work closely with Lonestar to ensure the successful implementation of this order.

    Making the disclosure today, the Commissioner for Public and Consumer Affairs, Lamini Waritay, explained that the LTA has taken this long to come out with decision on the matter because its investigative team, headed by Commissioner of Engineering, Henry W. Benson and including another Commissioner, Abdullah Kamara and some technical staff, has been painstakingly gathering relevant technical and related information on the November 7 outage from Lonestar, and carrying out technical and expert analyses on information so obtained.

    He pointed out that the explanation provided by Lonestar on the circumstances surrounding the November 7, 2011 Lonestar network did not jive with the findings of the investigation committee set up by the LTA Board of Commissioners on the incident.

    Commissioner Waritay expressed the hope that this action against Lonestar will send an unmistakable message not only to Lonestar, but other network operators, that their licensing terms and conditions require them to at all time provide proper services to their subscribers, by having in place the appropriate technical mechanism to prevent such an occurrence as that which happened on November 7 on Lonestar’s network.

    The Lonestar network outage occurred at a critical security moment in Monrovia when a politically motivated riot was underway in the city.

    Earlier, the Board of Commissioners, under the Acting Chairmanship of Commissioner Harry T. Yuan, had met with representatives of Lonestar’s management to acquaint them with the LTA decision.

    The full report on the outage incident has been sent to Lonestar.

internet

  • AfriConnect Zambia, an Internet Solutions Provider in the Vodacom Group of companies, has selected Airspan 4G equipment to deliver broadband services to the capital of Lusaka and several other major cities in Zambia.

    AfriConnect offers wireless-based Internet solutions throughout Zambia that are resilient to the environments in which they are deployed and quick and easy to install. Their solutions provide quality, high-speed communication for all key markets including residential, the rapidly expanding business community, and key sectors such as Healthcare, Government, Agriculture, and NGOs.

    The deployment, operating in the 2.5 GHz band, employs Airspan’s flagship Air4G compact, macro base station, suiting the AfriConnect deployment with technology that enables wide area coverage and extremely high capacity. The first phase of the project includes several thousand subscriber terminals to be deployed in the capital, Lusaka, and is expected to expand coverage into additional towns and cities.

    “AfriConnect focuses on delivering high quality products and service to our customers,” commented Mark Bennett, Managing Director of AfriConnect. “There is a lot of new international fibre optic capacity coming into Zambia at present, and we knew we needed a means to get this additional bandwidth out to our clients. We conducted extensive testing with several vendors and subsequently selected Airspan, whose products demonstrated superior technology and the best results in our environment. Airspan’s leadership in 4G technology will give us a competitive advantage in the field and will enable us to deploy the first 4G network in Zambia.

    Zambia had gained a reputation for having slow connectivity, but that is changing rapidly. AfriConnect is driven to bringing affordable and dependable broadband connectivity to the Zambian community.

    “Innovative service providers like AfriConnect are rapidly growing their businesses to expand connectivity throughout the typically underserved regions of Zambia,” commented Amit Ancikovsky, President of Products and Sales at Airspan. “AfriConnect uniquely leverages its local presence and the Airspan powered 4G network will help take its customer offering to the next level.”

    Airspan products provide 4G WiMAX and LTE solutions operating in the 700 MHz up to 5.9 GHz bands.

  • As Nigerians woke up to a third day of protests on Wednesday, the virtual world was waking up too: "Now, Nigeria controls its own media and Nigerians control their own anger... Nigerians are united."

    Follow #fuelsubsidy for just a couple of minutes and you'll see tweets coming in so fast at times, its impossible to keep up with the conversation. For days now #occupynigeria is trending on Twitter in Nigeria. Bloggers like Sahara Reporters, Gbenga Sesan, El-Rufai and many more have provided extensive coverage, commentaries and documents regarding the ongoing #OccupyNigeria protest on their websites.

    Social media, just as it was for people in Tunisia, Egypt or Syria is very important to protesters in Nigeria. Protesters use it to organise, inspire and inform each other. Here are some examples of events evolving.

    'Trigger happy police shot dead fellow Nigerian and made away with his body at Ibafo, SouthWest Nigeria' is the headline of a post by blogger Alashock. He shared some very disturbing photo showing policemen carrying away a corpse in an attempt to hide the fact (according to Channels TV), that they killed the 14-year-old boy by a random bullet.

    Blogger El-rufai (39,000 followers on twitter) released details of 2012 budget for Nigeria contained in over 50 documents to the general public and blogger Omojuwa (11,000 followers on twitter) shared a document called 'What every protester must know and what to say to the press.'

    On Wednesday morning @EiENigeria tweeted: 'FLASH: #OccupyNigeria. Please call people in #Minna for calm. Anger turned towards IBB and Governor owned properties. We don't need this.' Another tweet (by @ESSDonli): 'If you see a fellow protester going astray, it is your duty, your obligation to let him know. Peace is our foundation. #occupyNigeria'

    Other tweets are less serious: (by@occupynigeria): 'It is d official day to UNLIKE him on Facebook. Let's change d 685,015 number of Nigerians dat LIKE to 000000 within 2 days. (Pls RT).' This tweet was about unliking President Jonathan on Facebook.

    Hackers, united under @NaijaCyberHack brought down the ministry of agriculture website on Monday, leaving a message on the homepage behind:

    (...)"Nigerians are stirring and with it, revolution is brewing. Perhaps you see yourselves at the eye of the storm, luxuriating in peace and tranquility while all around is ripped apart and made anew. The recent cutting of the fuel subsidies by you is the last straw. Your horrendous actions have crossed the lines. Your crimes have united this great melting pot into a white hot alloy of rage."(...). The website is still not up and running after the attack.

    On Flickr Occupy Nigeria builds a database with photo's and same thing happens on YouTube.

    The international occupy movement is a motivator for many protesters. In Nigeria the occupy movement seems to be a loose coalition of activists, union workers, students and artists who unite many protesters.

    Naijablog's Jeremy Weate takes it a step further though: 'What we are witnessing with Occupy Nigeria is a generational transfer, as young, social-media enabled activists gradually take over the baton from unionist stalwarts. Nigeria's young population is increasingly letting go of the deferential attitude of their parent's generation. In the south at least, young Nigerians are beginning to ask questions of the religious leadership that has been complicit with the status quo. At long last, there is accountability pressure building up in the system.'

    And it must be a sign of the times: CNN's Nigeria Correspondent Christian Purefoy left CNN this December to start the Lagos based website Battabox, a citizen journalism website were people can upload their own content. A livestream -with quite some hiccups- during the protest was even possible. Live streams created by CNN, BBC or AlJazeera are nowhere to be found.

computing

  • Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremye, together with visiting Chinese official, Li Yuanchao, yesterday launched a state of the art e-Learning facility at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).

    The laboratory was established at a cost of US$ 500,000 (approx. Rwf 300 million) donated by Chinese IT giant, Huawei. The facility enables students to follow lectures, communicate and see each other in several locations. One can also record the whole lesson and follow it afterwards.

    "When President Paul Kagame visited Huawei headquarters in 2007, its chairperson, Sun Yafang, donated the facility to improve the country's e-Education situation," said KIST Rector, Dr Jeanne d'Arc Mujawamariya.

    The system is expected to become a bridge for knowledge exchange, enhance communication between students of both countries and promote communication between KIST and other international universities. Mujawamariya, said the new technology would help students follow lectures conducted by one lecturer teaching a number of classes at the same time.

    "This system is one of the strategies that will help increase quality education by reducing the student: teacher ratio. It's also going to reduce costs, time and sharing learning resources among students at the same time. This wouldn't be possible with the classical method of one lecture per classroom at a given time,"Mujawamariya said.

    Yuanchao, a Member of the Political Bureau of the Chinese ruling party, Communist Party of China, said KIST is the future of Rwanda and hoped that students make good use of the e-Learning system and contribute to the progress of the country.

    Aimee Chantal, a third year Computer Engineering student at the institution, said the new system would be very helpful as they can have access to it anywhere as long as they are connected to the software.

    She added that it would also accommodate a larger number of students at the same time and help them interact with colleagues from other institutions of higher learning.

    Meanwhile, on the same day, Rwanda and China signed a bilateral Economic and Technical Cooperation of US$ 9 million interest free loan.

  • Varied reactions have greeted the recent release of the country's draft National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) policy, which seeks to harmonise all existing disparate ICT policies into a single ICT policy.

