Newsletter English

Issue no 651 19th April 2013

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Top story

  • TV White Spaces offers two potential benefits: immediate use of unused spectrum for rural area deployment and better overall use of existing spectrum. Africa currently has two active trials, one in Kenya (sponsored by Microsoft) and a second in South Africa (sponsored by Google). This week Russell Southwood looks at the second of these two trials to see why it is different from the first one and the potentially revolutionary implications of managed spectrum.

    The TV White Spaces trial in South Africa started at the end of March this year. The trial partners include TENET, CSIR Meraka, e-Schools Network, WAPA and Google.  Its vendor partners Carlson Wireless Technologies, Comsol Wireless Solutions and Neul. TENET provides the implementation and the  e-Schools Network already provides the backhaul to a not-for-profit schools network in South Africa that are also partners in the trial. This consortium bulk-buys and resells ISP connectivity to these schools. The holders of the conditional spectrum licence for the trial are Government research institute CSIR, which will also monitor for interference during the trial. WAPA member Comsol Wireless Solutions is responsible for the installation, configuration and maintenance of the project.

    The trial is connecting 10 schools in Cape Town with 3 base stations located on top of Stellenbosch University Medical School. As Arno Hart, Whitespace Manager, TENET explains, Cape Town is a good place for a trial. It has the combination of being a busy broadcast market and a fairly challenging topography which means that there are lots of TV transmitters.

    The trial has two main objectives: to demonstrate that the managed spectrum technology can operate in this kind of environment without interfering with TV broadcasts and to encourage the regulator, ICASA, to accelerate access to managed spectrum.

    The majority of WAPA members currently make use of licence exempt frequencies in accordance with the ICASA Frequency Licence Exemption Regulations 2008. It is however recognised that this is not a sustainable solution, given the pressure under which these bands are coming.

    WAPA is promoting the development of a sustainable frequency-sharing model in South Africa and believes that this is a key intervention in raising spectrum efficiency and providing opportunities for new entrants. This trial is set to demonstrate that TVWS spectrum represents an immediate win that can be taken advantage of by the regulators. Says Geerdts, “WAPA looks forward to a greatly improved frequency regime which we can be proud that we contributed towards improving.”

    The three base stations in the trial are connected through a 10 GB fibre backbone that connects to one of TENET’s clients. The base stations used are pre-production models from Carlson that has software that uses an FCC-type database of spectrum provided by Google. The software looks for what spectrum is available and chooses it. One of the things about even legally allocated spectrum is that it is only used for a relatively small proportion of the day.

    The trial is operating in the UHF 490-550 GHz range. There are 10 channels in this range and the trial is using the odd numbered channels and the TV broadcasters are using the even numbered channels.

    There are 3-4 schools per base station, giving download speeds of 1-10 mbps. According to Hart, a speed test conducted at the launch showed that 4 schools were getting 5 mbps download speeds. Some of the trial schools already have ADSL lines and the trial is therefore delivering a supplementary service. All the schools are primary and secondary Government schools and the service is being provided for free to the schools.

    The trial will last for 6 months but the intention is to keep the network alive and make the business case for future roll-outs. Hart believes that it could contribute to the creation of a “Wi-Fi city”:”I hope the chip-makers will get into this space so that managed spectrum can function in urban areas.” One aspect of its importance lies in its ability to redeploy unused spectrum for the user almost in real time.

    The really revolutionary possibility for TV White Spaces and managed spectrum falls beyond the remit of either trial. There is equipment that has the ability to measure the time used by different operators in each of the different spectrum channels.

    So imagine if you will a world in which operators hire spectrum on a time basis for a fee to be established. The charging framework for this would be complicated but not impossible. It would need to balance between not punishing the big users but also offering the minimum entry barriers to new operators. So every operator would be “pay-as-you-go” and there would be a much higher usage of spectrum. It would also ensure that there was no strategic purchase of spectrum to keep out competitors or for onward sale.

    The obstacle to this rather different world is that Governments everywhere and African Governments are no exception, see spectrum sales (particularly through auctions) as a tax cash cow. Unfortunately what you extract in tax from operators will be passed on in some way to the individual and corporate users to whom the bandwidth is delivered. If you want low cost broadband – both in rural and urban areas – then Governments will have to start seeing that charging large amounts of money may simply entrench large players with deep pockets and act as a barrier to this objective.

    More info here:

    Video briefings on:

    Smart Monkey TV’s Top 10 start-up surprises – Why we found this bunch so exciting:

    Creative cities:
    These are cities that have and encourage creativity amongst their citizens in things as diverse as computer software, film, broadcasting and the arts. Are there African cities that measure up? Johannesburg? Cape Town? Cairo? Lagos? You be the judge:

    Landry on what qualities make a successful Creative City

    Charles Landry on how you judge a successful Creative City

    Technology and the Kenyan elections:
    Michela Wrong on why technology did not ensure a clean and fair election in Kenya
    Michela Wrong on the verbal violence online during the Kenya elections

    Software package to control telecoms costs in the enterprise:

    Morocco: Anas Alhilal, Medina Telecom on UniBox, a device for controlling telecoms costs

    A strategy to prepare for Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD):
    Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO, Movirtu on its two new products aimed at the BYOD market

    A broadband and video rural deployment model from India:

    Osama Manzar, Digital Empowerment Foundation on delivering broadband in rural India

    Online food delivery model from Turkey:

    Turkey's Gokhan Akan, Yemeksepeti.com on delivering all things food online

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

telecoms

  • MTN Kenya has built its own fibre optic cable within Nairobi, dropping two of its four Internet infrastructure providers.

    The firm has been leasing fibre optic capacity from Kenya Data Network (KDN), Telkom Kenya, Jamii Telecoms and Wananchi Group. The company says it installed its own cable because of the poor network quality by some of the providers that was affecting its service delivery.

    MTN is the second telecoms operator, after Safaricom, to build its own network and drop some of its providers.

    Safaricom terminated a contract with KDN and is currently laying a Ksh14 billion ($165.3 million) inland fibre across Kenya.

    Tom Omariba, MTN’s managing director for Kenya said the two remaining Internet infrastructure providers will offer capacity in areas where it is yet to extend its fibre network.

    MTN Group is Africa’s largest telecoms operator with more than 130 million cellular subscribers in the region and in the Middle East, and its latest move is seen as an effort to protect its turf from Liquid Telecoms that recently acquired KDN.

    “A provider will be retained depending on historical evaluation of quality of service and uptime, it is not a blanket decision,” said Omariba. “We had to build our own fibre cable; we tried to switch providers to see if this could improve the quality of our service to clients, but it didn’t work.”

    The cable will provide MTN with a new revenue stream as it will be able to lease the excess capacity to other providers.

    Quality of service has become a major customer acquisition and retention factor to operators. In addition, regulator Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) is seeking heavier penalties against operators who fail to meet the industry’s standards.

    CCK fines companies Ksh500,000 ($6,000) for breach of quality of service standards, and the government aims to raise the fine claiming the current penalty is too lenient and ineffective.

    “Some of our clients are multinational firms who want the same quality of service they experience in other parts of the world. The only way to guarantee this is to look for a permanent solution,” said Omariba.

  • Research released by Norton shows that many mobile phones used in the Middle East and African are not secured and locked posing high risk of mobile cybercrime.

    The reports released by the Communications Commission of Kenya in the first quarter of 2012/2013, shows that Kenya’s mobile penetration is at 77.2 per cent; with a market share of 30.4 million mobile subscribers by September last year and that 32.4 per cent of the population accesses the internet via the mobile phone.

    According to the Norton Symantec study, nine out of ten adults which narrow to 87% adults living in the Middle East and Africa use mobile to surf online download apps, shopping, advertisement and making payment.

    Kara Rawden,the Senior Marketing Manager, Consumer - Middle East & Africa at Norton by Symantec, added that people are relying more and more on their mobile phones and tablets to navigate, share, socialise and shop.

     “What many consumers may not realise is exactly how much of their personal and private information is up for grabs should these devices be compromised, lost or stolen. Considering the sensitive nature of data that is accessible from personal mobile devices, consumers need to take some basic, yet easy, precautions to protect it from falling into the wrong hands,” added Kara.

    The study indicates that 29% of the mobile users do not use secure payment method while making purchases from their mobile device, leaving their sensitive information such as credit card details vulnerable.

    In addition, 28% admitted to not using a password to help protect their personal data which poses risk to access to personal information.

    Mobile devices consumers are advised to protect their phones just like the computer users to cab cybercrime.

internet

  • Claims are circulating amongst IT specialists that the Libya Telecom and Technology (LTT) website has been hacked, making at least some of its estimated 350,000 customer accounts, including those of government ministries, vulnerable.

    The IT manager and one of the founders of Electronic Front Libya, Ali Tweel, told the Libya Herald that hackers have gained access to customers’ personal information, including passwords, and some high-level business and government accounts. He added that this is not the first time that LTT, the country’s main internet service provider, has been hacked. “This has been happening since 2011,” he said.

    “We are currently investigating the accuracy of this information,” the chairman of LTT, Saad Ksheer, told the Libya Herald. “Looking into it so far, it does not show that anyone has been hacked.”

    Ksheer did admit that modern technologies were becoming very complex and that information could possibly be obtained by people with the right access.

    “There is a little bit of ground still to be covered,” Ksheer said, adding that thorough investigations would continue over the next week. LTT did not want to conclude its probe, he said, until the company had “clear evidence” of whether or not the site has been hacked.

    However, the ‘I hate LTT’ campaign group has now published what purports to be proof that the website has been hacked on its Facebook page. Images apparently show “a copy of the database of the private accounts of some subscribers,” which are accounts belonging to Tripoli University. The group said the full list showed details of 790 accounts.

    The hackers have, however, removed the passwords from the posting. Other people who have apparently broken into one of LTT’s two servers, one of which houses customer data, are less cautious. A seven-minute screen cast video has been posted on YouTube, purportedly giving a step-by-step guide on how to break into the LTT server.

    IT specialists have been making claims that LTT has been subject to hacking since 2011. However, in recent weeks, the allegations have been spreading through social media websites, fuelled by customers concerned about an increasingly poor service and mysteriously vanishing WiMax credit.

    The poor service, Ksheer says, is due to the WiMax network being completely overloaded.

    However, customer concerns are being compounded by some users receiving warning messages when they go online, which tell them that another user is logged in to their account.

  • The local managers of Nigeria’s DotNG Internet domain name has slashed the registry fee from N200,000 to N15,000 to drive the massive uptake the country’s online identity within the Internet community.
    Minister of Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson

    Ope Odusan; Chief Operating Officer, Nigeria Internet Registration Association of Nigeria (NiRA), managers of the local Internet name space says the decision was taken to further accelerate its adoption across the country.

     “The Board of NIRA has made some changes in the system that opens up the second level .ng domain for general registration at a price of N15, 000. Starting from today you can register your domain name at this price” he announced to newsmen yesterday in Lagos.

    At the end of last year, only 26,000 domain names have been registered, a development which is making NiRA to explore new ways of generating interest in the local domain name space.

    NiRA has set a target of 100,000 name uptakes by the second quarter of 2013, Odusan says noting that the significance of the DotNG signature on the Internet by individuals, businesses and government would do more for Nigeria rather than using foreign domain names such as .com, .net and others.

    According to him, the DotNG ccTLD is a platform for the Nigerian Internet ecosystem to boost online commerce and eGovernment services.

    It will also enable access to valuable information and knowledge which is able to boost academics through effective research resource and participation in distance learning programmes, he adds.

  • Spacecom, the operator of the AMOS satellite fleet, has announced that it has won a three-year contract worth $6.5 million from one of Africa's largest Internet Communications Service Providers (ISPs) for provision of VSAT satellite services from the AMOS-5 satellite located at the 17°E prime orbital position.

     The AMOS-5 Southern Africa Ku-band beam will enable the African ISP to offer VSAT services to its enterprise, commercial and public sector customers in Southern Africa.

    "Africa’s data and telecommunications markets are rapidly expanding, and we’re pleased to support that growth by adding one of Africa's largest ISPs to the AMOS-5," stated Eyal Copitt, Spacecom's senior vice president of sales for Africa, Asia and marketing. "AMOS-5 is an all-around solution for data clients because its excellent coverage, strong footprint, and reliable and powerful signals meet the technological needs of data carriers throughout the continent. From 17°E, AMOS-5's three Ku-band beams and pan-African C-band beam add value to a wide array of data, telecommunication and Internet providers, as well as broadcasters."

     

  • Huston Malande, founder of Design Afrique, felt most entrepreneurs in the business were ripping off clients by not creating original sites. This prompted him to launch a new product to showcase original African web designs.

    Malande, also the chief executive officer of Skyline Design, thought of listing the top 25 well designed websites in Kenya, receiving numerous responses. This persauded him to start an online product to celebrate and recognise web designers in Africa.

    “The aim of Design Afrique, therefore, is to serve as a central place for designers and design enthusiasts to go find inspiration from their fellow designers right here in Africa,” Malande told HumanIPO.

    “Designers will submit their web sites, allowing them to instantly have a platform for publicity and for getting feedback from other site users. A panel of judges consisting of respected African designers will score the designs based on a set of criteria and have a site featured on the homepage each week. Fans keep a list of their favorite designs and get to know and interact with the people behind the design work.”

    The site offers designers similar services such as awwwards.com and CSS Design Awards. African Digital Art is probably the closest competitor to Design Afrique. But Malande says their product is still ahead of the rest.

    “What makes Design Afrique stand out is its focus on Africa, its emphasis on original content, and the importance of user submission and inter-user collaboration on the site,” Malande said.

    Malande says Design Afrique will be the go-to place to find ideas, inspiration, and creative web designers in Africa. A thriving, active community and trust in the weekly awarding process is essential to make this happen.

    Currently the site is taking in registrations ahead of its official launch in June 3, 2013.

  • A website containing all evidence used in Supreme Court petition has been launched.

    Gladwell Otieno and Zahid Rajad from Africa Center for Open Governance have partnered with Inform Action director Maina Kiai to launch the 'People's Court' where evidence on electoral malpractices will be uploaded.

    The website has been launched ahead of a detailed finding to be released by the Supreme Court on its ruling during that upheld the election of Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya's fourth president. It will give unique public access to the evidence filed at the Supreme Court by civil society.

    Kiai said the website will attempt to present in public all the evidence around the recent elections.

    Africog said it would upload a 900-page document detailing evidence on the alleged electoral malpractices it managed to gather while monitoring the elections.

    "Supreme Courts could be wrong and they have been wrong in the other jurisdictions such as in the US. That is why we want an open debate on this issue to allow the public to decide what took place," said Kiai.

    The people's court will also allow the public to see evidence presented to the Supreme Court and hopes to make institutions accountable through transparency and scrutiny.

    Kiai said that though columnists have written about the 4th March election, investigative journalists have not yet told Kenyans what transpired during elections. He said the journalists may not have the information but the people's court will provide it.

    The public will be allowed to criticise and recommend new ways of conducting a free and fair election which the IEBC can adopt.

    "This is not about individuals but the election process. The website will open a public debate with the aim of strengthening our democracy," said Africog.

    Gladwell said the intention of starting the website was not to change the decision by the Supreme Court but to initiate debate among Kenyans about their institutions.

  • A report from the West Africa Regional Communication Infrastructure Programme (WARCIP) on setting up an internet exchange point (IXP) in Gambia has been validated by local telecoms operators – including Gamtel, Gamcel, Comium, QCell, Unique Solutions and Netpage – alongside the telecoms regulator PURA and others, following a consultancy commissioned by WARCIP to provide recommendations on the technical and management aspects of the IXP.

    Presenting the IXP study, the consultant, Michael Kende, said the document contained a plan to implement processes which had previously been agreed on by all stakeholders in the sector, with the shared aims of cost-saving by eliminating the need to exchange traffic through expensive international links; as well as improving service quality thanks to the reduction in latency and to larger bandwidth available to Gambian internet users as a result of the lower cost of local capacity.

computing

  • The youth and ICT ministry and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) in Rwanda have on Wednesday signed an MoU to enhance the ICT Innovation center. The center will be set up at the Integrated Polytechnic Regional Center (IPRC) Kigali Campus, in Kicukiro. KOICA's contribution to the project will be US$ 5.6 million.

    Rosemary Mbabazi, the permanent secretary in the ministry, said that the construction activities will begin next year and be completed in 30 months. "This is a key milestone that is taking us to the Vision 2020 in which Rwanda is determined to become a knowledge-based economy," she said, adding that the center is going to facilitate the development of skills and capacity building.

    The MoU covers the ICT development roadmap on ICT human resources education and venture incubation system development in Rwanda, constructing the building for the center and providing ICT equipment and materials required for the implementation of the project.

    It will also focus on transferring know-how necessary for the operation of the center to local technicians through training programs and visiting Korean experts, as well as promoting job creation by promoting ICT start-ups.

    "It fits in EDPRS-2 targets where are focusing on skills development," Mbabazi said.

    Sangchul Kim, resident representative of KOICA Rwand, said that the project is a part of KOICA efforts of strengthening ICT capacity in Rwanda. Apart from this project, Korea has supported the ICT departments at NUR and Kicukiro Vocational Center, and helping Rwanda Revenue Authority in developing e-tax and e-customers.

    "This is the symbol of cooperation between Rwanda and Korea," Sangchul Kim pointed out. "I believe that this will help job creation in ICT area, ICT human resource development and capacity building and in the end, contribute to vision 2020"

    KOICA Rwanda has been established since 2011 and working in various sectors, including ICT, education and rural development. This year marks the 50th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relationship between Korea and Rwanda.

  • Fast rising Nigerian online store, Konga.com, is giving Nigerian entrepreneurs and wholesale businesses the opportunity to own an online store which is accessible to the general public.

    Konga on Tuesday announced plans to launch Konga Mall – an online storefront entrepreneurs can sign-up to and own on the Konga website – “in a few days.”

    Businesses in Nigeria are moving into ecommerce to tap into the deepening internet penetration, middle class growth and increased consumer spending in the country. However, the cost of setting up online storefront is capital intensive.

    Onyeka Akumah, Konga VP Marketing said: “The cost of setting up and managing an online store is enormous and several brands/ businesses are already struggling to play in a market that requires significant investment…

    “Your brand/business simply focuses on providing inventory, while Konga.com focuses on the difficult stuff; unique store front creation, robust delivery framework, 360-degree warehousing logistics, nationwide coverage, secure payment gateway, insightful data & analytics and all the other factors that have so far limited Nigerian businesses from successfully coming online.”

    Akumah added: “Our goal is to sell and deliver your products to over 49 million online Nigerians, increasing visibility and growing your profits. Konga.com wants to help your business succeed and keep you happy.”

    Konga shopping company, launched in July 2012, is one of Nigeria’s largest online retailers. Konga.com gets over 400,000 visitors monthly.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The introduction of the e-wallet scheme, according to the firm in charge of it, has saved Nigeria billions of naira, but is the facility making things easy for farmers as the government promised? Weekly Trust reports.

    A year has just gone by since the introduction of the electronic wallet (e-wallet), an initiative of the Federal Government to better the delivery of farm input such as fertilizers, seeds, and agrochemicals among others to farmers across the country.

    The initiative is said to be one of the most effective ways of reaching real farmers with government subsidy and doing away with the so-called fertilizer cartel that has made it impossible for such benefits to be tapped into by the real or let’s say grassroots farmers.

    During the distribution of the input last year, many registered farmers, distributers and other stakeholders like the North Central Agro Input Dealers Association (NOCAIDA) acclaimed the initiative as a breakthrough compared to the previous ways of fertilizer distribution.

    Now the rains are almost here, and of course many a farmer would be up at night thinking of how to access especially fertilizer and other input to better their crop  yields and may be wondering if they can still count on the Federal Government to deliver on the e-wallet or voucher system once again.

    A farmer in Lasale, Gombe State, Mr. Simon said farmers in his area are still banking on the e-wallet system, because it has really helped many of them.
    He said “the former system that they used is very good and we are still hoping that they will still use it so that we can get fertilizer.”

    Mrs. Hannatu Soni, a farmer in Saminaka area of Lere Local Government in Kaduna State once lamented the inability of many farmers in her locality to get government subsidized fertilizer subsidy, because they were not captured in the last farmer’s registration whose data was used to allocate fertilizers and seeds to the farmers depending on the crop they are planting.

    She said the initiative under the Agriculture Transformation Agenda (ATA) of the government is good, because it was actually able to target the farmers but many of them were left out of it, because the officials who conducted the registration   missed them.

    She, however, said farmers are still looking out to benefit more from the initiative and advised that the registration should be extended to all farmers and the number of bags per farmer, especially  more female farmers should be given.

    There were mixed reactions amongst large and small scale farmers over the distribution this farming season.

  • The Central Bank is proposing to start investigating all mobile money transfer services above Sh300, 000 a week, a move that may see business people affected for fear of unnecessary interference.

    This is less by three times the current maximum allowable limit of Sh980, 000 on services such as Mpesa, Airtel Money, Orange Money and Yu Cash.

    CBK says the decision will help to fight money laundering and stop the risk of terrorism financing. Any account exceeding a daily turnover of Sh100,000 will also be investigated, says the Mobile money Anti-Money Laundering Guidelines published by the CBK this week.

    Users of Mpesa, the most popular mobile money service used in the country are going to be affected most. Currently, an Mpesa user can send up to Sh140, 000 daily but split the amount into two.

    If the new rules are effected this could mean that an M-pesa user is only safely allowed to send Sh42,857 per day, a move that will greatly incovenience most businessmen in the informal sector who rely on the system to send and receive cash for services and goods. Any amount above that may be subject to investigations.

    Safaricom spokesman Nzioka Waita said it is too early to comment saying the operator will provide its thoughts to the CBK. Orange Money users will also be hit hard. The operator runs a bulk payments service that enables funds transfer tool that facilitates disbursement of funds to multiple recipients.

    The service is currently used for salary processing, payment of allowances for field staff, loan disbursement, employee benefits, refunds to customers, supplier payments, etc.

    Funds are transferred in real time from an organisation's account directly to registered Orange Money recipients or to Equity Bank accounts.

    Critics of the new rules say the CBK could be bending to pressure from commercial banks who have lost massive transaction income since most people prefer to user the mobile money services instead of going to the bank.

  • For civil servants working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the arrival of mobile banking has been just short of a miracle.

    Aside from getting paid on time, workers are now receiving what is actually owed to them, circumventing greedy superiors who used to dip into their pay envelopes to "tip" themselves and leave staff with only a fraction of their salaries.

    "The first time, they're surprised" to see what they actually make, Hassan Wazni said, managing director at Sofibanque -- one of about a dozen banks offering mobile banking accounts in the conflict-torn Congo.

    For the impoverished central African country the size of western Europe, the introduction of the service represents a minor revolution and comes about a year after Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo vowed to end the practice where state workers were paid in cash.

    With an average annual revenue of $240 (185 euros) per person, most Congolese had never visited a bank before, let alone had an account.

    Like a number of other countries in Africa and Asia that had only a tiny network of bank branches but where mobile phones are now ubiquitous, Congo opted for mobile banking.

    No smartphones are needed. Clients can pay bills, make deposits or conduct other transactions via text messages.

    Many shops, even in rural areas, have the equipment and can take deposits, make withdrawals or make sales with transactions confirmed by the clients with their phones.

    "It's very practical," said Barthelemy Bosongo, who works at the Youth and Sports Ministry.

    "Everyone likes it" even though there were a few hiccups with spelling of names at the outset.

    So far some 270,000 state employees have received bank accounts, and by June all one million civil servants should have their accounts.

  • Abu Dhabi telecom group Etisalat is set to sign an $8 billion loan facility next week with as many as 16 banks to help fund its Maroc Telecom stake bid, bankers said.