    The Ministry of Communications Technology had on Monday, released the draft National ICT policy on its website and called on stakeholders and the general public to study the document and make their inputs within two weeks.

    Reacting to the draft ICT policy, President of PiNet Informatics, a foremost Internet Service Provider (ISP), Mr. Lanre Ajayi, who spoke with THISDAY on phone, hailed the Ministry for its prompt action in creating the process for the formulation of harmonised ICT policy in the country, explaining that the harmonised policy would address convergence, which he said was the best way forward for Nigeria.

    According to him, the role of the ministry was to formulate policies and measure the policy implementation process, while commending the ministry for its quick action in setting up the committee that put together, the draft document.

    He however insisted that the timeframe of six weeks given to the committee to complete its task and the two weeks given to the general public to make contributions were not enough to produce the type of policy that will address every segment of the ICT sector in specific and measurable terms. He suggested that the ICT policy be driven largely by specifics and measurable goals, with time frame to achieve the set goals.

    He frowned at a situation where the policy is silent in the area of identifiable measurable figures and strategies for implementation and accomplishment. "Our ICT policy must be focused and goal oriented," Ajayi said.

    He said he was still studying the draft document and would make his contributions as requested by the ministry.

    Immediate past President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, who also spoke with THISDAY, commended the ministry for its action, but advised the Ministry of Communications Technology to look closely at the Nigerian ICT policy that was launched in 2010 by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) during the eNigeria conference in Abuja, as well as the Telecommunications Policy of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    According to him, the two policy frameworks must be critically looked into, while harmonising.

    Speaking on the importance of policy document, Ekuwem said it remained the driving spirit and the vehicle of transformation of any given sector. He suggested that success factors, success indicators, measurable milestones and appropriate timeframe must be considered in formulating the harmonised ICT policy for Nigeria.

    Ekuwem who has been a strong advocate of local content development, called on the Ministry of Communications Technology to also consider local content in the harmonised ICT policy.

    He said a situation whereby Nigerians depended heavily on importation of software and hardware, did not speak well of a country aspiring to be listed among the first 20 economies of the world in the year 2020.

    The objectives of the national ICT policy as contained in the draft policy include, reflecting convergence by de-emphasising the differences between Information Technology (IT), broadcasting, telecommunications and postal sectors; bringing all ICT related activities under a single ministry so as to give policy guidance to the converged industry, among others.

    The harmonised ICT policy, when implemented, is expected to address appropriate policies, legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks as well as a converged ICT regulatory agency.

  • Queries on council services will now be possible with a click of a button on your mobile phone. The City Council will this morning launch the phase one of its e-payment services, which town clerk Philip Kisia says will seal revenue loopholes, where it is anticipated that up to 40 per cent does not reach the council coffers due to extensive revenue leakages.

    The first phase of the programme will enable city residents to query how much they owe the council by dialling 3032 on their mobile phones. "City residents will be able to know how much land rates and rent they owe the council by sending their LR number to the 3032 on the mobile handsets. "The business community will also be able to validate their single business permits and above all, validate the authenticity of a council employee by sending their man numbers to 3032," Kisia said yesterday.

    Land rates, single business permits and parking fees are the highest earners used by the council to provide services to city residents. Last year, five council workers were suspended, 10 are under investigation while 12 were arraigned in court over the fake permits. Kisia noted that the council lost close to Sh2 billion in the fake permits racket.

    With the introduction of the new system this morning, Kisia says the business community will be able to authenticate the single business permits by texting their receipt number 3032. The second phase, to launched in March this year in partnership with mobile service provider Safaricom, will allow city residents to pay council services through the popular Mpesa.

    The World Bank has commended the council's effort to improve the investment climate in the city. Fred Zake who is coordinator of Investment Climate Advisory Services at the World Bank said the council's work has led to numerous milestones in improving the business regulatory environment in Nairobi. 'We take this opportunity to thank you personally and the City Council of Nairobi, for working tirelessly and giving support to the investment climate reform work in Nairobi,' the WB said in a letter to Kisia.

    Licensing committee chairman Jaffer Kassam said the council is set to start automated application process for permits and online submission and payment. Applicants can also monitor review process and download permit. Businesses could further update registration online. Mr Kassam said all businesses are required to possess the Single Business Permit. There are more than 250,000 businesses in Nairobi, with less than half having paid business permits to the council.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Banking group Absa conducted South Africa's first live user trial of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology on mobile phones in December, with 500 of the bank's staff members using the technology in a commercial environment.

    The bank partnered with global financial services provider Mastercard to embed the Paypass Tap and Go payment chip on cellular handsets for the trial, enabling participants to load funds onto their phones through the Absa website or ATMs.

    They can then pay for goods or services by merely holding their phone in front of a NFC-enabled pay point, with the value of the transaction being instantly debited from their stored value.

    The trial enabled participants to pay for goods at coffee shops, canteens, and later, at other service providers that are located at Absa's head office buildings in central Johannesburg.

    "Absa is the first institution in South Africa to bring Near Field Communication capabilities with an EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa) card payment application to a handset," said Absa retail markets head Arrie Rautenbach in a statement last month.

  • Gambia’s National Assembly has approved the annual reports and financial statements of state-run PSTN operator Gambia Telecommunications Company (Gamtel) and its cellular network operating subsidiary Gambia Telecommunications Cellular Company (Gamcel) for the year ended 31 December 2010.

    Delivering the activity report, Baboucarr J. Sanyang, the managing director of Gamtel said his institution was established as a public enterprise in 1984 by an Act of Parliament with the mandate to provide efficient and affordable telecommunications and related service to the nation at large.

    According to him, the challenge for Gamtel during this period was exacerbated by its aging network infrastructure and near obsolete equipment. He said as a result, Gamtel embarked on some capital intensive projects with the aim of upgrading, expanding and introducing new telecoms services in response to the growing challenges posed by the competition with the increasing demand of customers for more efficient service delivery.

    He added that during the year under review, the cross river Gambia project jointly funded by Gamtel and Sonatel of Senegal was commissioned whilst this project provided a fibre link from Dakar through the sea at Barra via Banjul to Southern Casamance to provide wider internet capacity bandwidth for the carrying of increased traffic.

    MD Sanyang noted that Gamtel reported total revenue of D1.4 billion as at 31st December 2010  compared to D1.3 billion in 2009 and this represents an increase of D0.1 billion representing 8% increase with a gross profit margin of 37% while the increase in revenue is attributed to increase in international and interconnection revenues by D90 and D22 million respectively.

     “The total cost of sales for the year amounted to D877 million and of this amount D432 million relates to payments of interconnection charges to GSM operators for calls terminated on to their network while D377 million relates to payments to foreign carriers for carrying and termination of international traffic into the country,” he concluded.  

    The National Assembly members and subject matter specialists also raised concerns, suggestions, questions and recommendations before adopting the Gamtel activity report and financial statement for the year ended 31st December 2010.

    Similarly, the Joint Session of the Public Accounts and Public Enterprises Select Committees also on Wednesday unanimously adopted and considered Gambia Telecommunications Cellular Company Limited (Gamcel) activity report and financial statement for the year ended 31st December 2010.

    Baboucarr J Sanyang, managing director for Gamtel said that Gamcel was established as a subsidiary of Gamtel in the year 2001 to build and operate cellular services. However, a study was conducted prior to the launch, which indicated a projection of a customer base of 15,000 to commence operations with.

    He disclosed that some of the challenges the company continues to face include network expansion, deployment of the value-added services, capacity building and financial constraints. He said that to overcome these challenges, management continues to ensure the sustainability, viability, and profitability of the company through investing in expansion projects, other value-added services and aggressive market activities.

    Sanyang revealed that the free bonus cost was D192.768 million in 2010; no amount was reported in 2009 and this cost represent 39% of the cost sales while the company incurred material cost of D86.946 million in 2010 compared to D94.733 million in 2009. He added that this reduction is mainly attributed to the drop in dealers commission because of the introduction of electronic voucher (NOPAL) sales.

  • Four in five new cell phone subscribers are signing up for money transfer services, the latest industry data shows.

    The new statistics indicate that the handset has become a key tool for financial inclusion.

    The Communications Commission of Kenya attributed the preference for mobile money transfer platforms to the ease of enlisting for the service.

    "Continued growth is an indication of subscribers' preference for mobile money transfer, which could be attributed to accessibility and affordability even to low-income earners," CCK said in an industry report for the third quarter of last year.

    The data released on Friday shows that 83.9 per cent of the customers who signed up for mobile phone services between July and September last year also signed up for money transfer services.

    There were 1.02 million new sign-ups for money services out of a total of 1.2 million new subscriptions in the third quarter of 2011.By the end of September, 26.5 million customers had mobile phones out of which 18.4 million -- or 69.5 per cent -- were using mobile money.

    Deposits made through phone services grew from Sh48 billion between April and June last year to Sh56 billion, representing an increase of 5.9 per cent.

    Compared to the previous year's third quarter, the amount that customers deposited grew by 58.6 per cent, indicating that the uptake of the money services by consumers had gathered pace between September 2010 and June 2011.

    The new data comes as an increasing number of financial services and telecommunication companies and commercial banks announce partnerships that are expected to help them tap into money transfer and plastic money payment systems.

    In September last year, Airtel announced a partnership with MasterCard Worldwide and Standard Chartered Bank that allows Airtel subscribers to make payments using the MasterCard network and shop online using a platform dubbed PayOnlineInKenya.

    A few weeks later, Orange Money launched the Orange Money Visa Card in partnership with Equity Bank and global payment systems provider Visa International that allows Orange subscribers to access over 22 million outlets that use the Visa payment system, allowing phones to work as debit cards.

    Safaricom and I&M Bank also have a service that allows M-Pesa customers to transfer money from their accounts to a Visa pre-paid card dubbed M-Pesa prepay Safari Card which can be used globally.In the third quarter of last year, the Central Bank of Kenya said that mobile money services had become the preferred mode of payment and transferring money, beating even plastic money.

    "For retail payment systems, mobile money transfers are today the most widely used mode of payment in Kenya followed by the use of plastic cards," said the CBK, showing that Sh560 million was moved using plastic money compared to Sh732 billion through mobile money transfer between January and December 2010.

    In the first nine months of last year, Sh428 billion was moved using 8.65 million plastic money cards that were in the market.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • -The release of a new Safmarine shipping application for all mobile devices using the Android operating system will allow Safmarine customers to access and download essential shipping information from these devices, anywhere and at any time of day. The launch of this new application follows the release in April 2011 of a similar e-Business application for iPhone, iPad and iPodTouch devices. The new application allows Safmarine customers to look up sailing schedules, track containers or consignments (using a booking or container number), find contact details for Safmarine offices and receive Safmarine news updates. An alert option has also been added, which 'pushes' the information directly to the users' device.

Digital Content

  • A Kenyan-based non-profit software development firm has teamed up with Al Jazeera media to use its technology to assess the impact of the conflict in Somalia on the citizens.

    Ushahidi and Al Jazeera English channel have partnered under a deal dubbed "Somalia Speaks".

    The project aims to record the experiences of Somalis, both within the country and in the diaspora, using text messages.

    Launched last month, the project will be the first informal citizen survey conducted on Somalia by any establishment since eruption of civil war in 1991.

    "The aim has been to spur citizen engagement and amplify the voice of the voiceless, as well as leverage on simple technology to increase engagement and get stories," said Soud Hyder, Web and social media manager at Al Jazeera. About 5,000 text messages were sent to phone numbers owned by ordinary citizens in all major regions in Somalia.

    They read: "Al Jazeera wants to know how the conflict of the past few months has affected your life? Please include the name of your hometown in your response. Thank you"

    So far, about 4,000 responses have been received from Somalia with several hundred from the diaspora through the Web.

    The messages sent to the site by Somali citizens act as intimate situational reports on the country's political, economic and social realities.

    "The response has been good," Linda Kamau, software developer at Ushahidi, told Smart Company.

    "This has started an important project that tries to bring people together and sets a conversation on what has been happening in Somalia all these years."

    Since most of the responses coming through the site are written in Somali, the developers opened up space for volunteers to help in translating them into English.

    Hyder says it is mostly Somalis in the diaspora who have been spearheading the translation process on a voluntary basis.

    "As we rolled out the project, which was initially targeted at Somalis in Somalia, we were getting a significant number of responses from the Somali diaspora," he said.

    Hyder said that this suggested that the Somalia conflict has global implications as residents living all over the world responded.

    "It is only fair and right for their voices to be heard as well," he said.

    The pilot project has, however, faced a number of challenges, including translation work flow, which had been problematic in the inception process.

    There were also security issues, where a sender's text message appeared with full names and geographic location, raising concerns that an individual's opinion might expose him or her to dangerous circumstances.

    Though the technical glitch was fixed, and text messages now appear with information on location and content only, managers at Al Jazeera say they are looking into opportunities in which they can co-create and solve problems with their audiences.

More

  • - Safaricom has appointed a new head for its technical division from rival France Telecom, completing the reorganisation plan that saw the firm trim its management to cut reporting layers and increase efficiency. The firm said it had appointed Thibaud Rerolle as the technical director from Orange Dominican, making him the third expatriate to be appointed by Safaricom since August

    - Professor Tim Unwin is the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), the body’s Council has confirmed after Dr. Ekwow Spio Garbrah of Ghana ended his term of office.

    - Telecel Zimbabwe's new managing director John Swaim says he will lead the mobile phone operator on an interim basis while the shareholders seek a Zimbabwean to take over.

  • Attention all Client Services Directors! - Ref:CCLAS47278- Permanent

    Our client, a leading web/brand/marketing agency based in Johannesburg, is looking for an experienced Client Services Director to help drive account strategy implementation and manage the client service account team.

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    - Excellent communication skills- Ability to interact confidently with clients- Strong presentation skills (create and present)
    Responsibilities:

    - Drive Account Strategy implementation
    - Manage Client Service Account Team
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    Salary: R25 000 CTC p/m - R45 000 TC p/m

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    Please quote this reference number with all your correspondence & e-mails: CCLAS 47278

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    EE: This position is open for all candidates to apply.

Issue no 586 6th January 2012

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  • When the WACS and ACE submarine cables are commissioned in 2012, in theory the African continent will have access to more international capacity than it knows what to do with. In reality however this is only true for coastal countries, and even here, the distribution network often goes no further than the capital city. Liberia's capital, Monrovia, which has recently been connected to the submarine cable ACE, is a typical example. The arrival of submarine cable links therefore leaves infrastructure providers with the task of accelerating the deployment of national backbones and cross-border links between coastal countries and landlocked countries so as to ensure that as many Africans as possible can share in the benefits of international capacity and access to data services. With this in mind, Isabelle Gross spoke with Frederic Sallet, Vice President of Alcatel Lucent for Central and West Africa, on his company's strategy for national backbones in Africa.
    It is clear that Africa now needs to rapidly overcome the obstacles to an expansion in Internet capability, and especially in broadband Internet capacity, and to find solutions which will allow the development of more powerful data services. Frederic Sallet believes “that most major obstacles to such expansion have been eliminated. For one thing, links with the rest of the world are no longer a problem, since both the west and east coasts have at least three submarine cables. Interconnection prices have also dropped considerably. Finally, the adoption of mobile telephony, and in particular 3G, means that end users can make full use of all capacity they are offered”.
    One of the few remaining weak links in the chain (the other being the paucity of content, which is not for Alcatel-Lucent to sort out) is the connection between the submarine cables (the international capacity) and the 3G users (the consumers of that capacity). In short, there is a crying need to strengthen national backbones and develop cross-border links in order to give consumers outside the main cities and in landlocked African countries greater access to international capacity.

    Alcatel-Lucent is involved in multiple projects on the continent in order to meet this challenge. According to Frederic Sallet, “the pace of such projects has accelerated in 2011 compared with 2009, when many such schemes were still being conceived. While it is possible that the pace will continue to speed up between 2012 and 2015, this will depend to a large extent on the demand generated by the growth of 3G”.

    Current projects take two main forms: some are initiated by private telecom operators seeking to consolidate their regional presence by interconnecting their operations, while others are a consortium of private and public stakeholders in the telecom sector. In each of these models, Alcatel-Lucent plays several roles. The company offers advice on the best routes and this may particularly apply to West Africa, which is highly fragmented in terms of number of countries.
    In addition Alcatel-Lucent is involved in coordinating the project stakeholders and implementation of the backbone. In recent years, Alcatel-Lucent has built backbones in Algeria, Libya and Morocco in North Africa. It is currently actively involved in a project in Mauritania with a mining company, in Guinea with the operator Orange and also in Mozambique.