    The availability of credit highlights demand for high-quality Gulf names in the loan market, bankers said, while also advancing Etisalat's attempts to secure an asset whose sale is seen as a vital part of a restructuring at French group Vivendi, owner of the Maroc Telecom stake.

    Vivendi is looking to offload its 53 per cent stake in the Moroccan company to help reduce its debts, with potential bidders requiring more cash than the stake's $6 billion market value as minority shareholders need to be offered the option of being bought out as well.

    Binding bids for the stake are due on April 22, with proof of being able to fund a buy a key part. The Etisalat facility is earmarked for signing by April 25, a Gulf-based banker said.

    A deal is crucial for Vivendi, whose management is due to face shareholders at an April 30 meeting with little to show so far for a year of efforts to reduce exposure to telecoms, focus more on media and cut debt.

    The French group failed in attempts to sell video game unit Activision Blizzard and Brazil telecom unit GVT. Pulling off a Maroc Telecom sale will decide the next move in its strategic overhaul.

    Etisalat is in a straight fight with Qatar's Ooredoo , formerly Qatar Telecom, for the stake, after South Korea's KT Corp dropped out of the running, sources told Reuters on Monday.

  • Safaricom yesterday said losses occasioned by fraud arising from its money transfer M-Pesa are negligible compared to credit card fraud.

    Chief executive Bob Collymore said the money lost in M-Pesa fraud averages 0.006 per cent of the amount transacted which currently stands at Sh2 billion daily.

    The firm said losses to customers are at around 0.002 per cent while fraud losses to agents stand at about 0.007 per cent. The key form of fraud used is trickery.

    Collymore said this loss rate is low compared to an estimated 5 per cent losses in credit card fraud as indicated by the Central Bank of Kenya.

    M-Pesa carries about two million chargeable transactions a day and four million are airtime purchase transactions.

    Collymore also pointed out that the platform has a 99.5 per cent of uptime (the time the service is working and available) as of February. There have been continuous complains from M-Pesa users over the service being down from time to time.

    Safaricom is moving to reassure businesses to join its pay-bill system. It has enlisted about 600 businesses so far.

    Yesterday it launched a partnership with mobile payments solution provider Kopo Kopo and Eat Out, the local restaurants online directory, targeting to reach local hospitality industry.

    This will enable restaurant patrons to conveniently pay their bills via M-Pesa. Kopo Kopo will customise the way restaurant owners want to be receiving their money through M-Pesa at a commission rate of 1.5 per cent per transaction.

    "As a restaurant owner, you are assured that 7-8 out of every 10 customer has M-Pesa," said Ben Lyon, Director of Kopo Kopo.

    Restaurants join a list of other services providers ranging from utility providers, Pay-TV providers, schools and supermarkets that accept mobile money payments.

    The reassurances by Safaricom comes as Central Bank is proposing to start investigating all mobile money transfer services above Sh300,000 a week in a move to fight money laundering and stop the risk of terrorism financing.

    "We are working on a detailed response. It is a consultative process. But I can say we are willing to work with CBK to fight money laundering," Collymore said.

    The current maximum allowable transaction on mobile money transfer is Sh980,000 a week.

  • Traders in the country will begin to receive training on the usage of electronic tax payment platforms in a move aimed at easing the process of tax collection.

    Starting in May, the campaign by Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) and the Private Sector Federation (PSF) will be geared towards helping traders become familiar with automated tax payment which is a new phenomenon in the economy.

    "Many merchants face skills barriers in the use of newly launched automated systems. PSF is therefore planning to provide training and workshops to improve their knowledge, as well as enable the efficient recovery of taxes," Alex Ntale, Director of ICT Chamber in PSF said.

    "The training and workshops will target business owners in all spheres of the economy particularly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMES) projects."

    RRA rolled out electronic platforms last year to facilitate taxpayers to declare returns as well as pay taxes through the internet to boost fiscal revenues and curb rampant tax fraud. However, their use has been singled out as a challenge to SMEs, which are more familiar with paperwork such as handwritten invoices.

Digital Content

  • Worldreader (worldreader.org), the nonprofit aiming to boost literacy by providing digital books to children and families throughout Africa and the rest of the developing world, has announced a new method of getting e-books to millions of people on a device they already own: their mobile phone.

    Until now, Worldreader's mission of getting e-books into the hands of people in the developing world functioned via e-readers. To date, Worldreader's programs in Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania have shown inspiring results of children reading more, providing students access to over 440,000 e-books in English, Kiswahili, Kinyarwanda, and Twi. In fact, in the first few months of 2013, Worldreader has already added e-reader programs at the Kibera Girls' Soccer Academy in Nairobi, Kenya, and expanded work in Ghana to reach over 1,800 new young children and families in Ghana's Eastern Region.

    Now, as a way to extend its reach, Worldreader has introduced "Worldreader Mobile," a cell phone application designed for low-end "feature phones." After months of beta testing, Worldreader Mobile now boasts 500,000 active readers a month in Africa, India and the rest of the world. During testing in January, children and adults consumed the equivalent of 17,000 books on their feature phones using Worldreader Mobile- which has 1,200 books available including CK-12 textbooks, health books provided by the World Health Organization, English language content from the US State Department, stories from African's Caine Prize winners and Harlequin romance novels.

    According to USAID, nearly every home in sub-Saharan Africa has access to at least one mobile phone, making it possible to deliver important health and skill building reading material to millions of people. Sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, with an average annual growth rate of 44 percent since the year 2000, showing large scale potential to get more e-books to people in the developing world.

    "There are more mobile phones than toothbrushes on this planet," said David Risher, co-founder and CEO of Worldreader. "Together with our growing e-reader program, Worldreader Mobile connects us to millions of the world's poorest people, providing the books they need to improve their lives."

  • Solar companies are scaling up their operations in Africa as they seek to cash in on the expanding off-grid market, while also cutting fuel bills for thousands of families.

    South African firm Solar Way announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that it was seeking global partners to roll out its solar charging station.

    The SPCD (solar powered charging station) claims to be able to securely charge 14 phones at any one time. Solar Way wants to install the devices in retail outlets, post offices, or mobile phone shops.

    "In order to bring the SCPS to the largest possible customer base, we are seeking to partner with mobile operators - particularly those with millions of customers off-grid - as well as retailers and other consumer outlets which have large footprints across Africa and other emerging markets," said Marco Signorini chief executive of Solar Way

    The company also launched a new solar powered "candle" that promises to replace the humble wax candle and a mobile phone charger, both of which promise to cut families' fuel bills significantly and help them improve indoor air quality.

    According to Solar Way, the average African family living off-grid spends $144 a year on candles, but the new so-called "Power Stix" costs less than $20 each.

    In related news, Sunny Money, the retail arm of charity Solar Aid, also announced today that it has passed a quarter million sales, becoming the lead solar lamp retailer on the African continent.

    Solar Aid, the charity born out of UK installer Solarcentury, said sales are expected to exceed 320,000 units for the year 2012/13, putting it significantly ahead of the number two in the market, oil giant Total.

    According to the World Bank's Lighting Africa programme, there are now seven million people using clean solar-powered lighting in Africa. The market has seen sales of quality-assured solar lighting products double each year for the last three years.

    "We are filled with excitement at our prospects of achieving the hugely ambitious mission we have set ourselves: playing the lead role in eradicating the kerosene lantern from the continent by 2020," said Steve Andrews, chief executive of SolarAid and SunnyMoney.

  • No sooner had Uhuru Kenyatta been declared winner of last month’s General Election than he updated his @UKenyatta Twitter handle to read: President-Elect, The Republic of Kenya.

    When the Supreme Court upheld his victory on Saturday, Kenyatta took to the micro blogging site to thank his supporters and express his elation at the judgment.

    “Thank you Kenya. Thank you Kenya. Thank you Kenya. I pledge that I will deliver. God Bless you all,” tweeted the President-elect on March 30.
    The post has so far been retweeted or shared 710 times and marked as ‘favourite,’ the equivalent of ‘like’ by a further 291 followers.

    The 51-year old @UKenyatta is set to be Kenya’s first tweeting President; and East Africa’s third Head of State to have a verified Twitter account after Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania.

    He was in October last year listed among Africa’s top 10 tweeting politicians by British newspaper the Guardian. Last week, he appeared on Sahan Journal’s list of top 10 African presidents on Twitter.

    Mr Kenyatta joins @PaulKagame and @jmkikwete who are the region’s active tweeps in the social blogosphere.

  • Low-cost wireless communications offer a practical alternative to traditional wired systems in Africa, and further development of such communications can help overcome research challenges on the continent, a workshop has heard.

    Around 30 young scientists, engineers and scholars from 16 African countries attended the Workshop on Wireless Networking for Science in Africa, in Trieste, Italy, last month (112-2 March) to learn about wireless technology.

    It showcased examples of inexpensive - and locally managed or owned - wireless technology being used to help overcome developmental issues in Africa, says Joseph Intsiful, who spoke at the workshop.

    He previously oversaw the data and information management component of the Africa Adaptation Programme (AAP), a now-ended UN-led initiative to promote climate change adaptation.

    As an example of how strengthening information and communications technology (ICT) in Africa can help to tackle health, social, environmental and development challenges, Intsiful tells SciDev.Net about AAP's work in partnership with the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), in Trieste, to deploy computer servers in Lesotho to facilitate access to and sharing of the best available climate data.

    This is helping the agricultural sector plan how to adapt to variable climatic conditions and assisting with disaster risk reduction and management related to extreme weather, he says.

    Intsiful adds that the workshop encouraged the development of ideas to strengthen existing initiatives and lay the foundations for future ones.

    Damien Delvaux, a geologist from the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium, talked about an ongoing pan-African project to support training, research and monitoring in seismology.

    The AfricaArray project has around 50 monitoring stations equipped with seismometers in about 20 countries. Some also have geodetic GPS and automated weather stations.

    Delvaux says data communication can be a challenge as most stations are in remote places with little if any Internet access and some lack electricity.

    Workshop participants also learned about the development of mobile broadband to foster emergency telecommunications and the installation of a modern wireless communication network to support health services in hospitals.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Nokia has launched a mobile life improvement service in Kenya as the firm aims to facilitate learning and help bridge information gaps through richly formatted messages without the need for a data plan.

    Dubbed Nokia Life, the service is available free of charge for an initial 30-day trial period, with the option to subscribe monthly for as little as Sh2 per day on Safaricom and Airtel, in both English and Swahili. General Manager for Nokia East Africa Bruce Howe said: "Nokia Life is an important part of our strategy to connect the next billion. Kenya, like many emerging markets, has numerous social needs. Traditional channels don't always provide the solution, but the enormous uptake of mobile phones creates an opportunity for locally relevant information to be disseminated via mobile," he explained.

More

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

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

    Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for SMEs, Farmers, and startups
    April 23rd - 24th Accra, Ghana

    Join an agribusiness entrepreneurship boot camp in Ghana being organized by DAIN Network. This is a free training for entrepreneurs, startups, SMEs and farmers in the agribusiness space in Ghana.
    For more information visit the website here: 

    Card, ATM & Mobile Expo Africa 2013
    11 – 13 June 2013
    Eko Hotel & Suites, Lagos, Nigeria

    Card, ATM & Mobile Expo 2013 will showcase innovation and new differentiated products, bring about new relationships, brainstorm strategies to increase your competitive advantage, forge lasting partnerships and reach new uncultivated segments. This three-day event will provide a special opportunity for networking and follow up on business leads.
    For more information about CardExpo, please contact:
    ann@intermarc-ng.com
    M: +234 8023243412
    For more information visit the website here:

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

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

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

     

  • WIOCC continues African expansion

    Africa’s carriers’ carrier WIOCC is further strengthening its presence in Africa by bringing in three experienced senior telecoms industry professionals: Darren Bedford, from PCCW (formerly Gateway Communications); Martin Mutiiria, from Nokia Siemens Networks; and Jason Tutty from Reliance Globalcom.

     In their new roles, Director of Africa Business Development Darren Bedford, Martin Mutiiria, Director, Sales, Africa, and Network Planning and Operations Director Jason Tutty will help carriers, telcos, network operators and ISPs across the continent to exploit WIOCC’s unrivalled African network and end-to-end-managed wholesale connectivity.

    Explaining the thinking behind these appointments, WIOCC CEO Chris Wood said: “We are seeing increasing demand from businesses for diversity-rich, high-speed international connectivity to and from Africa. We are expanding our business development and sales teams in Africa to meet this demand.“

    “The skills, experience and contacts that Darren, Martin and Jason bring will be invaluable in helping new and existing customers benefit from WIOCC’s award-winning network, which seamlessly links 50,000km of African terrestrial fibre with multiple international submarine cables.”

    Darren Bedford – WIOCC Director of Africa Business Development

    As Director of Africa Business Development, Darren’s responsibilities include planning and implementing business development strategies and expanding WIOCC’s network coverage across the region.

    Prior to joining WIOCC, Darren was Head of Terrestrial and Subsea Expansion at PCCW and was responsible for the expansion of Gateway’s African network. Before that, Darren was Commercial Director for Aerosat, South Africa’s first wireless internet start-up.

    Martin Mutiiria – WIOCC Director, Sales, Africa

    In this new role, Martin Mutiiria is responsible for growing WIOCC’s customer base through direct and indirect sales of products and services in Africa. As well as prospecting, customer acquisition and retention, customer relationship management of WIOCC’s 14 African telco shareholders will also be an important focus for Martin.

    Martin was the Services Sales Manager for Bharti Africa Group at Nokia Siemens Networks before joining WIOCC, and was responsible for service solutions and sales across 16 African countries.

    Jason Tutty – Network Planning and Operations Director

    Jason has also taken on a new role, in which he is responsible for planning and managing resilient, end-to-end connectivity for WIOCC’s expanding number of carrier customers.
    Formerly the Engineering and Operations Support Director at Reliance Globalcom, Jason brings with him a wealth of valuable telecoms industry experience spanning network operations, service and sales support, OSS/BSS development and network deployment. His last 12 years were spent in the submarine and global IP/MPLS industry.

  • 2nd StarAfrica Sounds music contest launched

    The second edition of the StarAfrica Sounds music contest was launched on Tuesday in Abidjan, the Ivorian economic capital in a bid to promote music talent on the continent, APA learns here.Open to all, the contest aims to give maximum visibility to artists coming from the continent, notably through the distribution of their songs on the main streaming and downloading streaming platforms, said a release from mobile operator, Orange, the organiser of StarAfrica in partnership with Deezer and Zimbalam.

    The contest will be held in stages. The first stage will be held between 15th April and 31st May. The second will be from 31st May to 1st July.

    During the first stage, candidates (singers, groups, artists, musicians) can register on StarAfrica.com, “proposing an original song, representative of their musical universe.”

    This song will then be online on StarAfrica.com, available for everyone to enjoy.

    During the second phase, the public will vote to support their favourite candidates.

    The 5 candidates who would have collected the highest number of votes will then be selected for the final.

    The finalists to have their songs on Deezer Africa and North Africa, and distributed on the main digital platforms thanks to Zimbalam.

    For the third and final stage, a jury composed of music professionals will designate the overall winner from the five finalists. The winner will be announced on StarAfrica.com on 8th July.

    The winner will get a contract with the African music label Musiki, a Deezer for Artists certified account, a one year free access to Deezer Premium + and 3 album accounts on zimbalam.com.

    The 2nd to 5th prizes include a Deezer for Artists certified account, a one year free access to Deezer Premium + and 3 album accounts on zimbalam.com

    Kutchala Sutchi with his song “Gomanan” won the first edition in which 60 artists from 19 countries took part.

Issue no 651 19th April 2013

node ref id: 27665

Top story

  • TV White Spaces offers two potential benefits: immediate use of unused spectrum for rural area deployment and better overall use of existing spectrum. Africa currently has two active trials, one in Kenya (sponsored by Microsoft) and a second in South Africa (sponsored by Google). This week Russell Southwood looks at the second of these two trials to see why it is different from the first one and the potentially revolutionary implications of managed spectrum.

    The TV White Spaces trial in South Africa started at the end of March this year. The trial partners include TENET, CSIR Meraka, e-Schools Network, WAPA and Google.  Its vendor partners Carlson Wireless Technologies, Comsol Wireless Solutions and Neul. TENET provides the implementation and the  e-Schools Network already provides the backhaul to a not-for-profit schools network in South Africa that are also partners in the trial. This consortium bulk-buys and resells ISP connectivity to these schools. The holders of the conditional spectrum licence for the trial are Government research institute CSIR, which will also monitor for interference during the trial. WAPA member Comsol Wireless Solutions is responsible for the installation, configuration and maintenance of the project.

    The trial is connecting 10 schools in Cape Town with 3 base stations located on top of Stellenbosch University Medical School. As Arno Hart, Whitespace Manager, TENET explains, Cape Town is a good place for a trial. It has the combination of being a busy broadcast market and a fairly challenging topography which means that there are lots of TV transmitters.

    The trial has two main objectives: to demonstrate that the managed spectrum technology can operate in this kind of environment without interfering with TV broadcasts and to encourage the regulator, ICASA, to accelerate access to managed spectrum.

    The majority of WAPA members currently make use of licence exempt frequencies in accordance with the ICASA Frequency Licence Exemption Regulations 2008. It is however recognised that this is not a sustainable solution, given the pressure under which these bands are coming.

    WAPA is promoting the development of a sustainable frequency-sharing model in South Africa and believes that this is a key intervention in raising spectrum efficiency and providing opportunities for new entrants. This trial is set to demonstrate that TVWS spectrum represents an immediate win that can be taken advantage of by the regulators. Says Geerdts, “WAPA looks forward to a greatly improved frequency regime which we can be proud that we contributed towards improving.”

    The three base stations in the trial are connected through a 10 GB fibre backbone that connects to one of TENET’s clients. The base stations used are pre-production models from Carlson that has software that uses an FCC-type database of spectrum provided by Google. The software looks for what spectrum is available and chooses it. One of the things about even legally allocated spectrum is that it is only used for a relatively small proportion of the day.

    The trial is operating in the UHF 490-550 GHz range. There are 10 channels in this range and the trial is using the odd numbered channels and the TV broadcasters are using the even numbered channels.

    There are 3-4 schools per base station, giving download speeds of 1-10 mbps. According to Hart, a speed test conducted at the launch showed that 4 schools were getting 5 mbps download speeds. Some of the trial schools already have ADSL lines and the trial is therefore delivering a supplementary service. All the schools are primary and secondary Government schools and the service is being provided for free to the schools.

    The trial will last for 6 months but the intention is to keep the network alive and make the business case for future roll-outs. Hart believes that it could contribute to the creation of a “Wi-Fi city”:”I hope the chip-makers will get into this space so that managed spectrum can function in urban areas.” One aspect of its importance lies in its ability to redeploy unused spectrum for the user almost in real time.

    The really revolutionary possibility for TV White Spaces and managed spectrum falls beyond the remit of either trial. There is equipment that has the ability to measure the time used by different operators in each of the different spectrum channels.

    So imagine if you will a world in which operators hire spectrum on a time basis for a fee to be established. The charging framework for this would be complicated but not impossible. It would need to balance between not punishing the big users but also offering the minimum entry barriers to new operators. So every operator would be “pay-as-you-go” and there would be a much higher usage of spectrum. It would also ensure that there was no strategic purchase of spectrum to keep out competitors or for onward sale.

    The obstacle to this rather different world is that Governments everywhere and African Governments are no exception, see spectrum sales (particularly through auctions) as a tax cash cow. Unfortunately what you extract in tax from operators will be passed on in some way to the individual and corporate users to whom the bandwidth is delivered. If you want low cost broadband – both in rural and urban areas – then Governments will have to start seeing that charging large amounts of money may simply entrench large players with deep pockets and act as a barrier to this objective.

    More info here:

    Video briefings on:

    Smart Monkey TV’s Top 10 start-up surprises – Why we found this bunch so exciting:

    Creative cities:
    These are cities that have and encourage creativity amongst their citizens in things as diverse as computer software, film, broadcasting and the arts. Are there African cities that measure up? Johannesburg? Cape Town? Cairo? Lagos? You be the judge:

    Landry on what qualities make a successful Creative City

    Charles Landry on how you judge a successful Creative City

    Technology and the Kenyan elections:
    Michela Wrong on why technology did not ensure a clean and fair election in Kenya
    Michela Wrong on the verbal violence online during the Kenya elections

    Software package to control telecoms costs in the enterprise:

    Morocco: Anas Alhilal, Medina Telecom on UniBox, a device for controlling telecoms costs

    A strategy to prepare for Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD):
    Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO, Movirtu on its two new products aimed at the BYOD market

    A broadband and video rural deployment model from India:

    Osama Manzar, Digital Empowerment Foundation on delivering broadband in rural India

    Online food delivery model from Turkey:

    Turkey's Gokhan Akan, Yemeksepeti.com on delivering all things food online

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

telecoms

  • MTN Kenya has built its own fibre optic cable within Nairobi, dropping two of its four Internet infrastructure providers.

    The firm has been leasing fibre optic capacity from Kenya Data Network (KDN), Telkom Kenya, Jamii Telecoms and Wananchi Group. The company says it installed its own cable because of the poor network quality by some of the providers that was affecting its service delivery.

    MTN is the second telecoms operator, after Safaricom, to build its own network and drop some of its providers.

    Safaricom terminated a contract with KDN and is currently laying a Ksh14 billion ($165.3 million) inland fibre across Kenya.

    Tom Omariba, MTN’s managing director for Kenya said the two remaining Internet infrastructure providers will offer capacity in areas where it is yet to extend its fibre network.

    MTN Group is Africa’s largest telecoms operator with more than 130 million cellular subscribers in the region and in the Middle East, and its latest move is seen as an effort to protect its turf from Liquid Telecoms that recently acquired KDN.

    “A provider will be retained depending on historical evaluation of quality of service and uptime, it is not a blanket decision,” said Omariba. “We had to build our own fibre cable; we tried to switch providers to see if this could improve the quality of our service to clients, but it didn’t work.”

    The cable will provide MTN with a new revenue stream as it will be able to lease the excess capacity to other providers.

    Quality of service has become a major customer acquisition and retention factor to operators. In addition, regulator Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) is seeking heavier penalties against operators who fail to meet the industry’s standards.

    CCK fines companies Ksh500,000 ($6,000) for breach of quality of service standards, and the government aims to raise the fine claiming the current penalty is too lenient and ineffective.

    “Some of our clients are multinational firms who want the same quality of service they experience in other parts of the world. The only way to guarantee this is to look for a permanent solution,” said Omariba.

  • Research released by Norton shows that many mobile phones used in the Middle East and African are not secured and locked posing high risk of mobile cybercrime.

    The reports released by the Communications Commission of Kenya in the first quarter of 2012/2013, shows that Kenya’s mobile penetration is at 77.2 per cent; with a market share of 30.4 million mobile subscribers by September last year and that 32.4 per cent of the population accesses the internet via the mobile phone.

    According to the Norton Symantec study, nine out of ten adults which narrow to 87% adults living in the Middle East and Africa use mobile to surf online download apps, shopping, advertisement and making payment.

    Kara Rawden,the Senior Marketing Manager, Consumer - Middle East & Africa at Norton by Symantec, added that people are relying more and more on their mobile phones and tablets to navigate, share, socialise and shop.

     “What many consumers may not realise is exactly how much of their personal and private information is up for grabs should these devices be compromised, lost or stolen. Considering the sensitive nature of data that is accessible from personal mobile devices, consumers need to take some basic, yet easy, precautions to protect it from falling into the wrong hands,” added Kara.

    The study indicates that 29% of the mobile users do not use secure payment method while making purchases from their mobile device, leaving their sensitive information such as credit card details vulnerable.