    Frederic Sallet explains “that there are two main forces at work that can stimulate national backbone-building strategy in Africa. Firstly; the local operator (such as Orange and MTN) may belong to a pan-African policy group that advocates such construction; secondly, some countries are open to be a public-private partnership (PPP) that involves the government and local private telecoms firms”.

    The two main elements that influence how investments in national backbones are structured are the level of economic development and the nature of the legal framework governing the construction of backbones (which can vary from a monopoly held by an incumbent to a more liberal pro-competitive regime such as those in Nigeria or Kenya).
    Backbones under construction and being planned for the various sub-regions of Africa will form a base-level network, which may be followed by the development of a finer network as and when the demand for capacity from within the continent permits.
    In African countries as a whole there is a good understanding of the need to build or strengthen national networks, but some countries are more cautious than others when it comes to PPP projects.

    According to Frederic Sallet, “Nigeria, Senegal and Kenya are currently the leaders in terms of national infrastructure”. The position in Central Africa is less advanced. Some national and cross-border sections exist, but many remain to be built. Providing that Cameroon is willing to take advantage of the new low prices and abundance of capacity brought about by the international submarine cables, the Central African Backbone (CAB) should improve international and cross-border connectivity between it and its neighbours: the Central African Republic, and Chad. An alternative to Cameroon would be to build the exit route via Gabon and Congo.

    Infrastructure is not the only barrier when it comes to bringing the benefits of international connectivity to the average African. Frederic Sallet underlines “that it is important not to neglect the services that must reside on the physical network”. Much as the Internet itself did not flourish until the advent of the world-wide web, Africa’s Internet-driven renaissance will also depend on the development of the “IP layer” that will permit firms to access services such as VPN (virtual private networks), and videoconferencing.
    If the price trends as regards capacity on the national backbones and cross-border links follow those for international capacity (and there are many reasons why this is likely to be the case), those telecom operators that do not expand their portfolio of services, in particular through the introduction of value-added services, will see their sales figures languish. As we have seen in Europe and the US, in the face of commoditisation of mobile pricing, simply selling capacity is unlikely to be sufficient to allow telcos to make ends meet.

    Top Ten telecoms and Internet highlights from Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel in 2011:

    1. John Kamau of Jamii Telecom on Sub-Saharan Africa's first Fibre-To-The-Home network

    2. Nic Rudnick, CEO, Liquid Telecom on its Southern African Fibre Network

    3. Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore on customer care, content and LTE

    4. Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision
    on changes in the satellite market in Africa

    5. Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners
    on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    6. Uchechi Chuta on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's use of social media


    7. Gour Lentell, CEO, biNu
    on this new feature phone platform taking off in Africa

    8. Jessica Verrilli on using Twitter for African media

    9. Mark Davies, CEO, Esoko on agricultural pricing systems

    10. Steve Song, CEO, Village Telco on tTV White Spaces in Africa

    If you want to receive notification of new videos on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel, click on this link  and then press the yellow Subscribe button in the top left-hand corner.

    Want up-to-the-minute breaking news? Balancing Act's Twitter feed provides a combination of breaking news for telecoms and Internet in Africa, direct tweets from countries visited and access to the occasional rumours circulating. You can follow us on: @BalancingActAfr

telecoms

  • According to the Algerian Minister of Post and ICT, Moussa Benhamadi, 3G will be launched in Algeria at the latest by the end of June 2012.

    "We want 3G to be available to citizen on or before the end of the first half of 2012. We are working to make this deadline on time, "he told APS, adding that "Mobilis is working on strengthening and modernizing its current 2G network, but is preparing for 3G."

     A tender was launched last September 2011 by the Regulatory Authority for Post and Telecommunications (ARPT) for granting the first license for third generation mobile telephony.

    3G is capable of enabling network operators to offer subscribers a wider range of advanced services while achieving greater network capacity through increased bandwidth, transfer rates and spectral efficiency. 3G networks are intended to facilitate smart phone advanced capabilities such as higher data speed, enhanced audio and video streaming, video-conferencing, high speed Web and WAP, IPTV (TV through the Internet).

  • The long awaited liquidation process of Rwandatel's assets that are to be put up for sale in order to pay off its debts has attracted a number of big players from the market, including the firm's former majority share holders, LAP Green, a top official has disclosed.

    A court decision, last year, that placed Rwandatel under liquidation, indicated that the process is set to commence this year. The firm's woes started when its GSM licence was revoked, early last year, by sector regulator Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA), following what RURA insisted was the failure by Rwandatel to comply with its operating obligation.

    With the liquidation process which is very likely during the course of the first quarter, RURA Director General, Regis Gatarayiha, confirmed to Business Times, in a phone interview, that various "big telecom firms" are now keen to snap up Rwandatel's assets including LAP Green. "They approached us with a view of participating in the liquidation process and it is possible they (LAP Green) will participate like any other potential buyers," Gatarayiha noted, adding that,"LAP Green is not the only potential buyer that is attracted to Rwandatel assets, they are many others and the highest bidder is, thus, expected to take over the assets."

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

    Asked whether it will be automatic for the winner of the liquidation process to be awarded a GSM license, Gatarayiha disclosed that RURA does not guarantee such a prospect. "Currently we have three licensed mobile operators, so we have to decide whether the country needs the fourth licence before the process of granting a new license can commence," he explained.

    Recent figures from RURA indicate that active mobile subscribers have increased by 1.3 per cent, to 4,424,089 by November, last year, up from 4,370,145 in October last year. Rwanda's telecoms sector witnessed shifting dynamics following Rwandatel's loss of GSM license.

    An immediate repercussion of changing landscape saw the market leader MTN Rwanda registering a comparatively lower rate of subscriber increment compared to its rival Tigo. MTN added 11,395 new users on to its network, from 2,888,869 in October, last year, to 2,900,264 subscribers in November, last year, representing a 0.4 per cent increment. On the other hand, Tigo recorded a 2.8 per cent increase on its network by having 1,523,825 users in November, last year, from 1,481,276 in October last year.

    RURA's decision April last year, meant that Rwandatel's network connection for mobile and 3G data was switched off, a move that kick started a bitter duopoly race between MTN and Tigo.

     
    RURA's decision, passed in accordance with article 57 of law no 44/2001 of 30/11/2001 governing telecommunications in Rwanda, states that once non-compliance has been reached and an operator is stripped of its license, regaining a new license by the affected operator can only occur upon government's decision to issue a new operating license.

    Experts say that, with the current situation whereby there are three operators in the market after the entry of Bharti Airtel, there remains only a very slim chance for RURA to issue a new licence any time soon.

    RURA says that as, a regulator, it is not responsible for the liquidation process, pointing out that the process is in the hands of an administrator, appointed by a court of law.

  • Nigerian regulator NCC has set a 2 per cent call drop rate as limit that telecommunications companies must work towards as part of the condition they must meet in the new Key Performance Indicators guidelines on Quality of Service (QoS).

    The NCC said in its website that there has been some improvement on the networks in terms of the level of quality of service operators deliver to their subscribers but a lot still need to be done to achieve minimum of 2 per cent call drop.

    This is, however, coming in spite of the frequent dissatisfaction being expressed by telecoms subscribers on the quality of service by the operators characterised by call drops, occasional service outage and network congestion, among others.

    Nearly all the service providers in the GSM and CDMA segments of the industry are adjudged to have made some improvement in the area of upgrading their networks to accommodate the subscriber base on their network as well as enhancing service delivery.

    In the QoS assessment report conducted to measure the level of improvement on the networks of the operators between January and November, 2011, the Commission's verdict indicated that for most of the operators, there has been improvement towards meeting the two per cent threshold.

    Under the technical standard for the KPI report, NCC set 2 per cent call drop rate and 98 per cent completion rate as threshold for GSM operators such as MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat.

    Similarly, a two per cent call drop rate and a 96 per cent call completion rate is set for the CDMA operators comprising Starcomms, Multi-Links, Zoom Mobile and Visafone Communications.

    Call drop rate is the number of dropped calls divided by the total number of call attempts while call completion rate is the ratio of successfully completed calls to the total number of attempted calls.

    The KPI measures QoS assessment criteria such as Call Setup Success Rate, Traffic Channel Congestion, Call Drop Rate, Call Completion Rate, Standalone Dedicated Control Channel, Paging Success Rate for the operators.

    On each of the indexes, a rating such as 'Improvement', 'Good', 'Poor', 'Punctuation', 'Most Steady Below the Threshold' are used to indicate operators performance.

  • Zambia's second-largest mobile telecoms service provider, MTN Zambia, has launched its first solar green site in the country to provide efficient telecommunications services to people living in rural areas.

    The site will cover a distance of 35 kilometres to the surrounding community in the Chisamba areas in the northern part of the country. Zambia, like many other countries in Africa, is facing erratic electric power supply due to low generating capacity, despite high power demand.

    MTN chief marketing officer Ernst Fonternel said last week that the site is an initiative particularly meant for rural areas. The initiative will gradually reduce the dependency on this erratic electric power supply and diesel back-up power, which comes at a huge financial cost to the company, he said. “That is why we saw the need to introduce solar sites in order to reduce the high cost of maintenance.”

    MTN has become the first mobile operator in Zambia to launch solar green sites for mobile telecommunications, as the company continues pushing for rural connectivity. Although the Zambian government has embarked on a rural electrification project aimed at connecting most rural areas to the national grid, the country is faced with a grid power shortage, with constant power outages negatively affecting most businesses.

    MTN Zambia is putting up over 600 solar sites countrywide in 2012, because it feels it is important to address the amount of energy used to power the mobile network, according to Fonternel.

    But the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Works, Supply, Communications and Transport, Kapembwa Simbao, said MTN must ensure all its solar sites are well maintained to avoid inconsistent power supply that may disturb communication, adding that the initiative will provide valuable solutions to the erratic power supply.

    Cyprian Chitundo, MD for the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (Zesco), a government-run power utility company, said erratic power supply will only come to an end next year, as the company is undertaking a number projects to improve power generation and supply. India's Tata Communication is one of the companies that has partnered with Zesco to develop hydro power stations in Itezhi Tezhi, in order to increase power generation by the end of 2014.

  • Mobile phone service operator Celcom Limited, which was given a licence to start its operations in October this year, has said its technical projects are progressing according to plan and expects to beat the deadline agreed with the government.

    In an interview on Wednesday, Celcom Managing Director Ted Sauti Phiri said the company is currently laying down its network infrastructure.The company said its initial investment is US$270 million which is being used to install its network and start operations.

    "The project is going on well. However, the progress which is being made is technical in nature and we know the public is interested in the commercial aspect of it, so we will update them accordingly soon," said Sauti Phiri.

    In May last year, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) licensed Celcom to provide public fixed voice telephony and mobile voice telephone services.
    Queried if the progress that has been achieved so far would enable the company meet its October deadline, Sauti Phiri said the company is highly confident of beating the deadline set by the regulator. "Everyone should be assured that we will definitely roll out our services come this October," said Sauti Phiri

    Celcom said its intention is to make mobile phone services affordable and accessible to all, especially in rural areas and that their vision is to see at least one person in each household having a mobile phone.

    The awarding of a licence to Celcom brought the number of telecom operators in the industry to six with Airtel, TNM Limited, Malawi Telecommunications Limited, Access Communications Limited and the yet to roll out G-Mobile.

  • The registration of SIM cards countrywide commences on March 1 2012, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has revealed.

    The registration follows the enactment of the Interception of Communication Act which provides for the registration of existing SIM cards.

    According to UCC, all new and existing mobile phone numbers will have to be registered to be activated on a mobile network in Uganda. “The cutoff date for SIM card registration for existing mobile subscribers is 1st March 2013,” said Fred Otunnu, the UCC manager of communication and consumer affairs.

    There are at least seven registered telecommunication service providers in Uganda; MTN, Airtel, Warid, Orange, utl, Smiles and I-telecom. Otunnu pointed out that the above service providers were under obligation to ensure smooth sim- card registration from various designated customer care service centers spread across the country.

    “The bottom line is that the service provider is to make the registration less cumbersome by having many registration places,” he said. No multiple registrations will be accommodated.  “Those with multiple SIM-cards have to register all the lines by March 1 2013. Those who don’t will have breached the law and will have their phones deactivated,” he said.

  • The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has issued a statement refuting rumours that it is preparing to ban the use of BlackBerry's in the country.

    The NCC said that its attention had been drawn to reports that it had at a meeting this morning agreed with CEOs of telecommunications networks to shutdown Blackberry Services.

    The management stated categorically that there was never such a meeting held, nor was there ever a resolution to shut down Blackberry services.

    The rumours appeared to be claiming that the service would be shut-down to curb information sharing about protests against recent rises in petrol prices.

    Airtel Networks had also issued a statement confirming that  "We have not received any instruction from any quarter to shut down our Blackberry Services. We will continue to offer service to all our customers."

internet

  • The TEAMS submarine cable, which runs from the Kenyan coast to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, carries a significant proportion of Safaricom's internet and international voice traffic.

    It was the first sub-marine cable system to land on the Kenyan coast, connecting the country to the rest of the world through a high-bandwidth connection. Safaricom is a major buyer of capacity on TEAMS, besides being an anchor shareholder in the landmark public-private venture.

    Internet users hooked up to The East African Marine System (TEAMS) cable would be denied service for 12 hours over the weekend due to maintenance procedure. The TEAMS cable is scheduled for maintenance service starting Friday January 6, 2012 night, in an operation that could temporarily affect services provided by its shareholders.

    "We wish to notify all our shareholders of the planned works and apologize unreservedly for any inconvenience this may cause. The cable should be fully operational after the scheduled 12 hours of maintenance service," said TEAMS General Manager Joel Tanui.

    The service is planned to run from 10 pm on Friday January 6, 2012 to 10 am on Saturday. The TEAMS submarine cable will not be available during that time. Full recovery to TEAMS cable could take longer. Safaricom has already notified its customers of the emergency service.

    "As TEAMS shareholders, we have been informed of the planned works. Mitigation measures will be put in place, but some customers may experience slow internet speeds and some level of service degradation during this period. We sincerely apologize for this," said Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore.

    Collymore assured customers that Safaricom would direct the affected traffic to satellite and other submarine cable systems and stressed the firm's commitment to ensuring normal services during the maintenance period and a quick recovery thereafter.

    The TEAMS submarine cable, which runs from the Kenyan coast to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, carries a significant proportion of Safaricom's internet and international voice traffic. Safaricom is a major buyer of capacity on TEAMS, besides being an anchor shareholder in the landmark public-private venture.

  • Following the successful launch of NigComSat-1R into space on Monday, December 19, 2011, and its successful landing in its orbital position in space on Tuesday December 27, 2011, which was barely 168 hours after it was launched from the earth surface, the communications satellite will commence full commercial service February 6, 2012.

    Managing Director of Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NigComSat), Timasaniyu Ahmed-Rufai who gave the hint during an interactive session with the media in Abuja at the weekend, said he was happy for the successful launch and landing of NigComSat-1R.

    Amed-Rufai added that the communications satellite was currently undergoing test to ascertain its fitness after the launch. According to him, the test-run will last for five weeks (January ending), and thereafter, the satellite will commence full commercial service February 6.

    "We are currently test-running the satellite to ensure that its entire systems are still in order and that they still retain their values after the satellite was launched. The result we are getting so far from the test is very good. At the end of the test, which NigComSat Engineers are currently carrying out in Nigeria under the tutelage of China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC), builders of NigComSat-1R, it will be formally handed over to Nigeria, to take full control of the communications satellite. Testing is taking place at the two ground stations in Abuja, Nigeria, and we will go full commercial sales of transponders and channels to customers that are within and outside Nigeria," Ahmed-Rufai said.

    Fielding questions from journalists on its marketing strategies, Executive Director, Marketing for NigComSat, Mrs. Abimbola Alale said NigComSat had before the launch in December, commenced pre-launch marketing with government and some private sector companies.

    According to her, customers to NigComSat-1 are confident in NigComSat-1R because of the quality and cheap services rendered by NigComSat-1 before it was de-orbited, and new customers are already showing interest to hook on to NigComSat-1R as soon as it goes commercial.

    The Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) and Galaxy Television, have given us their words to return to NigComSat-1R, as soon as it goes commercial. Several other government agencies and the private sectors have also indicated interest to hook on to NigComSat-1R, and over 60 per cent of government agencies are ready to hook on to NigComSat-1R. Internet Service Providers (ISPs), customs, immigration, army police among others within the country, as well as customers outside Nigeria are al waiting for NigCoSat-1R, and we are pleased to share with the public, this development.

    "As we speak, we have two requests from Ghana for the purchase of our transponders and our satellite covers over 40 African countries, and it is capable of delivering services to every customer in those countries, be it government or private," Alale said.