    In addition, 28% admitted to not using a password to help protect their personal data which poses risk to access to personal information.

    Mobile devices consumers are advised to protect their phones just like the computer users to cab cybercrime.

internet

  • Claims are circulating amongst IT specialists that the Libya Telecom and Technology (LTT) website has been hacked, making at least some of its estimated 350,000 customer accounts, including those of government ministries, vulnerable.

    The IT manager and one of the founders of Electronic Front Libya, Ali Tweel, told the Libya Herald that hackers have gained access to customers’ personal information, including passwords, and some high-level business and government accounts. He added that this is not the first time that LTT, the country’s main internet service provider, has been hacked. “This has been happening since 2011,” he said.

    “We are currently investigating the accuracy of this information,” the chairman of LTT, Saad Ksheer, told the Libya Herald. “Looking into it so far, it does not show that anyone has been hacked.”

    Ksheer did admit that modern technologies were becoming very complex and that information could possibly be obtained by people with the right access.

    “There is a little bit of ground still to be covered,” Ksheer said, adding that thorough investigations would continue over the next week. LTT did not want to conclude its probe, he said, until the company had “clear evidence” of whether or not the site has been hacked.

    However, the ‘I hate LTT’ campaign group has now published what purports to be proof that the website has been hacked on its Facebook page. Images apparently show “a copy of the database of the private accounts of some subscribers,” which are accounts belonging to Tripoli University. The group said the full list showed details of 790 accounts.

    The hackers have, however, removed the passwords from the posting. Other people who have apparently broken into one of LTT’s two servers, one of which houses customer data, are less cautious. A seven-minute screen cast video has been posted on YouTube, purportedly giving a step-by-step guide on how to break into the LTT server.

    IT specialists have been making claims that LTT has been subject to hacking since 2011. However, in recent weeks, the allegations have been spreading through social media websites, fuelled by customers concerned about an increasingly poor service and mysteriously vanishing WiMax credit.

    The poor service, Ksheer says, is due to the WiMax network being completely overloaded.

    However, customer concerns are being compounded by some users receiving warning messages when they go online, which tell them that another user is logged in to their account.

  • The local managers of Nigeria’s DotNG Internet domain name has slashed the registry fee from N200,000 to N15,000 to drive the massive uptake the country’s online identity within the Internet community.
    Minister of Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson

    Ope Odusan; Chief Operating Officer, Nigeria Internet Registration Association of Nigeria (NiRA), managers of the local Internet name space says the decision was taken to further accelerate its adoption across the country.

     “The Board of NIRA has made some changes in the system that opens up the second level .ng domain for general registration at a price of N15, 000. Starting from today you can register your domain name at this price” he announced to newsmen yesterday in Lagos.

    At the end of last year, only 26,000 domain names have been registered, a development which is making NiRA to explore new ways of generating interest in the local domain name space.

    NiRA has set a target of 100,000 name uptakes by the second quarter of 2013, Odusan says noting that the significance of the DotNG signature on the Internet by individuals, businesses and government would do more for Nigeria rather than using foreign domain names such as .com, .net and others.

    According to him, the DotNG ccTLD is a platform for the Nigerian Internet ecosystem to boost online commerce and eGovernment services.

    It will also enable access to valuable information and knowledge which is able to boost academics through effective research resource and participation in distance learning programmes, he adds.

  • Spacecom, the operator of the AMOS satellite fleet, has announced that it has won a three-year contract worth $6.5 million from one of Africa's largest Internet Communications Service Providers (ISPs) for provision of VSAT satellite services from the AMOS-5 satellite located at the 17°E prime orbital position.

     The AMOS-5 Southern Africa Ku-band beam will enable the African ISP to offer VSAT services to its enterprise, commercial and public sector customers in Southern Africa.

    "Africa’s data and telecommunications markets are rapidly expanding, and we’re pleased to support that growth by adding one of Africa's largest ISPs to the AMOS-5," stated Eyal Copitt, Spacecom's senior vice president of sales for Africa, Asia and marketing. "AMOS-5 is an all-around solution for data clients because its excellent coverage, strong footprint, and reliable and powerful signals meet the technological needs of data carriers throughout the continent. From 17°E, AMOS-5's three Ku-band beams and pan-African C-band beam add value to a wide array of data, telecommunication and Internet providers, as well as broadcasters."

     

  • Huston Malande, founder of Design Afrique, felt most entrepreneurs in the business were ripping off clients by not creating original sites. This prompted him to launch a new product to showcase original African web designs.

    Malande, also the chief executive officer of Skyline Design, thought of listing the top 25 well designed websites in Kenya, receiving numerous responses. This persauded him to start an online product to celebrate and recognise web designers in Africa.

    “The aim of Design Afrique, therefore, is to serve as a central place for designers and design enthusiasts to go find inspiration from their fellow designers right here in Africa,” Malande told HumanIPO.

    “Designers will submit their web sites, allowing them to instantly have a platform for publicity and for getting feedback from other site users. A panel of judges consisting of respected African designers will score the designs based on a set of criteria and have a site featured on the homepage each week. Fans keep a list of their favorite designs and get to know and interact with the people behind the design work.”

    The site offers designers similar services such as awwwards.com and CSS Design Awards. African Digital Art is probably the closest competitor to Design Afrique. But Malande says their product is still ahead of the rest.

    “What makes Design Afrique stand out is its focus on Africa, its emphasis on original content, and the importance of user submission and inter-user collaboration on the site,” Malande said.

    Malande says Design Afrique will be the go-to place to find ideas, inspiration, and creative web designers in Africa. A thriving, active community and trust in the weekly awarding process is essential to make this happen.

    Currently the site is taking in registrations ahead of its official launch in June 3, 2013.

  • A website containing all evidence used in Supreme Court petition has been launched.

    Gladwell Otieno and Zahid Rajad from Africa Center for Open Governance have partnered with Inform Action director Maina Kiai to launch the 'People's Court' where evidence on electoral malpractices will be uploaded.

    The website has been launched ahead of a detailed finding to be released by the Supreme Court on its ruling during that upheld the election of Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya's fourth president. It will give unique public access to the evidence filed at the Supreme Court by civil society.

    Kiai said the website will attempt to present in public all the evidence around the recent elections.

    Africog said it would upload a 900-page document detailing evidence on the alleged electoral malpractices it managed to gather while monitoring the elections.

    "Supreme Courts could be wrong and they have been wrong in the other jurisdictions such as in the US. That is why we want an open debate on this issue to allow the public to decide what took place," said Kiai.

    The people's court will also allow the public to see evidence presented to the Supreme Court and hopes to make institutions accountable through transparency and scrutiny.

    Kiai said that though columnists have written about the 4th March election, investigative journalists have not yet told Kenyans what transpired during elections. He said the journalists may not have the information but the people's court will provide it.

    The public will be allowed to criticise and recommend new ways of conducting a free and fair election which the IEBC can adopt.

    "This is not about individuals but the election process. The website will open a public debate with the aim of strengthening our democracy," said Africog.

    Gladwell said the intention of starting the website was not to change the decision by the Supreme Court but to initiate debate among Kenyans about their institutions.

  • A report from the West Africa Regional Communication Infrastructure Programme (WARCIP) on setting up an internet exchange point (IXP) in Gambia has been validated by local telecoms operators – including Gamtel, Gamcel, Comium, QCell, Unique Solutions and Netpage – alongside the telecoms regulator PURA and others, following a consultancy commissioned by WARCIP to provide recommendations on the technical and management aspects of the IXP.

    Presenting the IXP study, the consultant, Michael Kende, said the document contained a plan to implement processes which had previously been agreed on by all stakeholders in the sector, with the shared aims of cost-saving by eliminating the need to exchange traffic through expensive international links; as well as improving service quality thanks to the reduction in latency and to larger bandwidth available to Gambian internet users as a result of the lower cost of local capacity.

computing

  • The youth and ICT ministry and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) in Rwanda have on Wednesday signed an MoU to enhance the ICT Innovation center. The center will be set up at the Integrated Polytechnic Regional Center (IPRC) Kigali Campus, in Kicukiro. KOICA's contribution to the project will be US$ 5.6 million.

    Rosemary Mbabazi, the permanent secretary in the ministry, said that the construction activities will begin next year and be completed in 30 months. "This is a key milestone that is taking us to the Vision 2020 in which Rwanda is determined to become a knowledge-based economy," she said, adding that the center is going to facilitate the development of skills and capacity building.

    The MoU covers the ICT development roadmap on ICT human resources education and venture incubation system development in Rwanda, constructing the building for the center and providing ICT equipment and materials required for the implementation of the project.

    It will also focus on transferring know-how necessary for the operation of the center to local technicians through training programs and visiting Korean experts, as well as promoting job creation by promoting ICT start-ups.

    "It fits in EDPRS-2 targets where are focusing on skills development," Mbabazi said.

    Sangchul Kim, resident representative of KOICA Rwand, said that the project is a part of KOICA efforts of strengthening ICT capacity in Rwanda. Apart from this project, Korea has supported the ICT departments at NUR and Kicukiro Vocational Center, and helping Rwanda Revenue Authority in developing e-tax and e-customers.

    "This is the symbol of cooperation between Rwanda and Korea," Sangchul Kim pointed out. "I believe that this will help job creation in ICT area, ICT human resource development and capacity building and in the end, contribute to vision 2020"

    KOICA Rwanda has been established since 2011 and working in various sectors, including ICT, education and rural development. This year marks the 50th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relationship between Korea and Rwanda.

  • Fast rising Nigerian online store, Konga.com, is giving Nigerian entrepreneurs and wholesale businesses the opportunity to own an online store which is accessible to the general public.

    Konga on Tuesday announced plans to launch Konga Mall – an online storefront entrepreneurs can sign-up to and own on the Konga website – “in a few days.”

    Businesses in Nigeria are moving into ecommerce to tap into the deepening internet penetration, middle class growth and increased consumer spending in the country. However, the cost of setting up online storefront is capital intensive.

    Onyeka Akumah, Konga VP Marketing said: “The cost of setting up and managing an online store is enormous and several brands/ businesses are already struggling to play in a market that requires significant investment…

    “Your brand/business simply focuses on providing inventory, while Konga.com focuses on the difficult stuff; unique store front creation, robust delivery framework, 360-degree warehousing logistics, nationwide coverage, secure payment gateway, insightful data & analytics and all the other factors that have so far limited Nigerian businesses from successfully coming online.”

    Akumah added: “Our goal is to sell and deliver your products to over 49 million online Nigerians, increasing visibility and growing your profits. Konga.com wants to help your business succeed and keep you happy.”

    Konga shopping company, launched in July 2012, is one of Nigeria’s largest online retailers. Konga.com gets over 400,000 visitors monthly.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The introduction of the e-wallet scheme, according to the firm in charge of it, has saved Nigeria billions of naira, but is the facility making things easy for farmers as the government promised? Weekly Trust reports.

    A year has just gone by since the introduction of the electronic wallet (e-wallet), an initiative of the Federal Government to better the delivery of farm input such as fertilizers, seeds, and agrochemicals among others to farmers across the country.

    The initiative is said to be one of the most effective ways of reaching real farmers with government subsidy and doing away with the so-called fertilizer cartel that has made it impossible for such benefits to be tapped into by the real or let’s say grassroots farmers.

    During the distribution of the input last year, many registered farmers, distributers and other stakeholders like the North Central Agro Input Dealers Association (NOCAIDA) acclaimed the initiative as a breakthrough compared to the previous ways of fertilizer distribution.

    Now the rains are almost here, and of course many a farmer would be up at night thinking of how to access especially fertilizer and other input to better their crop  yields and may be wondering if they can still count on the Federal Government to deliver on the e-wallet or voucher system once again.

    A farmer in Lasale, Gombe State, Mr. Simon said farmers in his area are still banking on the e-wallet system, because it has really helped many of them.
    He said “the former system that they used is very good and we are still hoping that they will still use it so that we can get fertilizer.”

    Mrs. Hannatu Soni, a farmer in Saminaka area of Lere Local Government in Kaduna State once lamented the inability of many farmers in her locality to get government subsidized fertilizer subsidy, because they were not captured in the last farmer’s registration whose data was used to allocate fertilizers and seeds to the farmers depending on the crop they are planting.

    She said the initiative under the Agriculture Transformation Agenda (ATA) of the government is good, because it was actually able to target the farmers but many of them were left out of it, because the officials who conducted the registration   missed them.

    She, however, said farmers are still looking out to benefit more from the initiative and advised that the registration should be extended to all farmers and the number of bags per farmer, especially  more female farmers should be given.

    There were mixed reactions amongst large and small scale farmers over the distribution this farming season.

  • The Central Bank is proposing to start investigating all mobile money transfer services above Sh300, 000 a week, a move that may see business people affected for fear of unnecessary interference.

    This is less by three times the current maximum allowable limit of Sh980, 000 on services such as Mpesa, Airtel Money, Orange Money and Yu Cash.

    CBK says the decision will help to fight money laundering and stop the risk of terrorism financing. Any account exceeding a daily turnover of Sh100,000 will also be investigated, says the Mobile money Anti-Money Laundering Guidelines published by the CBK this week.

    Users of Mpesa, the most popular mobile money service used in the country are going to be affected most. Currently, an Mpesa user can send up to Sh140, 000 daily but split the amount into two.

    If the new rules are effected this could mean that an M-pesa user is only safely allowed to send Sh42,857 per day, a move that will greatly incovenience most businessmen in the informal sector who rely on the system to send and receive cash for services and goods. Any amount above that may be subject to investigations.

    Safaricom spokesman Nzioka Waita said it is too early to comment saying the operator will provide its thoughts to the CBK. Orange Money users will also be hit hard. The operator runs a bulk payments service that enables funds transfer tool that facilitates disbursement of funds to multiple recipients.

    The service is currently used for salary processing, payment of allowances for field staff, loan disbursement, employee benefits, refunds to customers, supplier payments, etc.

    Funds are transferred in real time from an organisation's account directly to registered Orange Money recipients or to Equity Bank accounts.

    Critics of the new rules say the CBK could be bending to pressure from commercial banks who have lost massive transaction income since most people prefer to user the mobile money services instead of going to the bank.

  • For civil servants working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the arrival of mobile banking has been just short of a miracle.

    Aside from getting paid on time, workers are now receiving what is actually owed to them, circumventing greedy superiors who used to dip into their pay envelopes to "tip" themselves and leave staff with only a fraction of their salaries.

    "The first time, they're surprised" to see what they actually make, Hassan Wazni said, managing director at Sofibanque -- one of about a dozen banks offering mobile banking accounts in the conflict-torn Congo.

    For the impoverished central African country the size of western Europe, the introduction of the service represents a minor revolution and comes about a year after Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo vowed to end the practice where state workers were paid in cash.

    With an average annual revenue of $240 (185 euros) per person, most Congolese had never visited a bank before, let alone had an account.

    Like a number of other countries in Africa and Asia that had only a tiny network of bank branches but where mobile phones are now ubiquitous, Congo opted for mobile banking.

    No smartphones are needed. Clients can pay bills, make deposits or conduct other transactions via text messages.

    Many shops, even in rural areas, have the equipment and can take deposits, make withdrawals or make sales with transactions confirmed by the clients with their phones.

    "It's very practical," said Barthelemy Bosongo, who works at the Youth and Sports Ministry.

    "Everyone likes it" even though there were a few hiccups with spelling of names at the outset.

    So far some 270,000 state employees have received bank accounts, and by June all one million civil servants should have their accounts.

  • Abu Dhabi telecom group Etisalat is set to sign an $8 billion loan facility next week with as many as 16 banks to help fund its Maroc Telecom stake bid, bankers said.

    The availability of credit highlights demand for high-quality Gulf names in the loan market, bankers said, while also advancing Etisalat's attempts to secure an asset whose sale is seen as a vital part of a restructuring at French group Vivendi, owner of the Maroc Telecom stake.

    Vivendi is looking to offload its 53 per cent stake in the Moroccan company to help reduce its debts, with potential bidders requiring more cash than the stake's $6 billion market value as minority shareholders need to be offered the option of being bought out as well.

    Binding bids for the stake are due on April 22, with proof of being able to fund a buy a key part. The Etisalat facility is earmarked for signing by April 25, a Gulf-based banker said.

    A deal is crucial for Vivendi, whose management is due to face shareholders at an April 30 meeting with little to show so far for a year of efforts to reduce exposure to telecoms, focus more on media and cut debt.

    The French group failed in attempts to sell video game unit Activision Blizzard and Brazil telecom unit GVT. Pulling off a Maroc Telecom sale will decide the next move in its strategic overhaul.

    Etisalat is in a straight fight with Qatar's Ooredoo , formerly Qatar Telecom, for the stake, after South Korea's KT Corp dropped out of the running, sources told Reuters on Monday.

  • Safaricom yesterday said losses occasioned by fraud arising from its money transfer M-Pesa are negligible compared to credit card fraud.

    Chief executive Bob Collymore said the money lost in M-Pesa fraud averages 0.006 per cent of the amount transacted which currently stands at Sh2 billion daily.

    The firm said losses to customers are at around 0.002 per cent while fraud losses to agents stand at about 0.007 per cent. The key form of fraud used is trickery.

    Collymore said this loss rate is low compared to an estimated 5 per cent losses in credit card fraud as indicated by the Central Bank of Kenya.

    M-Pesa carries about two million chargeable transactions a day and four million are airtime purchase transactions.

    Collymore also pointed out that the platform has a 99.5 per cent of uptime (the time the service is working and available) as of February. There have been continuous complains from M-Pesa users over the service being down from time to time.

    Safaricom is moving to reassure businesses to join its pay-bill system. It has enlisted about 600 businesses so far.

    Yesterday it launched a partnership with mobile payments solution provider Kopo Kopo and Eat Out, the local restaurants online directory, targeting to reach local hospitality industry.

    This will enable restaurant patrons to conveniently pay their bills via M-Pesa. Kopo Kopo will customise the way restaurant owners want to be receiving their money through M-Pesa at a commission rate of 1.5 per cent per transaction.

    "As a restaurant owner, you are assured that 7-8 out of every 10 customer has M-Pesa," said Ben Lyon, Director of Kopo Kopo.

    Restaurants join a list of other services providers ranging from utility providers, Pay-TV providers, schools and supermarkets that accept mobile money payments.

    The reassurances by Safaricom comes as Central Bank is proposing to start investigating all mobile money transfer services above Sh300,000 a week in a move to fight money laundering and stop the risk of terrorism financing.

    "We are working on a detailed response. It is a consultative process. But I can say we are willing to work with CBK to fight money laundering," Collymore said.

    The current maximum allowable transaction on mobile money transfer is Sh980,000 a week.

  • Traders in the country will begin to receive training on the usage of electronic tax payment platforms in a move aimed at easing the process of tax collection.

    Starting in May, the campaign by Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) and the Private Sector Federation (PSF) will be geared towards helping traders become familiar with automated tax payment which is a new phenomenon in the economy.

    "Many merchants face skills barriers in the use of newly launched automated systems. PSF is therefore planning to provide training and workshops to improve their knowledge, as well as enable the efficient recovery of taxes," Alex Ntale, Director of ICT Chamber in PSF said.

    "The training and workshops will target business owners in all spheres of the economy particularly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMES) projects."

    RRA rolled out electronic platforms last year to facilitate taxpayers to declare returns as well as pay taxes through the internet to boost fiscal revenues and curb rampant tax fraud. However, their use has been singled out as a challenge to SMEs, which are more familiar with paperwork such as handwritten invoices.

Digital Content

  • Worldreader (worldreader.org), the nonprofit aiming to boost literacy by providing digital books to children and families throughout Africa and the rest of the developing world, has announced a new method of getting e-books to millions of people on a device they already own: their mobile phone.

    Until now, Worldreader's mission of getting e-books into the hands of people in the developing world functioned via e-readers. To date, Worldreader's programs in Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania have shown inspiring results of children reading more, providing students access to over 440,000 e-books in English, Kiswahili, Kinyarwanda, and Twi. In fact, in the first few months of 2013, Worldreader has already added e-reader programs at the Kibera Girls' Soccer Academy in Nairobi, Kenya, and expanded work in Ghana to reach over 1,800 new young children and families in Ghana's Eastern Region.

    Now, as a way to extend its reach, Worldreader has introduced "Worldreader Mobile," a cell phone application designed for low-end "feature phones." After months of beta testing, Worldreader Mobile now boasts 500,000 active readers a month in Africa, India and the rest of the world. During testing in January, children and adults consumed the equivalent of 17,000 books on their feature phones using Worldreader Mobile- which has 1,200 books available including CK-12 textbooks, health books provided by the World Health Organization, English language content from the US State Department, stories from African's Caine Prize winners and Harlequin romance novels.

    According to USAID, nearly every home in sub-Saharan Africa has access to at least one mobile phone, making it possible to deliver important health and skill building reading material to millions of people. Sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, with an average annual growth rate of 44 percent since the year 2000, showing large scale potential to get more e-books to people in the developing world.

    "There are more mobile phones than toothbrushes on this planet," said David Risher, co-founder and CEO of Worldreader. "Together with our growing e-reader program, Worldreader Mobile connects us to millions of the world's poorest people, providing the books they need to improve their lives."

  • Solar companies are scaling up their operations in Africa as they seek to cash in on the expanding off-grid market, while also cutting fuel bills for thousands of families.

    South African firm Solar Way announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that it was seeking global partners to roll out its solar charging station.

    The SPCD (solar powered charging station) claims to be able to securely charge 14 phones at any one time. Solar Way wants to install the devices in retail outlets, post offices, or mobile phone shops.

    "In order to bring the SCPS to the largest possible customer base, we are seeking to partner with mobile operators - particularly those with millions of customers off-grid - as well as retailers and other consumer outlets which have large footprints across Africa and other emerging markets," said Marco Signorini chief executive of Solar Way

    The company also launched a new solar powered "candle" that promises to replace the humble wax candle and a mobile phone charger, both of which promise to cut families' fuel bills significantly and help them improve indoor air quality.

    According to Solar Way, the average African family living off-grid spends $144 a year on candles, but the new so-called "Power Stix" costs less than $20 each.

    In related news, Sunny Money, the retail arm of charity Solar Aid, also announced today that it has passed a quarter million sales, becoming the lead solar lamp retailer on the African continent.

    Solar Aid, the charity born out of UK installer Solarcentury, said sales are expected to exceed 320,000 units for the year 2012/13, putting it significantly ahead of the number two in the market, oil giant Total.

    According to the World Bank's Lighting Africa programme, there are now seven million people using clean solar-powered lighting in Africa. The market has seen sales of quality-assured solar lighting products double each year for the last three years.

    "We are filled with excitement at our prospects of achieving the hugely ambitious mission we have set ourselves: playing the lead role in eradicating the kerosene lantern from the continent by 2020," said Steve Andrews, chief executive of SolarAid and SunnyMoney.

  • No sooner had Uhuru Kenyatta been declared winner of last month’s General Election than he updated his @UKenyatta Twitter handle to read: President-Elect, The Republic of Kenya.

    When the Supreme Court upheld his victory on Saturday, Kenyatta took to the micro blogging site to thank his supporters and express his elation at the judgment.

    “Thank you Kenya. Thank you Kenya. Thank you Kenya. I pledge that I will deliver. God Bless you all,” tweeted the President-elect on March 30.
    The post has so far been retweeted or shared 710 times and marked as ‘favourite,’ the equivalent of ‘like’ by a further 291 followers.

    The 51-year old @UKenyatta is set to be Kenya’s first tweeting President; and East Africa’s third Head of State to have a verified Twitter account after Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania.

    He was in October last year listed among Africa’s top 10 tweeting politicians by British newspaper the Guardian. Last week, he appeared on Sahan Journal’s list of top 10 African presidents on Twitter.