    Reeling out the benefits of NigComSat-1R, Ahmed-Rufai said it would boost the country's educational system through multimedia education over television and the internet, increase broadband penetration, create additional jobs, boost security and enhance communications in the country among others.

  • Back in October, NetOne announced to its postpaid (some call them contract) subscribers that its mobile broadband tests, which had been running before that date, had come to an end.  NetOne invited the post paid subscribers to enable internet browsing on their lines and be charged US $40 for unlimited usage a month. Quite the attractive offer when compared to other mobile networks.

    Then, we speculated that the reason for unlimited was the lack of a proper billing system to charge subscribers on a usage based regime. We confirmed with our source that this was indeed the case.

    Providing internet services to post-paid subscribers only meant the internet was available to just a tiny percentage of their subscribers. Nothing to write home about in the grand scheme of things. More so that getting a post-paid mobile line means having a minimum salary of a thousand dollars:

    Not anymore. NetOne recently opened up mobile broadband to all subscribers. The internet is now available to prepaid subscribers too at 10 cents per megabyte. There’s no mention of bundles yet. We suspect the $40 a month option is closed but we’re yet to get confirmation from the NetOne PR people about it.

    The 10 cents is the same Telecel currently charges for out-of-bundle data usage. Econet charges 15 cents for an out-of-bundle megabyte.

    The big-picture story to take away here this is that 2011 becomes the official year that all 3 GSM mobile networks in Zimbabwe launched mobile broadband services commercially. All three have rolled out a mix of 3G, EDGE and GPRS.

    For now, Econet is the undisputed leader in terms of coverage. The company has poured a fortune into infrastructure in the past few years. What is not clear at the moment is which provider is giving its subscribers the fastest and most stable internet experience.

  • Spacecom, operator of the AMOS satellite fleet, today announced that its AMOS-5 satellite has been launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. AMOS-5 soared upward aboard a Proton Breeze-M launcher Sunday 11 December 2011 at 13.17 Israel time (11.17 GMT). En route to its 17°E orbital position, the satellite separated from the launcher’s last stage within nine-and-one-half hours following ignition and unfolded its solar panels and communication antennas. In the coming weeks, AMOS-5 will undergo a sequence of in-orbit tests, after which its manufacturer, ISS Reshetnev, will officially hand over control of the satellite to Spacecom. Commercial operation of the satellite’s pan-African C-band and Ku-band payload is scheduled to commence in early 2012.

    “AMOS-5’s launch further transforms Spacecom into a leading multi-regional satellite operator and is truly a landmark event for us as we prepare to bring our reliable high-quality services to Africa,” stated Spacecom president and CEO David Pollack. “The satellite will offer excellent coverage and ready capacity to a rapidly growing region. Spacecom is excited and looks forward to providing comprehensive and quality communications solutions to Africa.”

    AMOS-5’s high-power 14x72 MHz and 4x36 MHz C-band transponders, combined with 18x72 MHz Ku-band transponders, will enable it to be a prime carrier of African satellite communications traffic in both broadcast and data services in the years to come. Spacecom’s AMOS-2 and AMOS-3 satellites co-located at the 4°W orbital “hot spot,” together with AMOS-5 at the 17°E orbital position, will provide coverage over many of the world’s fastest-growing and highest-demand satellite markets in the Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe and Africa.

    Prior to launch, Spacecom pre-sold over 55 percent of AMOS-5 capacity to a variety of customers, including broadcasters, telecom providers, communications companies and government agencies.

  • Rwandatel's market leadership of the data segment is under severe test from its competitors such as Tigo as the latter woos clients with free offers of Internet connectivity at its various service centres during the ongoing festive season.

    Tigo officials say that the firm aims to attract and eventually retain more clientele from Rwandatel which has the largest market share of 62 percent against Tigo's 54 percent and MTN's 21 percent while Altech Stream - an ISP (internet services provider) comes next with 13 percent, according to sector regulator, Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA). The market is also gearing up for the arrival of Bharti Airtel that could see prices tumble after it was granted the green light to start operations last year.

    This is a fulfillment of our commitments for customer service excellence this year amidst anticipated competition in the sector," Sandra Kaganzi, Tigo's customer operations manager said during the opening of the 11th service centre at the new KCT Towers in Kigali.

    The idea behind the free Internet connection offer is seen as a way of boosting traffic to Tigo's new plans of opening additional service centres even as the country's Internet penetration increased to seven percent by September last year up from 5 percent by June the same year.

    Kaganzi further told Business Times that Tigo has finalised plans to establish additional point of sales (POS) outlets countrywide this year to help its subscribers to use their Tigo-cash product to carry out transactions without necessarily carrying cash.

    The central bank mid- last year launched the Rwanda Integrated Payment Processing System-RIPPS to facilitate electronic payment will usher in a new era of cashless-economy.

    Dominique Nkurunziza, the customer sales and service manager at Tigo notes that the new centre at KCT Towers which will open throughout the week will help decongest other centres in the city centre.

    "The service centre will be an interactive area where Tigo customers will have a hands-on experience on a variety of handsets and tablets," he said.

    Emmanuel Turamye, a businessman said that Tigo initiatives to open up more centres will help its customers to access services round the clock. "With the increase in number of Tigo customers, it has been hard for us to quickly get services in other centres," he lamented.

computing

  • The world's biggest telescope project has taken a crucial step forward, with its international partners joining forces and agreeing funding for the detailed design of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

    The SKA is a -1.5-billion global science project to build the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope. Scientists, engineers and industry partners from around the world are collaborating on research and development for the SKA, which will be capable of answering some of the most fundamental questions about the universe.

    South Africa, allied with eight other African countries, is competing against Australia (allied with New Zealand) to host the SKA. The decision on the host country is due to be announced in early 2012.

    On 23 November, seven national governmental and research organisations announced the formation of the SKA Organisation, an independent, not-for-profit company established to formalise relationships with international partners and centralise the leadership of the SKA project.

    The signatories - from Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK - plan to spend -69-million (including in-kind contributions) to fund the project in the period leading up to the construction phase, which starts in 2016.

    Further signatories are expected to join the SKA Organisation and commit additional resources over the next six months.

    Professor John Womersley, chair of the founding board that prepared the formation of the SKA Organisation, said in a statement: "I am delighted that the partners have recognised the scientific, economic and societal benefits that investing in international science projects like the SKA can bring."

    The new SKA Organisation will directly employ staff, have the power to make legally binding decisions and lead the work of the international partners on the design of the telescope.

    Outgoing SKA project director Professor Richard Schilizzi said: "We are keen to start reaping the rewards that this new structure will bring, not only to the engineering development work, but to the project as a whole."

    The office of the SKA Organisation will be located in purpose-built premises funded by the University of Manchester at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, UK.

    The office will take over from the SKA Program Development Office currently based at the University. Dr Michiel van Haarlem was appointed interim director-general of the new SKA Organisation following Schilizzi's retirement in December.

    The SKA project is expected drive technology development in antennas, fibre networks, signal processing, software and computing, and power. The design, construction and operation of the SKA has the potential to boost skills development, employment and economic growth in science, engineering and associated industries, not only in the SKA host countries but in all partner countries.

    The SKA signatory organisations are:

        Australia - Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research
        China - National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences
        Italy - National Institute for Astrophysics
        New Zealand - Ministry of Economic Development
        Republic of South Africa - National Research Foundation
        The Netherlands - Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research
        United Kingdom - Science and Technology Facilities Council

  • Starting next term, all students at A-level will be taught either information and communications technology (ICT) or mathematics. Grace Baguma, the deputy director of the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC), made the announcement recently at a workshop on the 'Policy Dialogue on Pedagogical Integration of ICT in Uganda's Education System' at Makerere University. The dialogue was assessing the performance of the Pan-African Research Agenda for the Pedagogical Integration of ICT (PanAf) whose phase II closed last month.

    Baguma said starting this year, all S.5 students will either take ICT or mathematics as a subsidiary subject. This means, Baguma said, all A-level students will henceforth do two subsidiary subjects. Currently, they take only one - General Paper.

    "This is a directive from Cabinet and we have been told it's a must. We are working around the clock to be ready with the ICT syllabus for first term by January.

    "We will then later formulate the syllabus for second and third term. Right now, there are some teachers undergoing training at Kololo; they will become trainers of trainers," Baguma said.