    Mr Kenyatta joins @PaulKagame and @jmkikwete who are the region’s active tweeps in the social blogosphere.

  • Low-cost wireless communications offer a practical alternative to traditional wired systems in Africa, and further development of such communications can help overcome research challenges on the continent, a workshop has heard.

    Around 30 young scientists, engineers and scholars from 16 African countries attended the Workshop on Wireless Networking for Science in Africa, in Trieste, Italy, last month (112-2 March) to learn about wireless technology.

    It showcased examples of inexpensive - and locally managed or owned - wireless technology being used to help overcome developmental issues in Africa, says Joseph Intsiful, who spoke at the workshop.

    He previously oversaw the data and information management component of the Africa Adaptation Programme (AAP), a now-ended UN-led initiative to promote climate change adaptation.

    As an example of how strengthening information and communications technology (ICT) in Africa can help to tackle health, social, environmental and development challenges, Intsiful tells SciDev.Net about AAP's work in partnership with the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), in Trieste, to deploy computer servers in Lesotho to facilitate access to and sharing of the best available climate data.

    This is helping the agricultural sector plan how to adapt to variable climatic conditions and assisting with disaster risk reduction and management related to extreme weather, he says.

    Intsiful adds that the workshop encouraged the development of ideas to strengthen existing initiatives and lay the foundations for future ones.

    Damien Delvaux, a geologist from the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium, talked about an ongoing pan-African project to support training, research and monitoring in seismology.

    The AfricaArray project has around 50 monitoring stations equipped with seismometers in about 20 countries. Some also have geodetic GPS and automated weather stations.

    Delvaux says data communication can be a challenge as most stations are in remote places with little if any Internet access and some lack electricity.

    Workshop participants also learned about the development of mobile broadband to foster emergency telecommunications and the installation of a modern wireless communication network to support health services in hospitals.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Nokia has launched a mobile life improvement service in Kenya as the firm aims to facilitate learning and help bridge information gaps through richly formatted messages without the need for a data plan.

    Dubbed Nokia Life, the service is available free of charge for an initial 30-day trial period, with the option to subscribe monthly for as little as Sh2 per day on Safaricom and Airtel, in both English and Swahili. General Manager for Nokia East Africa Bruce Howe said: "Nokia Life is an important part of our strategy to connect the next billion. Kenya, like many emerging markets, has numerous social needs. Traditional channels don't always provide the solution, but the enormous uptake of mobile phones creates an opportunity for locally relevant information to be disseminated via mobile," he explained.

More

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

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

    Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for SMEs, Farmers, and startups
    April 23rd - 24th Accra, Ghana

    Join an agribusiness entrepreneurship boot camp in Ghana being organized by DAIN Network. This is a free training for entrepreneurs, startups, SMEs and farmers in the agribusiness space in Ghana.
    For more information visit the website here: 

    Card, ATM & Mobile Expo Africa 2013
    11 – 13 June 2013
    Eko Hotel & Suites, Lagos, Nigeria

    Card, ATM & Mobile Expo 2013 will showcase innovation and new differentiated products, bring about new relationships, brainstorm strategies to increase your competitive advantage, forge lasting partnerships and reach new uncultivated segments. This three-day event will provide a special opportunity for networking and follow up on business leads.
    For more information about CardExpo, please contact:
    ann@intermarc-ng.com
    M: +234 8023243412
    For more information visit the website here:

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

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

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

     

  • WIOCC continues African expansion

    Africa’s carriers’ carrier WIOCC is further strengthening its presence in Africa by bringing in three experienced senior telecoms industry professionals: Darren Bedford, from PCCW (formerly Gateway Communications); Martin Mutiiria, from Nokia Siemens Networks; and Jason Tutty from Reliance Globalcom.

     In their new roles, Director of Africa Business Development Darren Bedford, Martin Mutiiria, Director, Sales, Africa, and Network Planning and Operations Director Jason Tutty will help carriers, telcos, network operators and ISPs across the continent to exploit WIOCC’s unrivalled African network and end-to-end-managed wholesale connectivity.

    Explaining the thinking behind these appointments, WIOCC CEO Chris Wood said: “We are seeing increasing demand from businesses for diversity-rich, high-speed international connectivity to and from Africa. We are expanding our business development and sales teams in Africa to meet this demand.“

    “The skills, experience and contacts that Darren, Martin and Jason bring will be invaluable in helping new and existing customers benefit from WIOCC’s award-winning network, which seamlessly links 50,000km of African terrestrial fibre with multiple international submarine cables.”

    Darren Bedford – WIOCC Director of Africa Business Development

    As Director of Africa Business Development, Darren’s responsibilities include planning and implementing business development strategies and expanding WIOCC’s network coverage across the region.

    Prior to joining WIOCC, Darren was Head of Terrestrial and Subsea Expansion at PCCW and was responsible for the expansion of Gateway’s African network. Before that, Darren was Commercial Director for Aerosat, South Africa’s first wireless internet start-up.

    Martin Mutiiria – WIOCC Director, Sales, Africa

    In this new role, Martin Mutiiria is responsible for growing WIOCC’s customer base through direct and indirect sales of products and services in Africa. As well as prospecting, customer acquisition and retention, customer relationship management of WIOCC’s 14 African telco shareholders will also be an important focus for Martin.

    Martin was the Services Sales Manager for Bharti Africa Group at Nokia Siemens Networks before joining WIOCC, and was responsible for service solutions and sales across 16 African countries.

    Jason Tutty – Network Planning and Operations Director

    Jason has also taken on a new role, in which he is responsible for planning and managing resilient, end-to-end connectivity for WIOCC’s expanding number of carrier customers.
    Formerly the Engineering and Operations Support Director at Reliance Globalcom, Jason brings with him a wealth of valuable telecoms industry experience spanning network operations, service and sales support, OSS/BSS development and network deployment. His last 12 years were spent in the submarine and global IP/MPLS industry.

  • 2nd StarAfrica Sounds music contest launched

    The second edition of the StarAfrica Sounds music contest was launched on Tuesday in Abidjan, the Ivorian economic capital in a bid to promote music talent on the continent, APA learns here.Open to all, the contest aims to give maximum visibility to artists coming from the continent, notably through the distribution of their songs on the main streaming and downloading streaming platforms, said a release from mobile operator, Orange, the organiser of StarAfrica in partnership with Deezer and Zimbalam.

    The contest will be held in stages. The first stage will be held between 15th April and 31st May. The second will be from 31st May to 1st July.

    During the first stage, candidates (singers, groups, artists, musicians) can register on StarAfrica.com, “proposing an original song, representative of their musical universe.”

    This song will then be online on StarAfrica.com, available for everyone to enjoy.

    During the second phase, the public will vote to support their favourite candidates.

    The 5 candidates who would have collected the highest number of votes will then be selected for the final.

    The finalists to have their songs on Deezer Africa and North Africa, and distributed on the main digital platforms thanks to Zimbalam.

    For the third and final stage, a jury composed of music professionals will designate the overall winner from the five finalists. The winner will be announced on StarAfrica.com on 8th July.

    The winner will get a contract with the African music label Musiki, a Deezer for Artists certified account, a one year free access to Deezer Premium + and 3 album accounts on zimbalam.com.

    The 2nd to 5th prizes include a Deezer for Artists certified account, a one year free access to Deezer Premium + and 3 album accounts on zimbalam.com

    Kutchala Sutchi with his song “Gomanan” won the first edition in which 60 artists from 19 countries took part.

Issue no 650 12th April 2013

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Top story

  • Emergency aid usually seems focused on either food or medical help. France’s Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) chose to focus on the important issue of creating communications for both NGOs and the general population during emergencies. Balancing Act’s Sylvain Beletre spoke to TSF’s Clément Bruguera, responsible for emergencies at TSF on his return from his mission in Mali.

    On April 2012 and just after Gao’s capture Timbuktu was taken over from the Malian military by the Tuareg rebels of the MNLA and Ansar Dine.
    At the end of January 2013, Malian and French army troops began retaking Timbuktu from the Islamist rebels.

    Three days after Timbuktu’s liberation, emergency telecoms charity Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) dispatched a team from its international headquarters to the ancient city. The telecom equipment provided by TSF to the NGOs in the city is essential for the communication of vital security, food and health data to serve the local population’s needs in the region.

    Balancing Act’s Sylvain Beletre  interviewed Clément Bruguera, responsible for emergencies at TSF on his return from his trip.
     
    Q: What was connectivity like in the affected towns before the war?

     
    A: The city used to be equipped with a Wimax and a 3G network set up and operated by Orange. There is no fibre cable landing in Timbuktu as yet and Malitel had plans to deploy some telecoms networks.
     
     
    Q: How badly affected was the telephone and data infrastructure in Northern Mali by the war?
     
    A: Connectivity was greatly affected during the rebellion. Islamists who occupied the area sabotaged telecoms networks before leaving. When TSF arrived all communications were cut off but were partially restored to a basic minimum when we left. The GSM network only works partially.
     
    The communication is still very much disturbed in northern Mali, impacting on  NGOs activities in this region, also challenged by the degradation in safety conditions.
     
    Q: What did you install and how is it working?
     
    A: Three TSF experts flew to the city, bringing with them all the satellite equipment necessary to establish a crisis centre for humanitarian workers and opened phone lines for the affected population. We recruited 4 local people.
     
    TSF set up two networks; Since all lines were cut off, local population was completely cut off from the outside world. Besides, the army is not equipped to support local population with public telephone lines.

    A network made of 14 mobile satellite lines using equipment necessary to create 4 emergency telecom centers was assembled for the local populations. This has enabled to make 550 connections for 4200 inhabitants. Each call made by the local population is free but limited to about 3 minutes per family.

    People are mainly making international calls anywhere in the World (United States, Senegal, Ivory Coast, France, Liberia ; etc.) to tell their loved ones they are alive and to usually ask for news, support or money.
     
    The second TSF network consists of an Internet satellite connection at the town hall for the benefit of NGOs, the crisis unit, the hospital staff and the local authorities.

    This equipment reinforces the capacities of humanitarian workers in the region of Timbuktu enabling them to share vital information to manage and report on the critical humanitarian situation in this area. When we arrived two NGOs were already present: MSF (Medecin sans Frontière) and International Medical Corps. We left the equipment there.
     
    Our network is also used by local authorities to solve resources issues and report on civil registries which were partly destroyed or stolen by rebels. The Islamic group also destroyed the town hall’s computer equipment.
     
    Q: What were your key challenges ?

     
    A: When we arrived limited access to electricity did not help set up the equipment. Right now, the city provides the population with 5 hours of electricity every 4 days for a set fee. We installed a power generator to ignite our systems.
     
    The other issue was about security. The army was very much engaged all over the region and did not have the resources to protect us. We learnt that roads were threatened with potential hidden explosive devices which did not make our return easy.
     
    Q: How did TSF start and what does it do?
     
    A: The idea for Télécoms Sans Frontières was the result of a simple observation made after many years of experience with general humanitarian charities, based on listening to those in need. During missions responding to the crisis in the Balkans and in Kurdistan during the 1st Gulf War, TSF’s founders realised that, in addition to medical and food aid, there was a critical need for reliable emergency telecommunications services. Affected populations are often left with no communications infrastructure in place to find assistance and loved ones.
     
    Telecoms sans Frontières uses mainly satellite communications equipment. This equipment is constantly upgraded: they are expanded and developed in response to the demands/needs that we encounter on the ground. The field of satellite telecommunications evolves very quickly; we are informed through our technical partners of all technological improvements and innovations, therefore we can take advantage of each improvement to become quicker to respond to emergencies, be more mobile and more efficient. TSF uses equipment with a worldwide coverage.
     
    A key piece of technology used in Mali is the Inmarsat BGan. It allows 10 computers to be connected to Broadband Internet and also offers voice and fax services. Weighting less than 4 kg, the BGan is light, mobile, usable within minutes and does not require a large dish.
     
    Q: How does TSF get financed ?

     
    A: Inmarsat, Eutelsat Commuications, Vodafone Foundation, UN Foundation, Pau Porte des Pyrennées, Région Aquitaine, PCCW Global, Astrium, AT&T, the EU, CFE-CGC, IT Cup are our official partners.
    We are always looking for new Financial donors to do more on the field.
     
    Q: Which actions have you recently supported in Africa ?
     
    A: Since April, TSF has been reinforcing the coordination among the humanitarian actors working with Malian refugees in Niger and Burkina Faso thanks to four satellite telecom centres in the biggest refugee camps on the Mali borders.
     
    Of the estimated 430,000 people uprooted since the beginning of 2012 in Mali, available figures are that 260,665 are still displaced within the country. The refugee population is around 170,000, of whom more than 70,000 are in Mauritania, some 47,200 in Burkina Faso, 50,000 in Niger and about 1,500 in Algeria.

    For the internally displaced and refugees alike the primary worry remains insecurity. "Continued fighting, suicide attacks, reprisal attacks against some communities, the presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance in the regions of Mopti, Gao and Timbuktu, are all cited as reasons to delay returning, said Adrian Edwards, a UNHCR spokesman on 1st March 2013. However, the absence of services in the north is also a factor. With few schools functioning there, and government authorities still absent in many towns and cities, many displaced families prefer to wait.
     
    For those outside Mali an additional complication is ethnic make-up, as a majority of the refugees are Tuareg or Arab. Fear of reprisal attacks is widespread, as is fear of criminality or that jihadists might remain present in the community.
    Source :

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    Landry on what qualities make a successful Creative City

    Charles Landry on how you judge a successful Creative City

    Technology and the Kenyan elections:
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    Michela Wrong on the verbal violence online during the Kenya elections

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    A broadband and video rural deployment model from India:

    Osama Manzar, Digital Empowerment Foundation on delivering broadband in rural India

    Online food delivery model from Turkey:

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    Blog covering WSA Mobile Content 2.0 Awards, 2013 – Winning mobile apps from entertainment to things that do you good, from development to education

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

     

telecoms

  • The Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar (also known as Burma) might soon be benefitting from the largest mobile services operators in Africa – MTN. It has been revealed that MTN has made it onto the short list of about 15 operators who have all applied for an operator’s licence in the country.

    Currently all communications in Burma is controlled by the government, and out of the 60.2-million population, only 503,900 has access to a landline, while only 5.4-million have access to a mobile phone. This makes Burma one of the least connected nations in the world.

    Two mobile operator licences will be awarded in the country, and the short list has been drawn up from over 90 operators who applied for the licenses.

    “Skills and competencies are in greenfield roll-outs and this would be an excellent opportunity. The terrain is quite different from what we are used to — there’s a lot of water and mountains which could impact roll-out from a cost perspective — but the opportunity would be great for us,” MTN CEO Sifiso Dabengwa said.

    The MTN Group currently operates in 22 countries in Africa, Europe and the Middle East, so if they are granted a license it would be the first time the company operates in Southeast Asia. It’s main countries of operation is South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Rwanda.

    It was also recently revealed that MTN could be spending as much as R71.12bn on acquisitions in Africa, Middle East and Southeast Asia. “Growth through M&A is still an important part of our strategy. Anything between R35.56bn and R71.12bn is something that we could look at,” Dabengwa said during the Reuters Africa Investment Summit.

  • Zain has awarded a contract to Basset, for the supply of a full Interconnect solution, covering interconnect billing, routing optimization and trading for the wholesale market. Basset has previously worked with Zain in Jordan and Africa.

    Basset said that important factors in Zain Group's decision process were the identification of a platform in which all involved parts of the organization are able to work together as a team in one system; from interconnect billing and routing functions to quality management.

    Khalid El Hajji, VP & Regional Account Director for Basset MEA said: "As operators grow, the wholesale business either becomes an important revenue-generator, or an expensive cost center. Interconnect by Basset offers all operators - local, regional and global - the opportunity to optimize their carrier-to-carrier billing and settlements processes and we are proud for the confidence put in us and our technology by Zain Group in yet another strategic project."

  • The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has again fixed another date for the launch of Mobile Number Portability (MNP). This time, the commission chose April 22 as the new launch date across all networks of Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM).

    The Director of Corporate Affairs at NCC, Tony Ojobo, who dropped the hint Thursday, told THISDAY in a telephone interview that NCC eventually settled for the April 22 MNP launch date, having been convinced by the network operators that their networks were ready for the roll out of Mobile Number Portability in Nigeria. "We are going to celebrate it in a colourful launch that will hold in Lagos on April 22," Ojobo said.

    NCC had earlier warned that it was not going to shift grounds on the planned roll out of MNP, and insisted that the roll out must be in April this year, without mentioning any particular date in April. The reason for not fixing a particular launch date earlier, according to Ojobo, was to allow the operators to choose a convenient date, based on the state of readiness of their networks. He had however insisted that the roll out of MNP would not exceed April this year.

    NCC had fixed April 1, for the launch of MNP, but shifted it to an unknown date in the same month of April, after telecoms operators came begging for three weeks extension to enable them complete test-run of their networks, in preparation for the eventual roll out.

    NCC had in 2006, announced for the first time that it was going to implement MNP, but it was not implemented, as telecoms operators resisted it on the ground that the network infrastructure as at then, was not robust enough to accommodate the challenges associated with mobile number porting.

    In 2009, NCC re-introduced Mobile Number Portability and again the operators turned it down, giving the same reasons. In 2012, NCC gave December 2012 as deadline for operators to commence the exercise, but they reluctantly agreed yet they could not meet the deadline.

    In January, NCC fixed March 25, as the new date for the commencement of MNP, but again, telecoms operators were unable to meet up with the March date, a situation which compelled NCC to further shift date to April 1.

    Having discovered that the April 1 date was not going to be feasible, NCC Thursday, announced April 22 as the new date for the launch of MNP.

    In technical parlance, Mobile Number Portability is a process that allows subscribers to migrate from one network to another, in search of better quality of service, while still retaining the original phone number, irrespective of the network the subscriber chooses to migrate to.

    NCC in its released guidelines for MNP, made porting free of charge for subscribers, but insisted that subscribers could port their numbers, once in every 90 days.

internet

  • Liquid Telecom has announced significant improvements to its fibre network along the East African coast which have already reduced congestion, improved connectivity and resulted in the lowest latency rates on the African continent.


    Since its acquisition of Kenya Data Networks; Rwandan ISP Stream and InfoCom, an ISP in Uganda, Liquid Telecom has prioritised the integration of these networks with its own existing fibre network to create one seamless fully redundant IP network.  

    Liquid Telecom has also commissioned a gigabit circuit between Kenya and South Africa from SEACOM and advertisements of many East African IP address prefixes at the Johannesburg Internet Exchange (JINX) went live last week.  The key benefit of this is that traffic between South Africa and East Africa, including Kenya, will no longer need to be routed via Europe.

    As a result, traffic on Liquid Telecom’s networks in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda is already much faster with the lowest latency rates on the continent (down from over 400 ms to nearer 50ms).  Customers benefiting include ISPs, carriers and businesses of all sizes across Eastern and Southern Africa.

    Specialist Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) hosted in South Africa are also using the new circuit for serving cached files and websites so that people living and working in East Africa will have faster connectivity to the world’s most important and popular internet sites.

    During the recent bandwidth crisis, caused by multiple cable cuts north of Egypt, Liquid Telecom used a number of different routes to keep customers connected including

    - Diverting traffic from East Africa to Johannesburg via SEACOM and onwards to Europe using multiple redundant paths on WACS and SAT3 up the West coast of Africa.

    - Using a further redundant path eastwards from Nairobi to Singapore using the TEAMS cable.

    - Emergency restoration of circuits between Egypt and France provided by SEACOM and WIOCC.

    Nic Rudnick, CEO of Liquid Telecom, said: “The recent problems in East Africa once again highlight Africa’s need for a large-scale, high-speed, fully redundant, cross-border network.  That’s why Liquid Telecom is investing in its own infrastructure.  We know that by building and managing our own fibre infrastructure, we’re agile enough to solve our customers’ problems and improve standards and quality, even in the toughest conditions”.

  • Nigerians with access to the internet, currently put at about 32.40 per cent, is expected to hit 41.62 per cent by 2015 the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson has said. The minister disclosed this recently at a forum in Lagos.

    Consistent with the country's strategic management planning for ICT industry, the percentage of mobile phone coverage of rural areas is to be monitored towards ensuring that 60 per cent is covered with ICT access by 2015 and 100 per cent by 2017. In 2011, percentage of population with internet access in Nigeria was 29 per cent.

    The government also released a target of what is expedited to be the cost of accessing broadband internet services by 2015.

    THISDAY gathered that the cost of broadband subscription, which currently stands at N72, 000 for 3 GB of data package per year, is expected to witness 50 per cent reduction to N36, 000 by 2015, and less by 2017.

    As at 2011, the cost of access broadband internet service was around N93, 000 for 3 GB of data package per year.

    Fresh Key Performance Indicators aimed at monitoring progress in the nation's Information and Communication Technology sector has also been set by the Federal Government.

    The Johnson, who reeled out the KPIs in Lagos recently, stated that in the new KPIs, the country's teledensity for fixed and mobile subscriptions which stood at 1.5 per cent and 80.85 per cent in 2012 is expected to hit 10 per cent and 97.69 per cent by 2015 in that order.

    The KPI on speed of broadband access (Mb/s), which, as at the end of December, 2012, was put at 1.8 megabyte per second (MB/s), is expected to increase to 5.0 Mb/s by 2015.

    According to available statistics, Nigeria is currently said to have one of the lowest speed in Africa, as the country is challenged in all areas of broadband access such as coverage, speed and cost.

    On the cost of personal computer ownership, the government has put measures in place to implement and monitors activities that will lead 12 per cent penetration up from its current 4.5 per cent while mobile devices are to hit 82 per cent penetration away from its current position of 60 per cent.

    In the area of mobile content and applications, the minister said verified mobile money agents; total value of mobile money transactions and total volume of non-store shopping which currently stand at 3,000; N228 million and N77.5 billion would be closely monitored to ensure that they increase to 50,000 agents, N151 billion and N658 billion respectively.

    Speaking on the KPIs and targets for Government Ministers, Departments and Agencies, (MDAs), Johnson stated that the number of government services delivered online which currently is around 30 per cent would reach 100 per cent by 2014. In 2011, the figure stood at 10 per cent.

    "Also, the number of MDAs with effective websites placed at 420 at present would increase by 100 per cent by ensuring that all MDAs have functional websites by 2015. The figure stood at 370 in 2012," she said.

computing

  • Gemalto, the world leader in digital security, has been appointed as prime contractor and turnkey supplier to provide Ghana Immigration Services (GIS) with a highly secure electronic visa and border management solution.

    This initiative is part of the eGhana project, an ambitious plan with backing from the World Bank to create a modern IT infrastructure that can support the country’s sustainable development plans in the years ahead.

    With a population of 24 million, the Republic of Ghana is experiencing rapid expansion of cross-border travel. Recognizing the need to improve the security and efficiency of its existing procedures, the country’s immigration service has turned to Gemalto to deliver the benefits of a country-wide electronic border management system based on biometric authentication.

    Gemalto acts as prime contractor and will take responsibility for integrating the advanced visa and border management solution, including change management, transitional training and maintenance services.

    The company will deploy border management systems at Ghana’s main ports of arrival and will implement a fully computerized system for visa and permit applications processing and issuing, with the collaboration of Avalon Biometrics. The project also covers the set up of an online portal service for visa application, and the implementation of electronic gates at Accra’s Kotoka International Airport, for rapid, convenient and automated border control of arrivals and departures.

    This mission-critical solution will streamline processes, reinforce national security and provide the GIS with enhanced border information and intelligence. Aided by biometric data, the authorities will be able to account accurately for everyone entering and leaving the country. The system will also improve the traveling experience, delivering faster and significantly more convenient border control procedures for visitors.