    The idea is to make ICT compulsory. For the start, it will be optional because some schools do not have the necessary facilities. In addition, starting this term, students at A-level will sit for only three principal subjects down from four. Baguma explained that the four principal subjects had brought about a wide range of problems.

    The ministry will also lower the number of subjects in lower secondary and empower teachers to integrate ICT skills in the learning process. The participants, however, had reservations about the cabinet directive, saying it is being hurried. Baguma conceded there would be hurdles: "I can foresee that most schools will have to opt for subsidiary mathematics for obvious reasons. ICT may become compulsory after three or so years."

    Another query: Would ICT be delivered as a subject on its own or as a methodology? It was noted that there is no capacity to teach pedagogical ICT at A-level and if it is to be integrated as a teaching methodology, teachers would need regular refresher courses.

    "The subsidiary ICT we are introducing will be functional; it will help you to learn to be employable," Baguma explained.

    Dr Yusuf Nsubuga, the director of Basic and Secondary Education at the ministry told The Observer that several schools have acquired computer labs and got computers through the Uganda Communications Commission.

    "In a resource-poor country like ours, you can't wait to be at 100% to start anything. Besides shortage of hardware, we know there are issues of connectivity. Our policy is building the boat as we sail," Nsubuga said.

  • Ekiti State Government is to equip both teachers and students with laptops, even as the state has received textbooks worth N40 million from a US-based Non Governmental Organisation.

    The state commissioner for Education and Technology, Dr. Eniola Ajayi, disclosed this in Ado- Ekiti yesterday while receiving the book consignment on behalf of the state government

    Ajayi said the training of teachers on the use of computers would soon commence, while the distribution of the first set of laptops computers to students, would according to her commence in the new year.

    On the supply of books, the commissioner disclosed that a US-based non governmental organisation operating under the umbralla of Books for International Goodwill, BIG, was responsible for the supply of books.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Dar es Salaam. Vodacom Tanzania managing director Rene Meza has said his firm plans to invest more in building mobile data business, network operations, and financial distributions to boost and strengthen its mobile money transfer (M-pesa) services.

    “The company’s growth is based on the fast expanding subscriber list, mobile financial services arena and voice services, and these are appropriate for an emerging economy like Tanzania,” he said in an interview. 

    He revealed that a total of $100 million investment would cover the growth in network coverage capacity, recruitment of agencies, boosting the M-pesa services, new technologies and offer new corporate solutions. The investment will be spent in the next 12 to 18 months, he added.For the last 15 months Vodacom registered over eight (8) million customers, experiencing an exponential growth at the rate of 20,000 new subscribers a day, according to him.

    Vodacom’s expansion plan comes in the backdrop of a severe competition, high prices of third generation (3G) spectrum and the airwaves allocation scam exposure a few years back, which brought the Tanzania telecom sector to a standstill.

    Meza noted that the main growth going forward is on the area of Internet with the continuing expansion of 3G network and the sector of mobile commerce, which he said is a prominent area in the country.
    This move aims to strengthen the company’s position in the market.

  • With the introduction of 'mobile banking', mobile phone users can now do more than exchange information on their handheld devices: they can also perform financial transactions. The new mobile service has transformed the lives of many Ivorians and raised concerns among others.

    After punching in a few digits on the keypad of his mobile phone, Félix Soro reveals: "In a few moments, my mother, who remained in Korhogo (in northern Ivory Coast, 650km away from Abidjan), will receive a code with which she will be able to withdraw money from the nearest 'mobile banking' branch".

    Since the introduction of the 'mobile banking' service by mobile operators, Soro has travelled less and less between Abidjan and Korhogo to give money to his mother. "A few months ago, it used to take me a whole weekend to get to Korhogo to give money to my mother. That's not the case anymore! I travel less and it saves me time. It works", he adds.

    Hermann N'Da also uses the mobile banking service. "Subscription to this service is hassle free. One ID document is sufficient and there is no need to open a bank account. Those who are not subscribed to the service can still receive money. I use the service every month to send money to my little brother, who goes to high school in another city inland. With this service, you have your money in your phone, inside your pocket and you take it with you everywhere, and it's discreet", he says.

    Today, more and more people are using mobile banking services as well as other electronic methods payment to pay their phone, water and electricity bills. However, many Ivorians are less keen on using banking services offered by mobile operators and electronic payment agencies citing concerns of piracy and identity theft.

    "Since they do not carry large amounts of money, mobile banking subscribers may be safe from the numerous robberies that have targeted populations in recent days. However, they are not safe from piracy or identity theft on their cellphones. Even the Pentagon in the United States, with its great IT experts, was victim of cyber-terrorism. So I don't trust this new service", says Georges Konan, who is reluctant to use mobile banking services.

    Séraphin Kabran, who is an IT engineer in a local company, is happy to learn that mobile banking services are in fashion in the Ivory Coast but deplores the fact that very few of these financial institutions use reliable and secure software. "The IT world is a jungle. Therefore, one has to be prepared for an eventual attack on one's system; something many electronic payment agencies and mobile operators are unfortunately not doing", he says.

    While some hail this new technological advance, others focus on its negative impact. Marina Kacou, a Sociology student at the University of Cocody in Abidjan, believes that the introduction of money transfer through the mobile phone will lead to the disintegration of social relations. "When someone travels hundreds of kilometres to visit a relative in a village or in another city and give him/her money, the relative is happy not only to receive the money but also to see the person who sends the money. With the mobile banking services, the physical presence of the sender is no longer required. Yet, it is the physical presence of relatives that sets Africans apart".

  • The Central Statistical Office (CSO) will start using new technology to calculate the national inflation rate to improve efficiency and transparency, director John Kalumbi has said.

    Mr Kalumbi said the new computerised geometric mode is a switch from the conventional arithmetic system and was faster, secure and was in line with the best international practice.

    Zambia has all along been using an outdated D-Base system but the new one, would be in visual basic, more user-friendly and transparent.

    "The CSO has implemented the Consumer Price Index (inflation rate) based on a new methodology including the revised basket of products, new weights, new index reference period and new software for processing the consumer Price Index," Mr Kalumbi said.

    He said the project has been in the making since 2006 and was funded by International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) through various stages of developing and validation in 2006, 2009 and last year.

    He said effective this month, the inflation rate would be produced based on the new international system adding that, CSO has been carrying out a system change-over since January 2010 when it was running the two systems at once.

    "Beginning this month, the CSO would be publishing the revised CPI using the new system and therefore, cease to produce the CPI based on the old methodology," he said.

    He said in the old system, the number of food items used in calculating the inflation rate were 257 but that the number of goods in the new system would rise to 438.

    He explained that the reference year in the new year for calculating the inflation rate would be revised to 2009 and not 2004 as in the old system with the number of districts under the umbrella now rising to 73 and not the previous 45.

    Additionally, the checking centres for the prices of goods in the country would increase by almost 42 per cent from the present 2, 115 to 3,000 in the new system.

    He said among other Zambian organisations that were consulted in the developing of the new system are the Bank of Zambia, Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR), The University of Zambia, Zambia Institute of Policy Analysis and Research, the Economic Association of Zambia.

    The Common Market for Eastern And Southern Africa (COMESA) was also involved in the developing of the new system.

  • Nigeria’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, MTN Nigeria, has confirmed it plans to invest USD1 billion in its wireless network during 2012 to improve the quality of services, citing MTN spokesman Akinwale Goodluck. ‘The investment will relieve congestion and improve the quality of the network,’ Goodluck said, adding that the funds will be spent on 2G and 3G technologies, MTN’s core network and power generators to run transmission stations.

    The announcement follows demands for the country’s mobile operators to improve the quality of services made by telecoms regulator the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) last year. In October 2011 the watchdog warned the three largest mobile operators by subscribers – MTN, Globacom and Airtel Nigeria – that they would face fines and would also be prevented from signing up new subscribers if they failed to improve mobile service quality.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Telecoms regulator the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said it expects the introduction of number portability (NP) to take place from August this year. Last October the regulator announced it had selected a consortium of three companies – Interconnect, Saab Grintek and Telcordia – to manage the implementation of NP, which enables subscribers to retain their phone numbers when they switch service provider. The consortium’s licence took effect as of January 2012; within six months of this date set up it is required to set up and introduce the NP platform, ahead of a two-month testing period.