    “To maintain Ghana’s economic development, we need an immigration system that can meet the challenges of rapid growth in international travel,” said Commissioner of Police Dr. Peter A. Wiredu, Director of Ghana Immigration Service. “Gemalto contributed to over 80 successful government programs worldwide and has all the required project management skills, reputation and expertise to deliver the country’s new IT infrastructure”.

    “This advanced electronic identity management system is fundamental to the whole eGhana project,” said Ari Bouzbib, Senior Vice President for Government Programs at Gemalto. “It will put the country’s border control processes on par with the latest, cutting-edge practices worldwide. In addition to helping to transform Ghana, it can serve as a template for modernization across many other countries in Africa.”

  • Seacom known for its undersea optical fiber cables is expected to make their first move into offering cloud services tomorrow (Thursday 11th April 2013) with the launch of their Pamoja Cloud Services

    Pamoja is a cloud services marketplace that the company says will revolutionize the way the SME sector conducts business. Seacom becomes the second infrastructure company to move into this space after Safaricom who launched their service about a year ago. Read Safaricom launches cloud services

    According to the company website, Pamoja's business model is "built on the growing demand for IT-as-a-Service from small and medium enterprises (SME), coupled with the need for service providers to increase the value of their existing offerings and grow broadband revenue." Pamoja is building a SME Cloud services marketplace, which it will then offer to its channel partners and service providers to on-sell under their own brand (white-labelled) to their customer base.

    Pamoja is expected to "remove the capital expense barrier to entry for International content owners who want to expand their service footprint to the African continent; no upfront capital investment is required," the statement said.

    Pamoja is investing, initially, in Cloud computing infrastructure in South Africa and Kenya. This will allow Pamoja to service the Southern African markets with a strong focus on South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia. From the Kenyan based platform services will be delivered to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.

  • Better structured training on Information Communication Technology (ICT) would lead to more skilled ICT manpower in the country, the just awarded ICT innovators have said.

    The Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) managed Innovation Fund for ICT was set up and financed by TANZICT-project. The fund is a competitive grant focusing on supporting ICT innovators. One of the awardees, Taha Jiwaji of Bongolive bulk SMS innovation identified private ICT training institutions as some of the area that needs to be well equipped to offer quality training.

    This, he observed, would add the skills to churn out more professionals in the labour market. Bongo Live is a mobile services company based in Dar es Salaam, whose innovations include group messaging, targeted sms offers, tailored sms services (raffles, voting, surveys) and custom applications that cater to organisations and individuals of all types and sizes.

    Another ICT innovator, Rajab Omari said that there should be more training for "softwarepreneurs" with the view of seeing Dar es Salaam becoming a software hub and facilitating SME growth and business incubation to support additional enterprises and create software development enterprises.

    "The idea to train the "softwarepreneurs" is based on the global thinking that knowledge-based enterprises are the way of the future," he said A report, "Realising the potential of ICTs in Tanzania" notes that like other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the country has experienced a tremendous upsurge in telephone ownership and use since the advent of mobile phones.

    "The number of mobile phone subscriptions rose from close to zero at the turn of the century to some 13 million by July 2009, more than one mobile phone for every two adult citizens," it notes.

  • While participating in the 2011 campaign to pass Kenya’s Cancer Bill, Daniel Munyambu Mutonga, a medical student at the University of Nairobi, hit a wall – a paywall. To convince the public of the bill’s importance, he needed the latest statistics and research on breast cancer in Kenya. The articles were a click away. But, he recalls, he “just couldn’t get to that information. It wasn’t published in accessible journals.”

    The reason for non-access? His library couldn’t afford the expensive medical journals in which the articles were published. Adding to his frustration, Mutonga realized that the research he needed had probably been published by a Kenyan, maybe even a colleague down the hall. Yet for him, the findings were invisible.

    Later that year, Mutonga heard a talk about the open access movement. This global alliance of students, librarians, entrepreneurs and government officials fights for free and unrestricted digital access to academic research. After the presentation, the medical student thought back on how limited access had personally affected him – even shaping decisions about the direction of his own research.

    Mutonga is not alone. African students scour the web every day for scholarly articles, but run into the same insurmountable paywalls. Mutonga instantly realized the potential of the open access movement and started a campaign at his university.

    But the effects of paywalls go beyond the hallowed halls of academia. That’s why others are joining the fight for open access. Tom Olijhoek, a Dutch microbiologist who conducted malaria research in Kenya, emphasizes the importance of open access for public health.

    “There are doctors who are working in malaria-affected areas every day, treating patients, without access to the latest research. They don’t know if the new medicine promoted by pharmaceutical industries is really effective. And researchers are wasting their time duplicating research that others have already done elsewhere,” he explains.

    Manka Angwafo, another advocate based in Kenya, believes open access could also be a powerful tool to promote government transparency.”I see the importance of open access, particularly for Africa, for a much broader range of collections than just academic articles, such as policy briefs and strategy papers,” she says.

    Anyone interested in their community could make use of these documents, Angwafo reasons.”For example, if there’s a sewage problem in my neighbourhood, I could actually figure out what the government is doing to address my problem, and who is in charge of that. Only 2 percent of the population might want to do that, but that person might be able to bring about change for the whole community,” she says.

    Access barriers are particularly high for those in the developing world. But even Harvard – by far the world’s richest university, with a $30 billion endowment – sounded the alarm bells last year about “an untenable situation” facing Harvard Library. In 2012, Harvard’s cost for journals, alone, approached $3.75 million. Harvard claims that subscriptions to “some journals cost as much as $40,000 per year, others in the tens of thousands”. In comparison, the library’s total budget for digital subscriptions at Makerere University in Uganda ranges between $50,000 and $60,000 a year.

    Academic publishers do regularly offer African universities reduced or free subscriptions to their journals. That said, Jon Harle, a researcher from the Association of Commonwealth Universities, finds that “still the universities [in Africa] are unable to maintain good collection across all subjects”. Such reduced subscription programmes, like the WHO-administered HINARI, also cut access as soon as publishers see commercial potential in developing countries. In 2011, they suddenly excluded Kenyan universities from free access. South Africa is already considered too rich to participate in the programmes.

    Iryna Kuchma, from the non-profit organization Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), helps negotiate deals between publishers and African universities, and believes some publishers are “great partners”. Yet she believes such initiatives offer only a temporary solution.

    “Those free-access programmes just work as marketing tools,” she says. “Their success depends on negotiating skills of EIFL libraries and the good will of the publisher.”

    The open access movement has set out to change the business model of academic publishing. Last year witnessed governments – perhaps the largest funders of scientific research – joining the ranks. The UK and the European Commission now force government-funded researchers to publish in open access journals, which are freely accessible to all or, at least, to self-archive research in open access university repositories.

    In Africa, governments have been slower to adopt open access policies.

     “There will be no rush to change without pressure from the government and funders,” says Andrew Mwesigwa, a librarian at Makerere University in Uganda.

    If he’s right, that means that open access in Africa remains contingent on the actions of Western organizations, which fund about 70 percent of African research.

    Yet even without quick changes at the top, a bottom-up approach is in full swing. Students like Mutonga, the Kenyan medical researcher, are working with librarians to create repositories of all the research produced at their university. Last November, Mutonga travelled to the Open Access Africa conference in Cape Town to spread the word about student advocacy and the successes at his university.

    At the same time, larger repositories are springing up, collecting research on certain themes or regions. Africa Portal offers a collection of research on African policy issues. Olijhoek, the Dutch microbiologist, is a consultant for MalariaWorld, a site offering the latest information on malaria for researchers and doctors alike.

    Angwafo, the aforementioned Kenyan open access advocate, recently founded Hadithi, an online platform that, besides aggregating other journals, aims to increase the online visibility of local African journals.

    “Many of those journals have no metadata online,” she explains. That implies that other websites like Google Scholar cannot locate, aggregate and classify African research. Hadithi’s technology wants to change that.

    “We want to make it possible for users to download, share, and retweet research,” says Angwafo.

    The participants in the open access movement are diverse, but all are motivated by the belief that knowledge can be a great force for change. As Mutonga puts it: “If everyone is able to access information, we can compete at a level playing ground. Developing countries can then come up with their own solutions.”

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Mobile payments service provider in Nigeria, Pagatech, recorded a transaction value of N18bn from over 1.6 million transactions at the end of March this year.

    The firm, which now has over 500,000 users, said it had achieved 80 per cent of its 2012 transaction volume already, according to a statement released by the firm on the occasion of its fourth anniversary in Nigeria.

    The financial services platform started operation in April 2009 and received its full operational licence from the Central Bank of Nigeria in November, 2011, and now has a team of 150 members of staff nationwide.

    The firm said its initial set of products were delivered to meet the critical needs of Nigeria’s new cashless society, and to provide the public with access to their “cash – anywhere and anytime, through its secure, fast and easy money transfer service.”

    “All services are available to Paga users via their mobile phones, any Internet connected device or via Paga’s vast nationwide agent network,” the firm added.

     The firm said in 2012 when it first operated as a CBN-licensed mobile payments company, its user base grew from 40,363 to 382,063 – showing  847 per cent growth in one year.

    It also processed over 918,000 transactions worth over N9.8bn, according to the statement. This, it added, had made it the fastest growing mobile payments company in Africa.

    The firm has received the Kalahari Awards for ‘Best Independent Mobile Payment Company’ and the Financial Technology Awards for ‘Best use of IT In Mobile Payments’, among others.

    The founder and Chief Executive Officer, Tayo Oviosu, was quoted in the statement as saying , “It’s been an amazing four years. The journey has not been easy, and I am grateful to our team and investors who have believed in our vision and allowed us to execute.

    “We are also grateful to all our agents and partners who have come on board to work closely with us; companies such as Diamond Bank, MultiChoice, Grimaldi, DealDey, MedPlus, and DHL to name a few. We won’t be here without such partners and we continue to seek out other partners to grow our ecosystem.”

  • Guaranty Trust Bank Plc (GTBank) Wednesday launched a social banking platform, which allows customers to meet their banking needs on Facebook.

    The new offering which is the first of its kind by any Nigerian bank allows members of the public to open GTBank accounts and get customer service support on Facebook.

    Speaking on the innovation in an interactive session with journalists, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of GTBank, Mr. Segun Agbaje, said the bank’s objective is to engage the public where they work, live or play, adding that the new service would enable those on the social media have a banking relationship and carry out transactions conveniently.

    Agbaje  said: “This novel service presently allows people open GTBank accounts and get customer service support on Facebook and in a couple of weeks, we will introduce new service options that include money transfers, airtime purchases and bills payments.”

    He further affirmed that GTBank’s commitment to the convenience of its stakeholders, saying that the bank would continue to introduce value adding alternative channels into the future. GTBank has been at the forefront of industry innovations within the Nigerian  service sector over the last 22 years.

    Continuing, the GTBank boss stated that his institution was the  industry as well as the first Nigerian institution to have recognised online/social channels as an emerging service point.

    “GTBank has over one million followers on Facebook; the largest for any African Bank. Additionally, the bank recently introduced GTBank Mobile Money, a highly secure application that allows customers and non GTBank customers perform transfers and payments from their mobile phones to any mobile phone subscriber within the country.

    “Furthermore, the bank’s internet banking platform is one of the most robust in the industry, supporting a wide array of service offerings that include bills payments, own and third party transfers and foreign exchange transfers to any bank account in the world.

    “The bank’s alternative banking channels were given a Payment Card Industry Standards Council (PCISSC) certification late last year, implying that the channels meet acceptable technical and operational requirements to prevent credit card fraud, hacking and other security vulnerabilities,” he explained.

  • MTN Uganda has been accused of frustrating competition by allegedly denying EzeeMoney, a subsidiary of Mobile Money International, a platform to provide mobile money services in Uganda.

    In a letter dated March 19, 2013, and addressed to Eng Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC executive director, EzeeMoney through AF Mpanga advocates, alleges that it had obtained a contract from MTN for the provision of digital transmission [E1] and 30 fixed telephone lines to carry out its mobile money business.

    EzeeMoney says upon receiving approval from UCC [Dec 12] and clearing it to use the 7711 short code to enable its customers to subscribe for e-money services, the firm went ahead and contracted Yo! Uganda Limited (YUL) to implement the service.

    According to a January 10 letter, a copy of which was obtained by Prosper, YUL wrote to MTN, requesting for the activation of EzeeMoney’s 7711 short code on its network.

    However, it is reportedly said, MTN, acting in blatant infringement of the provisions of section 53(1) and (2) (a) of the Uganda Communications Act, responded in a letter to YUL dated January 28, (copy seen by Prosper)saying it (MTN) was not in position to activate EzeeMoney’s short code on the YUL account.

    “EzeeMoney is in direct competition with MTN in the provision of mobile money services, should they wish to clarify their request, they are welcome to engage MTN directly,” reads part of the letter written by MTN’s chief marketing officer Mr Ernst Fonternel.

    EzeeMoney says because of the ‘unlawful conduct’, an order should be issued prohibiting MTN from carrying out anti-competitive conduct against it and impose a fine of 10 per cent of its annual turnover as at Dec 31, 2012.

    MTN Uganda general manager corporate services and chief legal counsel, Anthony Katamba however, said MTN has never had any contract with EzeeMoney.

    “This is news to us and we can’t comment because we don’t know what they are talking about,” Katamba said. Patrick Mwesigwa, UCC Technical Manager told this newspaper that UCC asked EzeeMoney to submit their complaint against MTN in writing given its complexity.

  • MoneyGram and South Africa's First National Bank (FNB) have launched their first mobile money transfer service in Africa, giving FNB account holders throughout South Africa provinces an option for sending and receiving international money transfers using their mobile phones.

    Transactions sent from a mobile device are available for collection within 10 minutes, subject to an agent's hours of operation and local laws and regulations.

    "In less than a year into our relationship with FNB, we have extended our product services to offer a mobile service in Africa," said Carl Scheible, MoneyGram executive vice president for Africa and Europe.

    Last year, MoneyGram announced an agreement with First National Bank that significantly increased MoneyGram's agent network in South Africa. Adding FNB to its agent network means customers have an additional nearly 1,000 MoneyGram money transfer locations across South Africa from which to send and receive money.

    According to the World Bank, South Africa is the third largest recipient of African migrants in the world, estimated at 1.8 million people. Close to 900,000 South Africans living abroad send money back to their families. Almost 50% of all remittance users remit funds once a month.

Digital Content

  • Google has introduced Google Maps Navigation (Beta) in Kenya as a new feature on Google maps for phones running Android 2.2 and iOS 5.1 technologies.

    Google Maps Navigation (Beta) is an Internet-connected GPS navigation system on = mobile phones that provides turn-by-turn voice driving directions.

    The feature uses phone Internet connection to give the latest maps and driving directions with a free application.

    It is regularly updated with the most recent data from Google Maps, which means users will not be required to purchase map upgrades or manually update their devices.

    In addition to offering address search, Google Navigation allows users to search for locations by their business names.

    You can just say "Embassy of Senegal" or "Mavuno Church" and Navigation will provide directions to the required destination.

    The user is also able to identify landmarks along the route such as petrol stations, restaurants and parking areas.

    To find your destination, just type or say your destination and the Navigation (Beta) finds it, just like when you search on Google Maps.

    No needs to know the address, misspelled queries are corrected and ambiguous queries return multiple results so the user can choose the right one.

    Where traffic data is available, Navigation can even automatically route you around bad traffic.

    To get the new feature, the user is supposed to search for and download the newest release of 'Google Maps' in Google Play or the Apple App Store.

  • Its domain currently ranks 177th in the world, less than half of the country has mobile phone coverage, and only 4% of the population are online. But Mali could be set to become one of the world's most popular internet destinations after it became the first African country to give its domain away for free.

    Mali announced on Monday that its little known .ML domain – which is currently used by fewer than 50 active websites – will be free from July, in a move which it hopes will bring much needed outside investment, and give a boost to Malian businesses.

    "We are proud to be the first African nation to give domain names for free," says Moussa Dolo, general manager of Mali's Agence des Technologies de l'Information et de la Communication (AGETIC). "By providing free domain names to internet users worldwide, we will put Mali back on the map. We wish to show the rest of the world the fantastic opportunities our country has to offer."

    The new scheme is being operated by Freedom Registry, the company which operates a similar .TK system for Tokelau – the tiny cluster of coral atolls in the South Pacific with a population of less than 2,000 – but which is now the most popular domain name in the world, with more active domain name registrations than Russia and China combined.

    "If you look at the Tokelau experience, most registrations for .TK are coming from Turkey – whose name corresponds to the letters," said Joost Zuurbier from Freedom Registry. "And they are coming from many other emerging economies – China, Vietnam, India – they have a real need for domain space because other domains are full. .com is already taken, and if you want .cn you have to show your ID to the Chinese government. That's why people have been using .TK – it's a free alternative, and now .ML will be just as attractive."

    Interest in the .ML domain is expected to come from a number of countries, including Manila in the Philippines, and Malaysia, attracted by the resemblance between the letters and their own names.

    Mali's attempt to revamp its online presence comes as its economy has been devastated by an ongoing conflict, in which an international military intervention has been battling al-qaeda linked insurgents who seized control of the country's north a year ago.

    But some questioned whether the move could really make a difference in a country where internet access and disposable incomes remain low.

    "I think the .ML domain free registration process is a good idea on paper and could shed positive light on Mali which is sorely needed," said Tim Katlic, founder and editor of oAfrica.com, which tracks internet progress in African countries, reports that Mali is experiencing steady online growth. "But in reality, I don't think it will pan out as expected, since Mali's Internet users aren't ready for content creation - they have limited desktop usage, lack of income to afford web hosting even if domain is free, heavy reliance on international social media sites instead of local ones."

    But Freedom Registry said that Mali would also attract extra revenue from the move, with advertising income from domains which lapse split between the company and the Malian authorities.

    "Currently we add about 20% to the GDP of Tokelau, and although it is a small country, Mali is much bigger and the potential is huge," said Zuurbier. "But its not only about the money – to Mali it's the infrastructure we provide."

    "In the past countries needed to invest heavily in equipment to increase their internet traffic, but now it all exists in the cloud – so its a service that we can provide for them at no charge in Mali. It's a win-win situation where everyone in Mali will get their domain name for free, internationally people can register domains in Mali for free, and Mali doesn't have to invest but can still get a lot of international business."

  • As of this week, entrepreneurs looking for advice to grow their business in Africa get direct access to a pool of dedicated mentors, while Africans living in the diaspora and business experts from around the world are now able to get directly involved with venture creation and provide critical feedback to promising entrepreneurs across the African continent.

    VC4Africa (Venture Capital for Africa), Africa’s largest entrepreneur and investor community, is launching VC4Africa’s ‘Mentorship Marketplace’: a vibrant and transparent peer-to-peer marketplace where entrepreneurs can add ‘mentor requests’ that are visible, searchable and actionable by a pool of registered mentors.

    The objective of the Mentorship Marketplace is to assist promising entrepreneurs in establishing and building great companies. David van Dijk, Head of Entrepreneurship Development at VC4Africa: “When an entrepreneur faces a challenge we are convinced there are members within the VC4Africa network who have the answers and are willing to lend their insight, expertise and experience.” The Mentor Marketplace draws on an international network of business experts that dedicate their time, network and expertise free of charge. After a match is made through the platform the dialogue between Mentor and Entrepreneur continues via whichever channel is most suitable for them (email, phone, Skype, messenger, etc.).

    To place a request the entrepreneur has to have a good (draft) business plan and related documents, and have a clear challenge that is well defined and measurable. For entrepreneurs who are still in the earlier stages and not yet ready to receive a mentor, VC4Africa hosts a growing number of self-help tools like business plan templates and the VC4Africa Questions & Answers service.

    Before the new online marketplace, VC4Africa already encouraged its members to support one another via its dedicated mentorship group, started in 2011. The program has developed over the last two years into the service it is today. Bill Zimmerman, CoFounder of VC4Africa explains, “The new service is designed to help organize the supply and demand from across the community. Most importantly, the tool recognizes people’s participation and we are continually looking at ways we can recognize members for their contributions.”

    Entrepreneur David Amakobe, who used VC4Africa’s mentoring services to negotiate with a large buyer of African produce says, “We are very happy with the mentoring service provided by VC4Africa and do recommend that all the entrepreneurs listing their ventures should try it, you may discover that you could generate the funding you need by yourselves!” Entrepreneur Gilles Ajavon, who used VC4Africa’s mentoring services for his venture and was recently invited to pitch at last year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Dubai explains, “My venture Ujamaa is a proof that VC4Africa’s mentorship program works!”

    VC4Africa’s research shows 45% of Africa’s entrepreneurs who registered on VC4Africa are looking for mentorship. 20% of the members have currently engaged in VC4Africa’s mentorship activities.

    Both entrepreneurs and mentors are encouraged to sign up and make use of VC4Africa’s Mentorship Marketplace.

  • Promustard Solutions Ghana, an Enterprise Software Solutions provider, has launched a new software platform that gives businesses, NGOs, government and research organizations the opportunity to conduct market surveys by using mobile phone.

    A statement issued in Accra on Tuesday by Emmanuel Addae, General Manager of Promustard Solutions Ghana, said just by a mobile handset, businesses organizations of all kinds could now send voice messages in any language to their clients. It said management believed that consumer insights could inspire powerful product ideas, ultimately winning concepts and successful innovations.

    It said organisation could use the innovation to ask their clients the right questions, which would enable them, express their opinions, desires and expectations for redress. “We are able to get deep customer insights from questions we send out,” it added.

    The statement said organisations who may want to feedback concerns from their clients could also use the platform.

    “It will also enable business owners to get immediate firsthand information from their customers,” it said. GNA

  • Sabine is a journalist, Ophelia is a photographer and a videomaker: both are former contributors to OWNI (a Global Voices media partner in France) and are currently shooting a web-documentary entitled ”Les hackers dans la cité arabe (Hackers in Arab Cities) about technology, applications, hacker labs and maker spaces, that are blossoming nowadays in the Maghreb and the Middle East.

    Over the next weeks, Global Voices will re-publish and help translate in three languages (Arabic, French, English) excerpts of their journeys and encounters with young open source developers from Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon and Iraq. We begin this series with an interview with Mahmoud El-Safti, co-founder of a hacker space in Giza, Egypt.

    Mahmoud El-Safty co-founded Giza Hackerspace and Fab Lab Egypt, the first of their kind in Egypt, with both projects located in Giza, in the suburbs of Cairo. This young, smiling engineer speaks with enthusiasm about his faith in hackerspaces/makerspaces.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • MTN's Nigerian subsidiary has restated that it is working to improve the quality of its network performance following repeated complaints from customers.

    All the major mobile networks are under pressure to improve their network quality, although they also cite the difficulties of operating in parts of the country with terrorism or capricious local officials.

    MTN Nigeria's Public Relations and Protocol Manager, Funso Aina, said MTN Nigeria would continue investing in the network and installing new base stations across the country.

    "To date, 4,700 base stations have been modernised and upgraded. We are in the final stages of the project and we expect to have modernized 5 500 base stations at its conclusion," said Aina.

    "However, the infrastructural and environmental challenges which impede consistent quality of service remainand this will continue to impact the full realisation of the benefits of increased roll out," Aina said.

    The company is also suffering from attacks on its base stations in parts of the country by the Boko Haram terrorist group with disrupt services. The network operators recently called on the national government to classify the telecoms networks as essential services so that the police will be more responsive to dealing with attacks.

  • In South Africa, Telkom Business has launched the latest in a range of new mobile plans that aim to help businesses of all sizes improve productivity and reduce communication costs.

    A unique feature of these plans is unlimited on-net calling, meaning colleagues can talk to each other as much as they want without incurring additional cost.