    - Globacom has launched prepaid 3G plus services on its network making it possible for millions of prepaid subscribers to enjoy the benefits of high speed internet services. Globacom’s director of sales, Ken Hall, announced the commencement of the service at a media briefing held at the Mike Adenuga Towers, Victoria Islands Lagos on the 27th day of October. The internet package gives subscribers the freedom to use the service anytime, anyhow and anywhere he said. The 3G plus technology was extended to prepaid subscribers on the network to enable them enjoy benefits which before now where available to only postpaid subscribers, the first phase of the prepaid 3G services covers Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Benin and Port Harcourt while plans are in top gear to introduce the service in other locations across the country.

Digital Content

  • Along with the introduction of new information technology system to deliver and receive messages and packages, the National Postal Service is providing standard and speedy service, according to the Acting head of the Institution, Asmelash Gebreyesus.

    He explained that the new system introduced last year has made vital contribution in controlling and following up messages and deliveries of packages through the internet, in addition to enabling beneficiaries to follow up the delivery of packages and messages.

    Furthermore, the institution has launched a new website enabling beneficiaries follow up the activities, and that vigorous efforts are being made to satisfy customers.As regards lost items, Asmelash said that once the necessary enquiry is made, the owner would be compensated, and that the competition is worldwide.

    Eritrean Postal Service was awarded a prize in 2005 from the Universal Postal Service and for the service provided in 2011 the Institution has already been selected as one of the best service providers. The winners would be made public in the first quarter of 2012, reports indicated.

    Asmelash also pointed out that expanding postal service to remote areas, enhancing the services, and raising the income of the institution are some of the programs set for introduction in the future.

  • Warid telecom has launched its own money transfer service, adding to the revolution of transacting money in Uganda. The mobile firm launched its WaridPesa product, and, unlike its competitors’, customers can send and receive money from any network. Speaking during the launch, minister for ICT Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, stressed the importance of technology advancement towards economic development.

    “The technology revolution is transforming Uganda’s population in a profound way and this is leading to economic development,” he said.  He encouraged the telecom companies to continue being innovative with their services in order to provide even better services to their customers.

    Customers have recently had issues with mobile money transactions, and this was noted by UCC’s chairman in his speech, read by the director broadcasting, Suzan Wegoye. “As UCC, [we] expect Warid to provide a good quality service so as to put an end to discomforts Ugandans have had in transacting across different networks,” reports The Observer.

    Warid has partnered with Equity bank, which, according to the bank’s Executive Director Apollo Njoroge, has regional experience in money transfers. Equity has partnerships with Kenya-based telecom firms Telkom Kenya and Safaricom.

    Njoroge described the partnership as an opportunity for financial inclusion by reaching the unbanked population, which is one of the bank’s key targets. Warid’s Chief Commercial Officer Shailendra Naidu expressed optimism that the introduction of WaridPesa will enhance development and growth in all sectors because it will be easier for customers to instantly move money to their business associates, friends and family.

    “Not only will it provide another choice, it is an easy, convenient and quick money transfer service across all networks,” he said. He added that Warid’s platform has the capacity to serve over three million customers.

    To register, customers have to visit a WaridPesa outlet with a passport photo and a copy of their identity card. The activation of the account is instant and the client can make transactions immediately.

  • The duo of Omosa Muyiwa and Bolade Okeowo teamed up to form Me-Naissance Group Limited, the company responsible for TMG, a platform of applications specifically designed for the Nigerian user.

    It all started with an idea Muyiwa had two years ago while listening to the keynote speech by Steve Jobs at the unveiling of the first iPad. "That was when I sort of fell in love with Apple as a company and what they stand for: challenging the status quo in whatever sector that they venture into," Muyiwa recalls. "The application idea felt true when I bought an iPad. I fell in love with apps, downloading, buying and browsing.

    "This is our first product with the aim of improving the way we share and access information on the go. Our core objective as a company is to bridge the technology gap between Africa and the rest of the world. That's why we developed this platform to enable Nigerians all over the world live life effectively. Apps do really help a lot as we found out while living in the United Kingdom. There are apps for everything you do; that is the future of technology," Muyiwa explains.

    "The apps are built in six unit services. We have Around You, TMG Messenger, Live Scores, Cinema, News and the ultimate Weekend Planner," he continues.

    Bolade picks up the story: "Most apps run on different platforms in deference to all the operating systems of smartphones; the TMG app is no different. "We started with the Blackberry platform because in terms of smartphones it has the broadest user base of people connected to Internet service in Nigeria. At that time, the telecommunication providers provide internet service on just Blackberry without charging your credit. So it made more sense for us to start off on the Blackberry platform.

    "Now they have started this package where you can use other smartphones and you pay a certain amount. This is available for iPhones and the rest. Now there is a market for other smartphones. So this was a pilot project for us to see how the market would respond to our investment. So we've sort of come to know all that is needed as we spent the last one year getting the feel of how the market is going to respond to us when we really make the apps available on the iPhone and other platforms."

    On the difference between the world of TMG app and the other app environment or the normal Blackberry platform, Bolade explains: "The contents on our app world are strictly localised content. The contents are strategically placed there to target the Nigerian consumers and Africans in the Diaspora. We are making the move to make it an African thing by including Ghana and South Africa. If we didn't have point of interest in Nigeria, it's just any other app platform that people are trying to bring from the United States to Nigeria, but we have put that Nigerian content into it.

More

  • World's Highest Paid African Soccer Star Launches Cellphone Company

    Samuel Eto’o, a Cameroonian striker and the world’s highest paid African soccer star, is now trying to become Africa’s newest telecoms tycoon.Soccer Star Samuel Eto'o To Earn $25 Million With Russian Team Mfonobong Nsehe Mfonobong Nsehe Contributor

    The four-time African player of the year, who in August signed a record $28 million-a-year deal with Russian soccer club Anzhi Makhachkala, is preparing to launch his own mobile phone network in his home country, Ghana’s Peace FM has reported.

    His company is called Set’Mobile- a name derived from the footballer’s initials, and currently has a capital base of $180,000. It will be Cameroon’s third mobile network and will compete with established telecom giants operating in the country, including Orange Telecom of France and South Africa’s MTN.  Set’Mobile is planning to provide affordable access to mobile communications and Internet services to citizens.

    Set’Mobile is poised to become a runaway success. Despite launching only yesterday (Thursday), the startup has already sold over 50,000 SIM cards, even though the network doesn’t go live until January 21-the opening day of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.

  • Team Lead 2 / Senior 3G RNO Engineer
    ParaCell

    Posted date: Fri, 6th Jan
    Location: Western Africa

    ParaCell is searching for a Team Lead 2 / Senior 3G RNO Engineer

    Requirements:

    · Team Lead Responsibility ( Most have past Team Lead Experience)

    · 6 years Experience in 3G optimization parameters tuning and performance monitoring for new and existing sites, troubleshooting problematic sites and customer complaint handling, dimensioning and capacity management, NW cap.

    · Monitoring responsible, neighbor relation optimization guidelines, analysis of NW Quality and performance, KPI's development

    · Monitor & analyze the WCDMA/HSPA Radio Network Statistics on daily basis

    · Achieve & maintain the Radio Network Performance as per the contracted KPIs (Accessibility, Retainability, and Mobility & Service Integrity)

    · Candidate will be responsible for reducing congestion and drops, improving the IRAT Handover, Soft Handover, Location Update, Paging, CSSR, RRC Connection & RAB Establishment Success rate in the 3G RAN network for all Voice, Video Packet & High Speed.

    · Issuing capacity upgrade requests whenever needed

    · Responsible for the drive test analysis and taking the necessary action to improve the performance of his geographical area.

    Education

    · Candidate should have a strong knowledge with (UETR, UEH, and GPEH) traces, parsing and analysis and comfortable to work with it on daily basis.

    · Evaluate and adapt new methods and technologies regarding Radio Network Optimization, Features, and Trials & Tuning.

    · Good knowledge with the use of MS office, Mapinfo, TCPU (Tems cell planner universal), Drive test analysis and TEMS investigation drive test analaysis

    · Must have good knowledge with SecureCRT, MOSHELL, Comand Prompts,OSS, Nexplorer

    Must have good communication skills, must have ability to work independently, International experience and closely with the end-Customer are other essential skills.

    Please apply with accompanying CV indicating your availability
    Job Title     Team Lead 2 / Senior 3G RNO Engineer
    Post Details
    Posted By     ParaCell
    Start Date     9 Jan 2012
    Salary    
    Phone Number    
    Email     recruit@paracell.se
            
    for more information please follow this link

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