    These plans also include unlimited calls to one landline, unlimited access to a nationwide network of wifi hotspots and unlimited SMS on selected contracts.

    The new plans follow the recent launch of the unlimited all-net tariff by Telkom, another South African first, offering unlimited calls to any network, any time for only R1.199 per month.

    Acting Managing Executive for Mobile Solutions at Telkom Business, Megan Nicholas, says, “Telkom Business understands the need to be connected with colleagues and customers at all times whilst managing communication costs. The new plans have been designed with this in mind – businesses can now talk and message as much as they want without fear of additional cost.”

    “The new plans are in line with Telkom Business’ strategy to disrupt the mobile voice market and bring high quality, unique and affordable communications solutions to businesses,” Nicholas continued.

More

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

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

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

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

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

Issue no 649 5th April 2013

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Top story

  • Safaricom’s recently announced that it would stop selling feature phones in its retail outlets in Kenya to encourage smartphone take-up. This was based on the fact that there is now a significant convergence in terms of price and features between bottom-end smartphones and top-end featurephones. Russell Southwood looks at what this might mean for the transition to and the price leap that still needs to be made.

    Twelve months ago the handset pyramid in most African countries looked as follows: between 1-3% smartphones (5% upwards in the larger markets); 10-20% feature phones; and the balance were basic phones (voice, SMS).

    At that point, based on price, it looked like the feature phone segment of the market would expand most rapidly. Those migrating to smartphones would pass on their handsets to family members or the hired help and the attractions of low cost mobile Internet would lure more people to feature phones. Interfaces like biNu would also make it much easier to present a desktop like phone screen so users could not feel left out of the smartphone revolution.

    Our best guess a year ago was that smartphones would take 10% of the market over a three year period and that feature phones would expand to 30-35% of the market. Safaricom’s recent announcement is about want to get the top end of feature users on to more data-centric smartphones. Corporate Affairs Director Nzioka Waita said: “Safaricom is soon going to stop selling the cheap feature phones in all our retail outlets, as we try to skew the Kenyan market towards smartphones.”

    One of the issues here is that outside of telcos and handset retailers, nobody really knows what a feature phone is. Try asking a friend outside the industry and you will discover that feature phone is largely an unknown term. This has been made more complicated by the fact that the capabilities of low-end smartphones and high-end feature phones have begun to converge. Hence Safaricom’s announcement.

    However, this shift may add a significant number of percentage points on to the smartphone market share but is unlikely to shift things so much in the feature phone segment. The key price point where the current battle is being fought out is around US$100.

    In terms of low-end smartphones, Huawei’s Ideos is now retailing in Kenya for between US$80-100. Intel’s Yolo will go on sale for US$125. And the Chinese handset vendor who’s making all the running at the moment, Tecno, has its N3 pitched at US$92. Nokia’s low-end challenger is the Lumia 610 which is currently selling for US$231 in Kenya. Blackberry….No sign at this price? Apple...Maybe it will soon but it’s never been know to price anything at below premium prices so US$100 seems unlikely.

    The current price for an enabled basic handset in Kenya is US$40-50. So the really market-changing price point for a low-end smartphone would need to be in the US$60-70 range. This would mean taking some hard decisions about what was in the handset or a significant subsidy level from the operators.  But with this price point in the market, low-end smartphones would begin to make real inroads into the feature phone share of the market.

    I’ve made this argument using the Kenyan market, which is one of Africa’s most data savvy and tech-adopting markets. But if you look at the other markets, the shape of the argument doesn’t change, only the speed with which the changes in the handset pyramid happen.

    The key changer will be the impact of access to video on users. By the end of 2012 there will be around a dozen implementations of LTE on the continent. Once users have access to video, it will begin to be a large part of their lives. How well will the low end smartphones and the high-end feature phones able to access respond to that challenge in price terms?

    Finally, Airtel Nigeria is offering its customers What’s App for the equivalent of US63 cents a month. In other words, they are willing to discover what will happen with What’s App take-up. Will they begin to trade what might be larger but more variable revenues SMS revenues for a lower but more predictable monthly sum?

    Recently a PR company approached us about talking to one of their clients about a strategy for operators banding together to resist Over-The-Top (OTT) services. It seemed so 2012 that I had to respond as follows:” A coalition of mobile operators to fight off OTT players is whistling in the dark to keep your spirits up. Get on with the future”.

    Video briefings on:

    Technology and the Kenyan elections:

    Michela Wrong on why technology did not ensure a clean and fair election in Kenya
    Michela Wrong on the verbal violence online during the Kenya elections

    Software package to control telecoms costs in the enterprise:

    Morocco: Anas Alhilal, Medina Telecom on UniBox, a device for controlling telecoms costs

    A strategy to prepare for Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD):
    Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO, Movirtu on its two new products aimed at the BYOD market

    A broadband and video rural deployment model from India:

    Osama Manzar, Digital Empowerment Foundation on delivering broadband in rural India

    Online food delivery model from Turkey:

    Turkey's Gokhan Akan, Yemeksepeti.com on delivering all things food online

    Blog covering WSA Mobile Content 2.0 Awards, 2013 – Winning mobile apps from entertainment to things that do you good, from development to education

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

telecoms

  • A new competition in the high-end smartphone segment will get tougher with the entry of Sony Mobile Communications' new Android smartphone into the Nigeria mobile devices market.

    With the launch of its much-awaited smartphone, Xperia Z, in Lagos last week by top officials from Sony Mobile, the phone manufacturer said Nigeria is: "Our focus market because of the potential the country has and we are ready to boost our market share."

    This means Sony Mobile will have to compete with other brands such as Nokia, Samsung and even Tecno phones which already have sizable market share from low-end and high-end devices segment.

    Speaking on the Sony's new flagship Android smartphone, Marketing Manager Africa, at Sony Mobile, Younes Cherkaoui, said the new Xperia Z has a range of features, including a 5" Full High Definition 1080p Reality Display, Snapdragone S4 Pro quad-core processor, the Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 and a 13 megapixel fast-capture camera. "The Xperia Z is a game-changer in smartphone technology. It has generated a great deal of excitement internationally since its official launch at the CES in Las Vegas.

    “We anticipate the ultimate range of rich user experiences offered on this stellar model from the Xperia range to increase the momentum several times over in key African markets and Nigeria is one of these key markets," he said.

    Xperia Z's razor sharp Reality Display, powered by Mobile Bravia Engine 2, brings Sony's long-standing television expertise to the smartphone and delivers an immersive viewing experience with super brightness and clarity.

    "The smartphone shares capabilities with Sony digital cameras and features Exmor PS for mobile, the world's first image sensor with High Dynamic Range (HDR) video recording for smartphones," added.

    Also speaking on the new product's features, the Director, Business Management and Pricing at Sony, Izzat Kittaneh, explained that the Xperia Z includes Battery Stamina Mode that can improve standby duration by four times or more by automatically shutting down battery-draining apps whenever the screen is off and restoring them when the screen is on.

    He said pre-loaded on Xperia Z, the Walkman, Album and Movies apps provides access to downloaded music, Facebook social integration, movies and TV series.

  • Business Sweden, Ericsson and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs have together launched a two-year ICT venture in Sub-Sahara Africa with the aim of establishing a networked society in Africa.

    One of the core objectives of the venture is to champion the rollout and application of ICT to help connect key aspects of society within African countries, including commerce, learning, health and governance.

    The venture also aims to share knowledge, increase collaboration and trade between key countries and Sweden in order to strengthen the African ICT sector. Workshops and seminars will be hosted in ten African countries, some of the fastest growing markets in the world.

    Stakeholders in the venture, including representatives from Swedish companies, government and vertical players from trade, ICT, energy and infrastructure industries will visit several key regions including Angola, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

    Speaking at the launch held at the Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria, Ambassador Anders Hagelberg said “This partnership reflects the climate in Sweden… I am proud of the long history of support of development in Sub-Saharan Africa, not only looking for nano interests rather a much broader perspective of the development. We believe we have a good image in African countries and in Africa. This partnership creates something through which we can support the development of countries in Africa.”

    Ambassador Hagelberg mentioned that in addition to ICT, the issue of cyber freedom and its role in helping to create an environment for growth has been identified as a priority for the Swedish government.

    Fredrik Jejdling, Head: Ericsson Sub-Saharan Africa, said, “We are committed to our vision of a Networked Society in Africa, where technology enables new methods of learning and collaboration, innovative ways of doing business, and new approaches to old problems which results in a better quality of life. Over the past century, Ericsson has consistently explored ways in which we can deply our technology and solutions to support development on the continent.”

    According to the mobile broadband network service provider ICT drives GDP and the vision is to establish a networked society that connects everything that is worthwhile in society. Mobility and internet via mobility within Sub-Saharan Africa is a high growth area and focus for stakeholders in the venture.

    This initiative will form part of the agenda of a bi-national commission meeting, at deputy president level, between Swedish government representatives and the South African government scheduled for October 2013.

  • A lawsuit regarding the Zambian government’s takeover of Libya’s Lap Green Networks’ majority share in Zamtel is to be heard in England, a high court in Zambia has ruled.

    Lap Green Networks has sued the Zambian government over its repossession of the Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel) in January last year.

    The Libyan company wants the court to force the Zambian government to reverse its decision to repossess Zamtel. Zambia’s current administration has accused the previous government, which ruled between 2008 to 2011, of corruption in a range of deals, including the sale of Zamtel.

    Lap Green Networks bought Zamtel in 2010 for $257 million. The previous Zambian government sold Zamtel on grounds that it had failed to recapitalise the company.

    The Zambian government has said it can only compensate Lap Green Networks for its investment in the company as opposed to giving it back ownership of the company.

    Reports have also emerged that Libyans who worked for the Zamtel in management positions have been deported by the Zambian government.

    Subsequently, Lap Green Network wants the case heard in England because it feels that its witnesses could be intimidated by Zambian government forces.
    This has prompted Zambian high court Judge Albert Wood to rule that the case be heard in England because he considered it to be a neutral ground.

    Human rights activist Brebner Changala has said the ruling follows the deportation of many people with cases that cannot be allowed to come back to Zambia to make their cases.

  • The $3.7 billion offer from a Cyprus-based firm owned by Altimo is at a price of $0.70 per share for all of Orascom Telecom's 5.245 billion shares, the statement said.

    "The authority is currently studying the announced offer," the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority said in a statement.

    Orascom Telecom is the third large firm that is taking steps to leave the Egyptian market this year. In February, Egypt's regulator approved an offer by Qatar National Bank to acquire Cairo's National Societe General Bank.

    Orascom Construction Industries is also finalising a deal with its Dutch-listed parent company OCI NV that may lead it to leave the Egyptian stock exchange.

    "It will affect the index market capital which is already impacted by NSGB exiting and OCI, which might happen anytime now, so we are talking about more than 25 percent of the weight of the index," said Ahmed Adel, telecom analyst at Naeem Brokerage.

    "The biggest players in the Egyptian market are OCI and Orascom Telecom and NSGB, and the idea is given the market conditions and the political situation ... you cannot expect a high flow of new listings in the index right now," he added.

internet

  • Teraco Data Environments and data networks communication provider Seacom have worked double time this past week to re-connect clients affected by a cable cut that occurred some kilometres north of the coast of Egypt in the Mediterranean Sea. Lex van Wyk, Teraco CEO says that the benefits of hosting in a vendor neutral data centre was highlighted this week when the facility was able to swiftly connect the likes of MWEB, Cell C and others following the outage.

    “With SEACOM located close to their clients in the data centre, we were easily able to connect them to a different SEACOM routing environment to give them additional capacity.”

    Teraco is the most connected data centre facility in Africa already offering connectivity to major international service providers, who have network connectivity on  SAT3/SAFE, SEACOM, EASSY and WACS; mobile carriers including Vodacom, MTN and Cell C; local carriers including Telkom, Neotel and Broadband Infraco and fibre infrastructure provider, Dark Fibre Africa and many more.

    Claes Segelberg, CTO from SEACOM says, “The benefits of being in a neutral data centre like Teraco and close to our clients means that no last mile replacement is required in the event of an outage. We’ve also been able to work with partners like Teraco to swiftly identify solutions to give our clients additional capacity in situations like we’ve faced over the past couple of days.”

    To implement this restoration, the SEACOM team had to identify, negotiate and sign contracts to establish multiple paths across the Mediterranean on cable systems that were unaffected by the recent cable cuts.  Additionally, once these routing paths were chosen, cross connects at the Egypt and Marseille terminals had to be manually coupled by teams deployed at both sites.

  • Broadband provider Powertel is in negotiations with the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) as the regulator intends to begin issuing converged licences for service providers.

    A converged licence seeks to amalgamate all forms of communications connectivity including voice and data, which are presently split into different licensing regimes.

    Potraz is mandated with exercising licensing and regulatory functions in respect of postal and telecommunication systems and services in Zimbabwe.

    Powertel board chairman, Francis Chirumuuta said the company’s A class licence expires in 2014 and discussions were ongoing with the authority to renew it.

    “Potraz has announced an intention to issue a converged licence but we have been in discussions and communication with them to understand the direction that they are taking. They are in the process of defining the full context of the licence,” said Chirumuuta.

    He added: “The licence [that] we have allows us to provide converged services. We are anticipating a regulatory regime with [various categories] of licences but our licence will allow us to continue providing converged services as compared to other service providers on the market.”

    Under a class A licence, which costs US$4 million, a licensee is allowed to carry voice as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and may provide internet service provider (ISP) services.

    Chirumuuta said the company was positioning itself to make strides in the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) space in order to support the quadruple play revolution, namely fixed voice, video, data and cellular.

    Powertel, which recorded a phenomenal 700% increase in profits before tax, relies on self-financing schemes and strategic alliances to grow network and innovation, resulting in more than 5 000 km of fibre rolled out in the country.

    Through this fibre, the company already links Zimbabwe through Botswana and Mozambique gateways to sea cables while providing internet back-up system for its customers.

    Chirumuuta said Powertel invested US$8 million in the business during the period ended 2011 and plans to invest US$30 million this year.

    Areas to be covered for connection onto the network this year include Kariba, Karoi, Chegutu, Banket, Nyanga, Triangle and Chiredzi.

  • Google Ghana is committed to assisting the Ghanaian media to make their online presence more relevant and generate additional revenue, Estelle Akofio-Sowah, Country Manager of Google has said.

    “The media and journalists in particular are the main producers of content online and that is where our (Google) engagement is with the media, Mrs Akofio-Sowah said in a chat with executive members of the Network of Communication Reporters, Ghana, (NCR Ghana) in Accra.

    She said the online department or unit within media houses in Ghana was still new that needed all the support from its management because of the potential it had to propel high the organisation’s image and ways of raising extra funds.

    For us at Google, Mrs Akofio-Sowah said, our Sub Saharan goal is to build an internet ecosystem and make it relevant and useful for people. “We want to give Africans the reason to come on the internet everyday and make it part of their life,” she added.

    Google has supported a number of local media houses such as Citi FM, YFM and Multimedia Group (Joy FM) helping them to build their internet infrastructure. This kind support, Mrs Akofio-Sowah noted would be extended to many more media institutions in the coming months and years but that would be based on a particular institution’s arrangement with Google Ghana.

    To enable Google achieve its global mission of making information universally accessible, Mrs Akofio-Sowah said Google focuses on increasing access to the Internet and making it more relevant to users across the world, which also make the media an important partner.

    Google Ghana, according to her, aims to regularly meet with media houses management, especially the online department in order to understand their priorities and needs and how they could use the vast internet-based Google applications to enhance their objectives and make their work more relevant and beneficial to their stakeholders.

    “We want to encourage the media to create more content online and how they can make money through their products,” Mrs Akofio-Sowah repeated.

    She said through Google Ad Sense product, a media house could become an Ad Sense Partner and begin to make some money when an advertisement appeared on their websites. “Once you become an Ad Sense Partner, you can share revenues with Google by allowing it (Google) to advertise on your websites. The more people click to open the ads on the website, the more money you make”, she explained.

    In order to help reduce the cost internet and barriers to access, Mrs Akofio-Sowah said Google had invested a lot in infrastructure in many countries across the globe. “We have invested in the fibre optic cables, satellite and transmission…”

    In addition, she said in Ghana, “We (Google Ghana) have put in Google Cash Service and every time someone uploads video to YouTube he gets cash locally. It also helps operators to save money locally.”

    In the education sector, the Country Director of the largest search engine in the world, said Google had introduced the Google Apps Supporting Programme (ABSP), which is an enterprise version of its gmail to support tertiary institutions to improve on their internet infrastructure in order to benefit fully from Google apps.

    “For the universities we give them grants to help them to build up their internet infrastructure. The University of Ghana and Central University have so far received their grants from Google Ghana.”

    “We have worked with schools and institutions to bring cost of internet down…Google Apps Education edition offers all the tools necessary for schools to control IT costs, while improving productivity,” she noted.

    Google Ghana has targeted 11 universities so far for the support which would be delivered depending on the infrastructure need of particular university.

    Mrs Akofio-Sowah said under Google’s “Africa, Get Your Business Online” project, about 9,000 businesses in Ghana had so far been engaged and all today were making good use of the internet as their businesses can now be felt online. “About 99 per cent of them are Ghanaian businesses,” she said.

    NCR Ghana is a registered body and an affiliate of the Ghana Journalists Association, consists of seasoned journalists drawn from all the major media houses in Ghana (both print and electronic).

    The Network exists to serve as the main interface between the public and the telecoms/ICT industry, through comprehensive and veritable reportage from the perspective of both consumers and industry players.

  • In a deal struck at the fifth annual BRICS summit in Durban – attended by the heads of government of the five member states Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – Moscow-based AKADO Telecom reported signed a contract with South Africa’s Afritel to cooperate on the roll out of broadband networks in South Africa and Mozambique. Agence Ecofin notes that representatives of parent company Renova Media also inked separate deals relating to alternative energy, port construction and mining, while in attendance at the BRICS conference.

    AKADO Telecom is said to be majority owned by US-based firm Moscow CableCom Corp (MOCC), which has itself been wholly owned by Russian private equity investor Renova Media Enterprises since July 2007.

  • Iran’s ostracized leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has upped the ante in relations with Zimbabwe with reports that Tehran is involved in a massive cyber training exercise of hundreds of Zimbabwe’s intelligence and military operatives Nehanda Radio has gathered.

    The move ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections expected in less than three months, has sparked fears of a crackdown against Zanu PF opponents.

    The two nations it would seem are now consolidating their anti-western world foreign policy, amid remarks by Iran’s defence minister, Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi while meeting his counterpart defence minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa last April in Tehran that the Islamic republic:

    “Will help strengthen their military so that they are able to protect their land and culture, especially so they are prepared against the pressures and threats from Western countries.”

    Senior security service officials in a wide-range of briefings to us have confirmed that the cyber training program began in earnest in 2007, and had now reached it’s crescendo.

    “The country’s then national security minister, Didymus Mutasa was instrumental in establishing the cyber training programme, with assistance from various Iranian intelligence organizations under the auspices of that country’s ministry of intelligence and national security,” said an official working with the state security ministry in Harare.

    “Mutasa visited Iran in March 2010 where he was signing a uranium for oil deal, and took the occassion to monitor the programme he had commissioned. Groups of armed forces and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) personnel are undergoing intensive cyber training, which includes technological warfare techniques, counter-intelligence and methods of suppressing popular revolts among others, every six months.”

    Mugabe is determined in his bid of holding onto power, to use rogue cyber assaults to perform complex eavesdropping and hacking techniques against perceived government opponents, including his own ministers and Zanu PF officials suspected of sympathising with the MDC and western diplomats, the officials said.

    Tehran has developed one of the world’s most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the internet, enabling the regime to examine the content of individual online communications at a grand scale, after courting the assistance of some European telecommunications companies in developing its monitoring capabilities.

    Now there is growing panic that: “Harare has already negotiated with Tehran to provide it with similar telecommunications technology it has developed, for internal use at home,” another source said.

    A secretive intelligence arm, the Military Intelligence Unit (MIU) will be charged with the responsibility to monitor and tap into the communications of opposition figures, civil societies and journalists perceived to be “a security threat through their work”.

    Our informants believe the little known MIU is as dreaded as the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), the only difference being that the former is an apparatus operating under the defence ministry’s covert operations, reporting to the defence minister who in turn passes and coordinates intelligence with the army commander and president.

    Through a technique called “deep packet inspection”, Iran’s sophisticated mechanisms of controlling the internet enables government authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it, to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for propaganda purposes, which is a dream come true for Mugabe’s egregious security law, The Interception of Communications Act passed in 2007 to allow government to wiretape all communications of the populace, without their consent or notification.

    The law empowers the chief of defense intelligence, the director-general of the CJO, the commissioner of police and the commissioner general of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) to intercept telephonic, e-mail and cellphone messages.

    This piece of legislation also empowers state security agencies to open mail passing through the post and through licensed courier service providers.

    Apart from the covert cyber training, Iran announced in February 2010 through its ambassador to Zimbabwe, Rasoul Momeni, the construction of an airbase in the country that will be used to train local helicopter pilots, technicians, make possible supplies of new aircrafts, together with assistance in maintenance and repairs.

computing

  • News of the first African-designed smartphone release caused a lot of excitement last year. And so it should have: Africa is, after Asia, the largest mobile phone market in the world and entrepreneurs and inventors see great opportunity. But the phones are actually made in China, writes Judy Owono on her blog Quartz.

    VMK, the company that produces the Elikia smartphone, is not a new player in the tech scene. During the 2011 Africa Web Summit organized in Brazzaville, the capital city of Congo-Brazzaville, CEO Verone Mankou introduced the company’s first product, the Tablet Way-C. Positive reports began circulating in June 2011 about the tablet, which VMK says was designed in Congo-Brazzaville. Back then, I was one of the first to write about the breaking news on Global Voices, a news site that pulls from a community of international bloggers. My initial reaction was enthusiastic, but after a closer look and an interview with Mankou, there seemed too many gray areas on the claim that the tablet was “made in Africa.”

    I became suspicious when I found the exact same tablet as the one produced by VMK from an online electronics retailer and wholesaler, McBub.com, based in Shenzen in southern China. The irony was that its product was cheaper, could be purchased in bulk, and could be branded with a company logo for only a little extra cost. When asked about this, Mankou explained that the difference in price was mainly due to VMK’s planned “after-sales services” and local presence in Congo. I asked Mankou to comment for this piece and he declined.

    Congo-Brazzaville has ambitions to become the region’s tech hub: as the Congolese minister of post and telecommunications, Thierry Moungalla, explained in 2011 to China Daily, he was “overseeing a strategy to encourage the digital economy, in the provision of e-government, e-commerce, e-learning and e-health.” But Congo-Brazaville does not seem to have created an ecosystem for tech innovation, and the latter does not seem to be a priority for the government.

    In the country’s budget for 2013, the Ministry of Scientific Research and Technology Innovation will receive only $10 million for its investments in research and development. That’s 0.16% of the $6 billion budget of the country and most of this money will go to agricultural and medical research. This lack of policy prevents the country from benefiting from employment and economic opportunities that come when a government takes tech innovation seriously. Therein lies the rub, and why we should not be excited, but rather wary of the news.

    There seems to be confusion as to how much research and development cost for the Elikia: Mankou said this part of the innovation process cost $120,000 or $300,000 depending on which interview you read (French). In both cases, it’s far from the $1 billion invested yearly by Apple, a company that VMK wants to emulate.

    According to an article published on Congolese website Kumatoo.com, the government funded up to 50% of the R&D cost (French); African businessmen paid for the rest. An article (French) published on Senegalese website, Seneco Plus, explains that the government of Congo decided to give $700,000 to Mankou after banks refused to invest in the smartphone project. That sum was very helpful, according to Mankou himself.

    These contradictory statements made me interested in the engineers who had taken part in the VMK’s tablet’s development and its subsequent smartphone project in September 2012. Last week, I spoke to Bernard Adanlessossi, a senior software engineer based in Bern, Switzerland, who had worked with Verone Mankou in 2011 on the applications platform for VMK’s first product, tablet Way-C, but no longer  works with VMK. When asked if he thinks it’s possible for engineers in Congo to design the hardware of a complex high-tech device, he answered:

    “There is a lack of competencies in terms of information technologies in Congo. Engineers know how to write code, but don’t know how to embed it on an electronic chip. To be able to do this, they would need have some skills in electronics, which they lack”.

    Moreover, Adanlessossi works at the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual property. We talked about value-add of tech products made in Africa. Design is defined in the January 2005 issue of the Journal of Engineering Education as:

    “A systematic, intelligent process in which designers generate, evaluate, and specify concepts for devices, systems, or processes whose form and function achieve clients’ objectives or users’ needs while satisfying a specified set of constraints”.

    Congo-Brazzaville indeed lacks higher-education institutions in computer science and engineering (French) and equipped facilities for research and development. Of course, VMK could invoke the legend of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak’s garage in Los Altos, California. But Apple’s history might have been different if Los Altos was not in the Santa Clara Valley, one of the most sophisticated technological complexes in 1976, a proximity that allowed access to machine tools.

    I asked VMK how many patents the company had filed with the African Organization of Intellectual property to protect its products, but did not get a response. Doing some research, I found this comment made by Verone Mankou in September 2012, during the launch of his famous smartphone, reported by Congolese newspaper La semaine Africaine (French):

    “To protect the brand, the company decided to apply for a patent in China, where the smartphone Elikia is produced”.

    When asked whether Adanlessossi believes that a “Made in Africa” device that does not have its patents filed with the African intellectual Property Organization could still be considered African, he replied:

    “Saying that you filed patents in China, which nobody can trace, equals to saying that you have no patents”.

    On its website, VMK reaffirms the authenticity of its products:

    “The issue related to authentication is worth being raised. Indeed, too many people confusedly translate the English concept “designed” (which means in French “planned, the way or process in which something was planned and made – or a drawing which showed how a object, machine or building was made”) into the French word “désigner” (something which expresses physical appearance to be given to a product). Both words are totally in terms of meaning and context; however, we assume that the phonetic approach of the two words might easily mislead anybody”.

    That’s exactly the problem: VMK asserts that its devices actually possess the alleged or apparent attribute of being African. But appearances are what these products are about. So far, there has been no material evidence of VMK’s participation in the planning of this product, no clarity on investments needed, no competencies, and no past credentials for product design in Congo.

    The question on the genuine character of VMK’s devices is essential since the volume of smartphone consumers is increasing exponentially on the African continent. Africa’s role in the production chain, and thus its added value to a product, must be real if Africa genuinely wants to stand as a global player in tech innovation.

    Julie Owono runs the Africa Desk for Internet Sans Frontières, a France-based nonprofit that defends press freedom. She is also co-founder of Feowl.com, an open-source platform that produces data on public services in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is a slightly shortened version of the article that appears on her blog Quartz.

  • The project to assemble desktop and laptop computers in Mozambique seems to have collapsed, thanks to a dispute between the Mozambican government and its foreign partner in this venture, the South African company, Sahara Computers.

    The “Dzowo” computer, launched by the Ministry of Science and Technology in 2009 in homage to the founder and first president of Frelimo, Eduardo Mondlane (who used the traditional name Dzowo), was to be assembled in Maputo, and sold at a price more in line with Mozambican pockets than the prices charged for imported computers.

    At the inauguration of the project, it was said that 48 computers a day would be assembled (equivalent to 960 a month), rising to 80 computers a day in 2010.

    Such numbers never became reality. According to a report in Friday’s issue of the independence weekly “Savana”, the project stalled because Sahara demanded protectionist measures for the Dzowo computers.

    Sahara wanted a guaranteed monopoly of supply to state institutions. In other words, no part of the Mozambican state apparatus would be allowed to buy any computer other than a Dzowo.

    Such a deal would violate Mozambican laws on procurement, and so the government rejected the proposal. Sahara eventually pulled out unilaterally from the deal, leaving the project for a computer “made in Mozambique” stranded.

    The company that was to assembly the computers, Sahara ICT, was 75 per cent owned by Sahara and 25 per cent by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

    Ministry official Carlos Tamele told “Savana”, that despite the pullout by Sahara, the Mozambican government is not abandoning the project, and is looking for new partners.

    “The Ministry has been working to identify new partners who would be interested in investing and reactivating the factory”, he said.

    He said that South African, Brazilian, Portuguese and Swedish companies have expressed an interest, and negotiations are under way.

    Tamele said it had been made clear to Sahara Computers right at the start that it could not expect to override Mozambican procurement rules.

    “Several of the computers assembled were distributed to Ministries”, Tamele recalled, “but Sahara wanted to be selected automatically for supplying computers to state bodies, without passing through public tenders”.

    The prices for Dzowo computers were certainly attractive, at 14,000 meticais (465 US dollars at current exchange rates) for a desktop, and 16,000 meticais for a laptop.

  • Owners of commuter taxis operating in Kampala city now have computerised Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) stickers, the KCCA executive director Jennifer Musisi, has announced.

    The stickers, bearing KCCA logo, are meant to curb forgeries that have been discovered during the monthly revenue collection exercise.

    "We are introducing computerised stickers for vehicles after realising that there was a lot of forgery of receipts and drivers claiming that they had paid to KCCA officials. This is going to stop. The stickers will be easily detected by use of special mobile phones," Musisi told stakeholders on Friday.

    During the launch at the KCCA parking yard, she said drivers have been complaining about keeping so many receipts, while others misplace theirs. Others lie that their vehicles were in garages so they could not pay for a particular month.

    The KCCA director of revenue collection, Pheobe Lutaaya Kamya, said the system will help the authority record all information regarding commuter taxis and all those operating in the city will easily be identified.

    "The computerised sticker gives information on the commuter taxi, its owner, registers the stages of operation and will also be able to give feedback to KCCA on which vehicle has been impounded and has not been on the streets," she said.

    She said once the commuter taxi industry has adopted the system, others like the special hire vehicles, lorries and pick-ups will also be included.

  • Botswana Insurance Company (BIC) has said that it has transformed most of its physical documents into electronic format.

    Komissa Burzlaff, BIC strategy development and marketing manager, has said over 89,000 documents have been successfully converted into e-documents.

    Burzlaff adds that the process, which took approximately one year, has transformed the company’s business units into ‘paperless environments’.

    “The organisation is working on creating a green e-environment for all its processes with the client in mind,” Burzlaff said.

    Burzlaff further said the system has introduced a higher level of security by ensuring that client documentation is ‘secure’ and at a ‘minimal risk of loss or damage’.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Known for its focus on security, evriPay will allow Kenyan online merchants to accept Visa and MasterCard payments from anywhere in the world on their websites while benefitting from unique double protection. Every transaction will require 3D Secure authentication and then also be vetted by the industry leading CyberSource Fraud Management system . This service performs over 200 checks on each transaction and is probably the most sophisticated system available. These two processes provide internet merchants with international quality protection. The CyberSource Fraud Management service is also a first for Kenyan eCommerce.

    Increasing the “peace of mind” for merchants and their customers is the fact that evriPay is the only provider of merchant services in Kenya that uses a PCI-DSS Level One certified data centre to protect card data. This all goes to prove that evriPay is very, very serious about security.

    Besides the “best of breed” security provided by the evriPay service, merchants will also be able to accept Visa and MasterCard payments immediately after they have completed the online form. They can literally sell and accept payments internationally within minutes. Merchants will also notice that there are no fees required for signing up. Merchant accounts can be opened immediately at www.evriPay.com

    Currently there are two ecommerce products available, “Express” for use on websites, and “PayMi” (pronounced “pay me”) which is an electronic invoice. “Express” is easy to integrate into a website and has been designed to meet the requirements of new and start-up companies. Although not requiring great skills for implementation, the product meets all international security requirements. “PayMi” is a great product that can be used for ecommerce payments without a website. Primarily designed for businesses and entrepreneurs that need to invoice customers, this product essentially creates a one time website with credit card payment facilities built in. Typical users include freelancers and tour operators.

    For websites using popular international shopping baskets, evriPay has plug-ins for Magento and OScommerce.

    “We fundamentally understand that entrepreneurs, new and small businesses are new at this game. They generally do not have a lot of experience in payments yet. To assist them we have a Support Team that can be contacted by phone, email, Skype and Twitter,” says CEO Barry Coetzee. “With the advent of m-commerce (commerce on mobile devices) and with ecommerce growing at phenomenal rates, evriPay is really positioning itself to be the secure payment solution provider of choice for entrepreneurs, new and small businesses.”

Digital Content

  • Microsoft Corporation, one of the world's leading software companies, last week launched its new initiative, dubbed '4Afrika' in Kigali.

    The goal of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative is to disseminate affordable smart devices built specifically for Africa with an AppFactory aimed at encouraging application development by Africans for Africans.

    The initiative will also run an education platform aimed at developing technical and entrepreneurial skills as a means to improve employability especially among the youth.

    According to the Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, the entry of the Microsoft 4Afrika initiative in Rwanda is a significant boost to the country's vision to become a knowledge-based economy.

    He said the initiative will help bridge the digital divide as well as develop the skills required to create relevant content for the country's economy.

  • The WikiAfrica space was inaugurated today in Doual’art, a centre for contemporary art located in Douala, Cameroon.

    For the first time, a computer room with high-speed internet is available for people in Douala who want to participate in Wikimedia projects. Contributors can find documentation there, and will benefit from the help of employees trained to edit Wikipedia.

    Scarce access to computers and to internet has caused a lack of coverage of African topics on Wikipedia. For example, the French language Wikipedia contains more than 220,000 articles about France, but less than 1500 about Cameroon.

    To fill this gap, the WikiAfrica Cameroon project is welcoming a Wikimedian in residence for three months, with the goal of increasing articles about Cameroon and encouraging contribution by Cameroonian contributors.

    This initiative also has a training component: Twenty contributors will be trained to take pictures with provided smartphones and to upload them to Wikimedia Commons. Five other Cameroonians will follow a more complete curriculum about Wikimedia projects in order to be able to train other people themselves. Regular, shorter workshops will also take place.

    Many institutions are very interested in the WikiAfrica project. Several initiatives are currently being planned, including training workshops, content liberation and the organization of Wiki Loves Monuments.

    WikiAfrica Cameroon is a pilot project initiated by the Lettera 27 Foundation and the Africa Centre, led by Doual’art and supported by the Orange Foundation. After the Cameroonian project, it will be expanded to other African countries.

  • A recent social media call to fight homophobia stirred a lively and heated discussion. In Egypt, it's still taboo to have public debates on sexuality related topics, whether on or offline. Although homosexuality is not mentioned in Egypt's penal code, state authorities have prosecuted gays using laws on prostitution and morality.

    A Facebook event was created by Ramy Youssef in response to the increasing homophobic attacks on social media. According to him, a recent social media trend is “Crushes” pages, used by students to express their feelings towards others, witnessed some expressing their feelings for people of the same sex, resulting in numerous homophobic slurs. Youssef wrote:

    I invite you to an electronic campaign, including comment on homophobic posts in these pages, and tweeting, and posting on social media websites. We should say what do we think frankly about homophobia, say NO, express, oppose, get angry, this is the time for movement against homophobia.

    The hashtag #ضد_رهاب_المثلية (Against homophobia) attracted many supporters and opponents as well.

  • An app to help expectant mothers in Tanzania has reached a subscription of 100,000 users in 15 weeks and accumulated four million text messages.

     The mHealth Tanzania Public Private Partnership is part of “Wazazi Nipendeni” (“Parents Love Me”) campaign that gives information to pregnant mothers as part of a multimedia campaign.

    The campaign provides “informative text messages and appointment reminders in Swahili at no charge for pregnant women and mothers of newborn babies up to 16 weeks of age,” said Sarah Emerson, Country Manager, mHealth Tanzania Partnership, CDC Foundation.

    “This service offers also free information to her supporters - such as husband, friends and family - and information seekers.”

    Expectant mothers can send the word “MTOTO” (“child”) to 15001 to register, after which they are requested to state which week they are in or the age of their new-born baby.

    “This process allows the recipients to receive specific text messages at the time the information is most relevant to them. The service registered an average of 7,000 people per week,” Emerson said.

    Other medical bodies have assisted in the registration of expectant mothers and those who have delivered. This ensures the information is passed to those who need it in a timely fashion.

    Dr Mwendwa E. Mwenesi, Phones for Health (mHealth) country coordinator was confident of the new initiative. “The government actually has recognised the benefits of using technology for healthcare,” she said.

    “The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is giving a priority to mHealth initiatives and projects, because we have seen what it can do. The text message service Wazazi Nipendeni offers maternal health information and care of newborn.”

  • Microsoft World Learning Angola launched on Wednesday at Lusiada University in Luanda a programme dubbed "Microsoft youthspark".

    Speaking to Angop, the director general of Microsoft Angola, Sezar Pinheiro said that the programme is an initiative aimed to build capacity of Angolan youth, with training and tools so that they may have better conditions to enter labour market and also promote training in a group that represents 50 per cent of the active society of Angola, ranged from the age of 15 to 25.

    He said that this figure represents a unique development opportunity in the society and inside information.

    According to him, this is a specific programme to foster training in Angola and Africa.

  • United States Peace Corps volunteers together with Zambian software developers have developed a mobile application that is planned to translate English words and phrases into any of the seven major languages spoken in Zambia. The app titled "Bantu Babel" is available for Android-compatible devices in the Google Play store, the Peace Corps have said.

    The Peace Corps said the app has two parts: a dictionary for translating individual words and a survival phrase book that contains helpful terms for accommodation, shopping, food and emergencies, among other things.

    Tony Tseng, a third year volunteer, said the app, which can be used as a training tool for government and aid workers or as a supplement to formal language training runs offline therefore eliminating the need for an internet connection.

    "Peace Corps has a phenomenal language-training programme, and to be able to share it is both exciting and inspiring, and to be able to realise a solution in collaboration with host-country nationals truly embodies the spirit of Peace Corps," Tseng said.

    Three Peace Corps volunteers are said to have worked with developers from BongoHive, a Lusaka-based technology and innovation hub, to develop the app.

    BongoHive provides a place for Zambia’s local tech community to meet, swap experiences, and attend training, networking and hackathon events.

    "It is my belief that Zambia, like many other developing countries, is in a great position to leapfrog over traditional technology infrastructures. Almost all Zambians own a cellphone, and the market for mobile applications is growing,” Tseng said.

    He added, “To be able to utilise the mobile phones already in use is a new approach to development that has proven to be successful in other countries across Africa."

    The framework for the programme was developed during a two-day "hackathon" in December 2012 in the capital Lusaka, as part of the Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) global hackathon, which included participants in 32 cities and 16 countries.

  • The Google chief executive, Eric Schmidt, has been on a lobbying tour of India, in an attempt to convince the country not to regulate the internet.

    "Now is the moment for India to decide what kind of internet it wants for them [sic]: an open internet that benefits all or a highly regulated one that inhibits innovation," he wrote in a recent op-ed for the Times of India, as if those were the only two choices on offer.

    "As the internet has emerged in many of these different countries, there's quite a few countries that have no laws that pertain to the internet at all and those internets tend to be free and open with almost anything goes," he said at the Big Tent Activate Summit in New Delhi.

    It's no surprise Google wants an unregulated internet. It detests competition regulation and copyright enforcement, no doubt because it affects the corporation's bottom line. But in Africa, a continent that has experienced the effect of infringement of intellectual property on both innovation and the ability of its citizens to make a living, ministers are coming out in force to protect it.

    In sharp contrast to Schmidt's announcement, African policymakers attending a ministerial-level meeting in Tanzania agreed on the importance of developing national intellectual property frameworks in order to foster innovation.

    If an unregulated internet where "almost anything goes" is so liberating, how come those who live with that reality are far from content with the status quo? Perhaps they realise that the reason their continent has been lagging behind is not simply for the lack of wider access to unregulated telecommunications (though a recent United Nations study shows that more people on the planet have access to mobile phones than toilets).

    The African policymakers said they wanted to protect their citizens' IP rights in order to attract investment and "ensure that intellectual property becomes a tool for African economic emancipation".

    "To know that your knowledge is not just for free, you can also add something, and if you discover something, it's for you," Kenya's minister for higher education, science and technology, Margaret Kamar, told Intellectual Property Watch. "If we allow this to be learned when students are very young, it will be easier for them to hold on to it and be able to exploit it."

    It echoes the sentiment of the European Court of Human Rights, which recently ruled that this human right trumped the "human right to pirate" that the Pirate Bay founders claimed in their appeal against their Swedish conviction.

    Rather than feeling liberated by the "sharing" of their work, African artists have voiced their despair at the rampant piracy their "anything goes" internet has brought upon them.

    In an article about Zimbabwean artist Thomas "Mukanya" Mapfumo's concern about piracy, Chris Tongogara wrote: "By committing such nasty internet acts of pirating on our Zimbabwe musicians' products they are feeding on other people's blood. This is in cases where most of our entertainers throw in their blood, sweat and tears to emerge with such scintillating music hoping to make headlines, best sellers and earn decent income.

    "Once we stop supporting our own music then we are doomed. Simultaneously, the more support we give to the bootleggers, the more we have killed the talent among us."

    As Jaron Lanier said at a recent Guardian talk, the open concept creates power concentration. Initially, he said, you feel you get free treats, yet it comes at a cost. But those who own "the biggest computer" (Google) get only rewards. Perhaps that's why Schmidt is on a lobbying tour of emerging markets, such as India. It looks like his manifesto may not be met by unbridled enthusiasm once he makes it to Africa.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia has announced that its subscription based music service is planned to be available to South African consumers for $2.7 a month.

    Nokia Music+ is an additional feature to the company’s already existing free-to-stream service. However, Nokia Music+ is a premium service that is expected to provide increased control over the consumer’s listening experience.

    According to a Nokia statement, its free music service will continue to be available free to Nokia Lumia owners, with no advertisements, registration or subscription.

    Nokia Music+, meanwhile, will be available for people to try free for seven days. Thereafter, users will have to pay more than $2 a month for an update on the service.

    Some of the features that will be offered on the service include:

    - The ability to download unlimited mixes for offline playback
    - Unlimited track skips providing greater opportunities to self-curate streamed music
    - The option to select higher quality audio when connecting via Wi-Fi
    - Lyric streaming for many tracks
    - Listen to Nokia Music via internet-enabled devices including pc or tablet

More

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

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

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

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

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

  • Olusola Teniola has recently stepped down as the COO of Phase3 Telecom in Nigeria to take over the reins from Steve Herridge as CEO of Internet Solutions, Nigeria; a subsidiary of Dimension Data. Olusola was a key leader of this national fibre operator and gained valuable insight and experience in the issues and challenges that stand before Nigeria in improving its communication and ICT infrastructure.  In a brief statement on his appointment, Steve stated, “We are pleased to have secured his services and his experience”.  Olusola currently sits on the Presidential Broadband Strategy and Roadmap committee for Nigeria as a co-member and is the 1st Vice President of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and a Member of the Institute of Directors (MIoD) in London.

    Steve further stated that he is passionate about technology, especially the Internet and has always believed that Internet Solutions could make the Internet, Data Centre and Wide Area Networks a better place for companies to do business, especially in Nigeria. This is our purpose at Internet Solutions, across all our African operations. He further add “I believe we have found a successor that is as passionate about technology and making it work for businesses and who is intensely invested in solving the "connectivity" challenge for most Nigerians, despite the huge amount of submarine bandwidth at our shores in this country”.

    Steve will be returning to a new role within the IS International team, based in Johannesburg overseeing certain parts of the operations in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Mozambique; as Internet Solutions and Dimension Data look to accelerate their vision and strategy for Nigeria under Olusola’s guidance and care.

  • Pivot East 2013 to Establish Enterprises Out of Mobile APP Developers

    Pivot East is now accepting applications for its third edition, happening on the 25th and 26th of June in Kampala, Uganda. Mobile developers can make their applications till the 15th of April. Applications will be accepted in five categories - mobile finance, mobile enterprise, mobile entertainment, mobile society and mobile utilities.

    The event will see 25 developers pitch their application to a roomful of potential investors and both local and international media, which will give the developers exposure. Pivot East was started in 2011 as a pitching competition as there was no platform then to help start ups look for funding.

    Based on past experience, the Pivot East organisers say that those applying for this year's event would be taken through a series of trainings and coachings. This is with the aim of improving the quality of their pitches, especially by helping entrants understand what investors look for. The trainings will also help developers improve the quality of their apps before launch.

    Organisers for the event are led by John Kieti - m:lab East Africa manager, Moses Kemibaro, Ken Mwenda - managing director eMobilis and Erik Hersman - founder iHub Nairobi. Kemibaro will be the event publisher and is the founder of Dotsavvy - a Kenyan based digital marketing agency. He has also served as a regional director of Dealfish - an online trading platform and a sales director at InMobi - a global mobile advertising. Pivot East is organised by M-Lab, which is joint consortium between iHub, eMobilis, University of Nairobi and the World Wide Web foundation.

    Other changes to this year's event is the form of prize money. In the 2012 event, five category winners each took home $ 10,000 (KSh. 875,000 or USh. 26.35 million) in grants. This year's prize will come in the form of a mixture of grants and an investment into the winner. "The focus this year will be beyond prize money and focus on building successful enterprises," says Kemibaro.

    Some of the the qualities expected from entrants include show of a clear competitive edge, a good team composition likely to lead to a sustainable entity and also at the applicant's user base.

    The organisers also say they have identified individuals who have perfected pitching and winning in such events, and may stop them from making entries in Pivot East.

    The organisers are keen on having local investors and sponsors come on board, as most of those investing in local start ups have been foreigners. Local investors instead prefer investing in real estate, trade and industry.

    Pivot East is being held in Kampala in a bid to have more regional participation in the event. The event will also be accepting entries from South Sudan and Ethiopia.

    The organisers hold the event with the aim of stimulating app and startup discovery in the region, keeping mobile high in the agenda of regional governments and improving the quality of startups in the region.

    Notable start ups from Pivot East include M-farm, Niko Hapa and Kopo Kopo. KopoKopo is assisting businesses offer M-Pesa Buy Good functionality and charges a 1.5 percent fee per transaction. Niko Hapa now has 8 employees and 70 clients, with 30 percent of the clients being paying clients. The firm helps businesses interact and communicate with customers besides offering a loyalty program. This includes a partnership with Eat Out, a restaurant reservation service, which will soon be offering loyalty rewards to users through Niko Hapa.

    Start ups can apply on the Pivot East site

    Google’s Code Jam registration is now open as programmers battle for $15,000 and a 2014 automatic bid

    Google has opened up registration for its 2013 Code Jam programming competition. Now in its 10th year, the company is inviting all participants with higher stakes on the line. This year, the top prize has grown to $15,000 and an automatic bid to the 2014 event.

    It’s around this time of the year when Google begins accepting interested people into this event. With Code Jam, professional and student programmers are invited from all over the world to compete against each other as they try and solve “tough algorithmic puzzles”. The company said that more than 35,000 coders competed last year and Poland’s Jakub Pachocki took the title of Code Jam Champion and the $10,000 reward.

    The competition will start on April 12, 2013 with the Code Jam Qualification Round. In the second round, 3,000 contestants will advance and the top 500 will move on to the third round. Only 25 participants will be chosen to move to the Onsite Finals. In total, there will be four online rounds and the world finals will be held in London at Google’s office this August.

    In order to participate, registrants must be 13 years of age or older, not a Google employee or intern, or even an affiliate or subsidiary, not related to anyone at Google, or a resident of Quebec, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Syria, Burma (Myanmar) or anywhere that Code Jam is prohibited by law. Besides these restrictions, anyone can register starting today and all the way until the end of the Qualification Round.

    To apply by next Friday at the latest visit the website here

Issue no 649 5th April 2013

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Top story

  • Safaricom’s recently announced that it would stop selling feature phones in its retail outlets in Kenya to encourage smartphone take-up. This was based on the fact that there is now a significant convergence in terms of price and features between bottom-end smartphones and top-end featurephones. Russell Southwood looks at what this might mean for the transition to and the price leap that still needs to be made.

    Twelve months ago the handset pyramid in most African countries looked as follows: between 1-3% smartphones (5% upwards in the larger markets); 10-20% feature phones; and the balance were basic phones (voice, SMS).

    At that point, based on price, it looked like the feature phone segment of the market would expand most rapidly. Those migrating to smartphones would pass on their handsets to family members or the hired help and the attractions of low cost mobile Internet would lure more people to feature phones. Interfaces like biNu would also make it much easier to present a desktop like phone screen so users could not feel left out of the smartphone revolution.

    Our best guess a year ago was that smartphones would take 10% of the market over a three year period and that feature phones would expand to 30-35% of the market. Safaricom’s recent announcement is about want to get the top end of feature users on to more data-centric smartphones. Corporate Affairs Director Nzioka Waita said: “Safaricom is soon going to stop selling the cheap feature phones in all our retail outlets, as we try to skew the Kenyan market towards smartphones.”

    One of the issues here is that outside of telcos and handset retailers, nobody really knows what a feature phone is. Try asking a friend outside the industry and you will discover that feature phone is largely an unknown term. This has been made more complicated by the fact that the capabilities of low-end smartphones and high-end feature phones have begun to converge. Hence Safaricom’s announcement.

    However, this shift may add a significant number of percentage points on to the smartphone market share but is unlikely to shift things so much in the feature phone segment. The key price point where the current battle is being fought out is around US$100.

    In terms of low-end smartphones, Huawei’s Ideos is now retailing in Kenya for between US$80-100. Intel’s Yolo will go on sale for US$125. And the Chinese handset vendor who’s making all the running at the moment, Tecno, has its N3 pitched at US$92. Nokia’s low-end challenger is the Lumia 610 which is currently selling for US$231 in Kenya. Blackberry….No sign at this price? Apple...Maybe it will soon but it’s never been know to price anything at below premium prices so US$100 seems unlikely.

    The current price for an enabled basic handset in Kenya is US$40-50. So the really market-changing price point for a low-end smartphone would need to be in the US$60-70 range. This would mean taking some hard decisions about what was in the handset or a significant subsidy level from the operators.  But with this price point in the market, low-end smartphones would begin to make real inroads into the feature phone share of the market.

    I’ve made this argument using the Kenyan market, which is one of Africa’s most data savvy and tech-adopting markets. But if you look at the other markets, the shape of the argument doesn’t change, only the speed with which the changes in the handset pyramid happen.

    The key changer will be the impact of access to video on users. By the end of 2012 there will be around a dozen implementations of LTE on the continent. Once users have access to video, it will begin to be a large part of their lives. How well will the low end smartphones and the high-end feature phones able to access respond to that challenge in price terms?

    Finally, Airtel Nigeria is offering its customers What’s App for the equivalent of US63 cents a month. In other words, they are willing to discover what will happen with What’s App take-up. Will they begin to trade what might be larger but more variable revenues SMS revenues for a lower but more predictable monthly sum?

    Recently a PR company approached us about talking to one of their clients about a strategy for operators banding together to resist Over-The-Top (OTT) services. It seemed so 2012 that I had to respond as follows:” A coalition of mobile operators to fight off OTT players is whistling in the dark to keep your spirits up. Get on with the future”.

    Video briefings on:

    Technology and the Kenyan elections:

    Michela Wrong on why technology did not ensure a clean and fair election in Kenya
    Michela Wrong on the verbal violence online during the Kenya elections

    Software package to control telecoms costs in the enterprise:

    Morocco: Anas Alhilal, Medina Telecom on UniBox, a device for controlling telecoms costs

    A strategy to prepare for Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD):
    Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO, Movirtu on its two new products aimed at the BYOD market

    A broadband and video rural deployment model from India:

    Osama Manzar, Digital Empowerment Foundation on delivering broadband in rural India

    Online food delivery model from Turkey:

    Turkey's Gokhan Akan, Yemeksepeti.com on delivering all things food online

    Blog covering WSA Mobile Content 2.0 Awards, 2013 – Winning mobile apps from entertainment to things that do you good, from development to education

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

telecoms

  • A new competition in the high-end smartphone segment will get tougher with the entry of Sony Mobile Communications' new Android smartphone into the Nigeria mobile devices market.

    With the launch of its much-awaited smartphone, Xperia Z, in Lagos last week by top officials from Sony Mobile, the phone manufacturer said Nigeria is: "Our focus market because of the potential the country has and we are ready to boost our market share."

    This means Sony Mobile will have to compete with other brands such as Nokia, Samsung and even Tecno phones which already have sizable market share from low-end and high-end devices segment.

    Speaking on the Sony's new flagship Android smartphone, Marketing Manager Africa, at Sony Mobile, Younes Cherkaoui, said the new Xperia Z has a range of features, including a 5" Full High Definition 1080p Reality Display, Snapdragone S4 Pro quad-core processor, the Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 and a 13 megapixel fast-capture camera. "The Xperia Z is a game-changer in smartphone technology. It has generated a great deal of excitement internationally since its official launch at the CES in Las Vegas.

    “We anticipate the ultimate range of rich user experiences offered on this stellar model from the Xperia range to increase the momentum several times over in key African markets and Nigeria is one of these key markets," he said.

    Xperia Z's razor sharp Reality Display, powered by Mobile Bravia Engine 2, brings Sony's long-standing television expertise to the smartphone and delivers an immersive viewing experience with super brightness and clarity.

    "The smartphone shares capabilities with Sony digital cameras and features Exmor PS for mobile, the world's first image sensor with High Dynamic Range (HDR) video recording for smartphones," added.

    Also speaking on the new product's features, the Director, Business Management and Pricing at Sony, Izzat Kittaneh, explained that the Xperia Z includes Battery Stamina Mode that can improve standby duration by four times or more by automatically shutting down battery-draining apps whenever the screen is off and restoring them when the screen is on.

    He said pre-loaded on Xperia Z, the Walkman, Album and Movies apps provides access to downloaded music, Facebook social integration, movies and TV series.

  • Business Sweden, Ericsson and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs have together launched a two-year ICT venture in Sub-Sahara Africa with the aim of establishing a networked society in Africa.

    One of the core objectives of the venture is to champion the rollout and application of ICT to help connect key aspects of society within African countries, including commerce, learning, health and governance.

    The venture also aims to share knowledge, increase collaboration and trade between key countries and Sweden in order to strengthen the African ICT sector. Workshops and seminars will be hosted in ten African countries, some of the fastest growing markets in the world.

    Stakeholders in the venture, including representatives from Swedish companies, government and vertical players from trade, ICT, energy and infrastructure industries will visit several key regions including Angola, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

    Speaking at the launch held at the Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria, Ambassador Anders Hagelberg said “This partnership reflects the climate in Sweden… I am proud of the long history of support of development in Sub-Saharan Africa, not only looking for nano interests rather a much broader perspective of the development. We believe we have a good image in African countries and in Africa. This partnership creates something through which we can support the development of countries in Africa.”

    Ambassador Hagelberg mentioned that in addition to ICT, the issue of cyber freedom and its role in helping to create an environment for growth has been identified as a priority for the Swedish government.

    Fredrik Jejdling, Head: Ericsson Sub-Saharan Africa, said, “We are committed to our vision of a Networked Society in Africa, where technology enables new methods of learning and collaboration, innovative ways of doing business, and new approaches to old problems which results in a better quality of life. Over the past century, Ericsson has consistently explored ways in which we can deply our technology and solutions to support development on the continent.”

    According to the mobile broadband network service provider ICT drives GDP and the vision is to establish a networked society that connects everything that is worthwhile in society. Mobility and internet via mobility within Sub-Saharan Africa is a high growth area and focus for stakeholders in the venture.

    This initiative will form part of the agenda of a bi-national commission meeting, at deputy president level, between Swedish government representatives and the South African government scheduled for October 2013.

  • A lawsuit regarding the Zambian government’s takeover of Libya’s Lap Green Networks’ majority share in Zamtel is to be heard in England, a high court in Zambia has ruled.

    Lap Green Networks has sued the Zambian government over its repossession of the Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel) in January last year.

    The Libyan company wants the court to force the Zambian government to reverse its decision to repossess Zamtel. Zambia’s current administration has accused the previous government, which ruled between 2008 to 2011, of corruption in a range of deals, including the sale of Zamtel.

    Lap Green Networks bought Zamtel in 2010 for $257 million. The previous Zambian government sold Zamtel on grounds that it had failed to recapitalise the company.

    The Zambian government has said it can only compensate Lap Green Networks for its investment in the company as opposed to giving it back ownership of the company.

    Reports have also emerged that Libyans who worked for the Zamtel in management positions have been deported by the Zambian government.

    Subsequently, Lap Green Network wants the case heard in England because it feels that its witnesses could be intimidated by Zambian government forces.
    This has prompted Zambian high court Judge Albert Wood to rule that the case be heard in England because he considered it to be a neutral ground.

    Human rights activist Brebner Changala has said the ruling follows the deportation of many people with cases that cannot be allowed to come back to Zambia to make their cases.

  • The $3.7 billion offer from a Cyprus-based firm owned by Altimo is at a price of $0.70 per share for all of Orascom Telecom's 5.245 billion shares, the statement said.

    "The authority is currently studying the announced offer," the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority said in a statement.

    Orascom Telecom is the third large firm that is taking steps to leave the Egyptian market this year. In February, Egypt's regulator approved an offer by Qatar National Bank to acquire Cairo's National Societe General Bank.

    Orascom Construction Industries is also finalising a deal with its Dutch-listed parent company OCI NV that may lead it to leave the Egyptian stock exchange.

    "It will affect the index market capital which is already impacted by NSGB exiting and OCI, which might happen anytime now, so we are talking about more than 25 percent of the weight of the index," said Ahmed Adel, telecom analyst at Naeem Brokerage.

    "The biggest players in the Egyptian market are OCI and Orascom Telecom and NSGB, and the idea is given the market conditions and the political situation ... you cannot expect a high flow of new listings in the index right now," he added.

internet

  • Teraco Data Environments and data networks communication provider Seacom have worked double time this past week to re-connect clients affected by a cable cut that occurred some kilometres north of the coast of Egypt in the Mediterranean Sea. Lex van Wyk, Teraco CEO says that the benefits of hosting in a vendor neutral data centre was highlighted this week when the facility was able to swiftly connect the likes of MWEB, Cell C and others following the outage.

    “With SEACOM located close to their clients in the data centre, we were easily able to connect them to a different SEACOM routing environment to give them additional capacity.”

    Teraco is the most connected data centre facility in Africa already offering connectivity to major international service providers, who have network connectivity on  SAT3/SAFE, SEACOM, EASSY and WACS; mobile carriers including Vodacom, MTN and Cell C; local carriers including Telkom, Neotel and Broadband Infraco and fibre infrastructure provider, Dark Fibre Africa and many more.

    Claes Segelberg, CTO from SEACOM says, “The benefits of being in a neutral data centre like Teraco and close to our clients means that no last mile replacement is required in the event of an outage. We’ve also been able to work with partners like Teraco to swiftly identify solutions to give our clients additional capacity in situations like we’ve faced over the past couple of days.”

    To implement this restoration, the SEACOM team had to identify, negotiate and sign contracts to establish multiple paths across the Mediterranean on cable systems that were unaffected by the recent cable cuts.  Additionally, once these routing paths were chosen, cross connects at the Egypt and Marseille terminals had to be manually coupled by teams deployed at both sites.

  • Broadband provider Powertel is in negotiations with the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) as the regulator intends to begin issuing converged licences for service providers.

    A converged licence seeks to amalgamate all forms of communications connectivity including voice and data, which are presently split into different licensing regimes.

    Potraz is mandated with exercising licensing and regulatory functions in respect of postal and telecommunication systems and services in Zimbabwe.

    Powertel board chairman, Francis Chirumuuta said the company’s A class licence expires in 2014 and discussions were ongoing with the authority to renew it.

    “Potraz has announced an intention to issue a converged licence but we have been in discussions and communication with them to understand the direction that they are taking. They are in the process of defining the full context of the licence,” said Chirumuuta.

    He added: “The licence [that] we have allows us to provide converged services. We are anticipating a regulatory regime with [various categories] of licences but our licence will allow us to continue providing converged services as compared to other service providers on the market.”

    Under a class A licence, which costs US$4 million, a licensee is allowed to carry voice as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and may provide internet service provider (ISP) services.

    Chirumuuta said the company was positioning itself to make strides in the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) space in order to support the quadruple play revolution, namely fixed voice, video, data and cellular.

    Powertel, which recorded a phenomenal 700% increase in profits before tax, relies on self-financing schemes and strategic alliances to grow network and innovation, resulting in more than 5 000 km of fibre rolled out in the country.

    Through this fibre, the company already links Zimbabwe through Botswana and Mozambique gateways to sea cables while providing internet back-up system for its customers.

    Chirumuuta said Powertel invested US$8 million in the business during the period ended 2011 and plans to invest US$30 million this year.

    Areas to be covered for connection onto the network this year include Kariba, Karoi, Chegutu, Banket, Nyanga, Triangle and Chiredzi.

  • Google Ghana is committed to assisting the Ghanaian media to make their online presence more relevant and generate additional revenue, Estelle Akofio-Sowah, Country Manager of Google has said.

    “The media and journalists in particular are the main producers of content online and that is where our (Google) engagement is with the media, Mrs Akofio-Sowah said in a chat with executive members of the Network of Communication Reporters, Ghana, (NCR Ghana) in Accra.

    She said the online department or unit within media houses in Ghana was still new that needed all the support from its management because of the potential it had to propel high the organisation’s image and ways of raising extra funds.

    For us at Google, Mrs Akofio-Sowah said, our Sub Saharan goal is to build an internet ecosystem and make it relevant and useful for people. “We want to give Africans the reason to come on the internet everyday and make it part of their life,” she added.

    Google has supported a number of local media houses such as Citi FM, YFM and Multimedia Group (Joy FM) helping them to build their internet infrastructure. This kind support, Mrs Akofio-Sowah noted would be extended to many more media institutions in the coming months and years but that would be based on a particular institution’s arrangement with Google Ghana.

    To enable Google achieve its global mission of making information universally accessible, Mrs Akofio-Sowah said Google focuses on increasing access to the Internet and making it more relevant to users across the world, which also make the media an important partner.

    Google Ghana, according to her, aims to regularly meet with media houses management, especially the online department in order to understand their priorities and needs and how they could use the vast internet-based Google applications to enhance their objectives and make their work more relevant and beneficial to their stakeholders.

    “We want to encourage the media to create more content online and how they can make money through their products,” Mrs Akofio-Sowah repeated.

    She said through Google Ad Sense product, a media house could become an Ad Sense Partner and begin to make some money when an advertisement appeared on their websites. “Once you become an Ad Sense Partner, you can share revenues with Google by allowing it (Google) to advertise on your websites. The more people click to open the ads on the website, the more money you make”, she explained.

    In order to help reduce the cost internet and barriers to access, Mrs Akofio-Sowah said Google had invested a lot in infrastructure in many countries across the globe. “We have invested in the fibre optic cables, satellite and transmission…”

    In addition, she said in Ghana, “We (Google Ghana) have put in Google Cash Service and every time someone uploads video to YouTube he gets cash locally. It also helps operators to save money locally.”

    In the education sector, the Country Director of the largest search engine in the world, said Google had introduced the Google Apps Supporting Programme (ABSP), which is an enterprise version of its gmail to support tertiary institutions to improve on their internet infrastructure in order to benefit fully from Google apps.

    “For the universities we give them grants to help them to build up their internet infrastructure. The University of Ghana and Central University have so far received their grants from Google Ghana.”

    “We have worked with schools and institutions to bring cost of internet down…Google Apps Education edition offers all the tools necessary for schools to control IT costs, while improving productivity,” she noted.

    Google Ghana has targeted 11 universities so far for the support which would be delivered depending on the infrastructure need of particular university.

    Mrs Akofio-Sowah said under Google’s “Africa, Get Your Business Online” project, about 9,000 businesses in Ghana had so far been engaged and all today were making good use of the internet as their businesses can now be felt online. “About 99 per cent of them are Ghanaian businesses,” she said.

    NCR Ghana is a registered body and an affiliate of the Ghana Journalists Association, consists of seasoned journalists drawn from all the major media houses in Ghana (both print and electronic).

    The Network exists to serve as the main interface between the public and the telecoms/ICT industry, through comprehensive and veritable reportage from the perspective of both consumers and industry players.

  • In a deal struck at the fifth annual BRICS summit in Durban – attended by the heads of government of the five member states Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – Moscow-based AKADO Telecom reported signed a contract with South Africa’s Afritel to cooperate on the roll out of broadband networks in South Africa and Mozambique. Agence Ecofin notes that representatives of parent company Renova Media also inked separate deals relating to alternative energy, port construction and mining, while in attendance at the BRICS conference.

    AKADO Telecom is said to be majority owned by US-based firm Moscow CableCom Corp (MOCC), which has itself been wholly owned by Russian private equity investor Renova Media Enterprises since July 2007.

  • Iran’s ostracized leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has upped the ante in relations with Zimbabwe with reports that Tehran is involved in a massive cyber training exercise of hundreds of Zimbabwe’s intelligence and military operatives Nehanda Radio has gathered.

    The move ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections expected in less than three months, has sparked fears of a crackdown against Zanu PF opponents.

    The two nations it would seem are now consolidating their anti-western world foreign policy, amid remarks by Iran’s defence minister, Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi while meeting his counterpart defence minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa last April in Tehran that the Islamic republic:

    “Will help strengthen their military so that they are able to protect their land and culture, especially so they are prepared against the pressures and threats from Western countries.”

    Senior security service officials in a wide-range of briefings to us have confirmed that the cyber training program began in earnest in 2007, and had now reached it’s crescendo.

    “The country’s then national security minister, Didymus Mutasa was instrumental in establishing the cyber training programme, with assistance from various Iranian intelligence organizations under the auspices of that country’s ministry of intelligence and national security,” said an official working with the state security ministry in Harare.

    “Mutasa visited Iran in March 2010 where he was signing a uranium for oil deal, and took the occassion to monitor the programme he had commissioned. Groups of armed forces and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) personnel are undergoing intensive cyber training, which includes technological warfare techniques, counter-intelligence and methods of suppressing popular revolts among others, every six months.”

    Mugabe is determined in his bid of holding onto power, to use rogue cyber assaults to perform complex eavesdropping and hacking techniques against perceived government opponents, including his own ministers and Zanu PF officials suspected of sympathising with the MDC and western diplomats, the officials said.

    Tehran has developed one of the world’s most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the internet, enabling the regime to examine the content of individual online communications at a grand scale, after courting the assistance of some European telecommunications companies in developing its monitoring capabilities.

    Now there is growing panic that: “Harare has already negotiated with Tehran to provide it with similar telecommunications technology it has developed, for internal use at home,” another source said.

    A secretive intelligence arm, the Military Intelligence Unit (MIU) will be charged with the responsibility to monitor and tap into the communications of opposition figures, civil societies and journalists perceived to be “a security threat through their work”.

    Our informants believe the little known MIU is as dreaded as the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), the only difference being that the former is an apparatus operating under the defence ministry’s covert operations, reporting to the defence minister who in turn passes and coordinates intelligence with the army commander and president.

    Through a technique called “deep packet inspection”, Iran’s sophisticated mechanisms of controlling the internet enables government authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it, to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for propaganda purposes, which is a dream come true for Mugabe’s egregious security law, The Interception of Communications Act passed in 2007 to allow government to wiretape all communications of the populace, without their consent or notification.

    The law empowers the chief of defense intelligence, the director-general of the CJO, the commissioner of police and the commissioner general of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) to intercept telephonic, e-mail and cellphone messages.

    This piece of legislation also empowers state security agencies to open mail passing through the post and through licensed courier service providers.

    Apart from the covert cyber training, Iran announced in February 2010 through its ambassador to Zimbabwe, Rasoul Momeni, the construction of an airbase in the country that will be used to train local helicopter pilots, technicians, make possible supplies of new aircrafts, together with assistance in maintenance and repairs.

computing

  • News of the first African-designed smartphone release caused a lot of excitement last year. And so it should have: Africa is, after Asia, the largest mobile phone market in the world and entrepreneurs and inventors see great opportunity. But the phones are actually made in China, writes Judy Owono on her blog Quartz.

    VMK, the company that produces the Elikia smartphone, is not a new player in the tech scene. During the 2011 Africa Web Summit organized in Brazzaville, the capital city of Congo-Brazzaville, CEO Verone Mankou introduced the company’s first product, the Tablet Way-C. Positive reports began circulating in June 2011 about the tablet, which VMK says was designed in Congo-Brazzaville. Back then, I was one of the first to write about the breaking news on Global Voices, a news site that pulls from a community of international bloggers. My initial reaction was enthusiastic, but after a closer look and an interview with Mankou, there seemed too many gray areas on the claim that the tablet was “made in Africa.”

    I became suspicious when I found the exact same tablet as the one produced by VMK from an online electronics retailer and wholesaler, McBub.com, based in Shenzen in southern China. The irony was that its product was cheaper, could be purchased in bulk, and could be branded with a company logo for only a little extra cost. When asked about this, Mankou explained that the difference in price was mainly due to VMK’s planned “after-sales services” and local presence in Congo. I asked Mankou to comment for this piece and he declined.

    Congo-Brazzaville has ambitions to become the region’s tech hub: as the Congolese minister of post and telecommunications, Thierry Moungalla, explained in 2011 to China Daily, he was “overseeing a strategy to encourage the digital economy, in the provision of e-government, e-commerce, e-learning and e-health.” But Congo-Brazaville does not seem to have created an ecosystem for tech innovation, and the latter does not seem to be a priority for the government.

    In the country’s budget for 2013, the Ministry of Scientific Research and Technology Innovation will receive only $10 million for its investments in research and development. That’s 0.16% of the $6 billion budget of the country and most of this money will go to agricultural and medical research. This lack of policy prevents the country from benefiting from employment and economic opportunities that come when a government takes tech innovation seriously. Therein lies the rub, and why we should not be excited, but rather wary of the news.

    There seems to be confusion as to how much research and development cost for the Elikia: Mankou said this part of the innovation process cost $120,000 or $300,000 depending on which interview you read (French). In both cases, it’s far from the $1 billion invested yearly by Apple, a company that VMK wants to emulate.

    According to an article published on Congolese website Kumatoo.com, the government funded up to 50% of the R&D cost (French); African businessmen paid for the rest. An article (French) published on Senegalese website, Seneco Plus, explains that the government of Congo decided to give $700,000 to Mankou after banks refused to invest in the smartphone project. That sum was very helpful, according to Mankou himself.

    These contradictory statements made me interested in the engineers who had taken part in the VMK’s tablet’s development and its subsequent smartphone project in September 2012. Last week, I spoke to Bernard Adanlessossi, a senior software engineer based in Bern, Switzerland, who had worked with Verone Mankou in 2011 on the applications platform for VMK’s first product, tablet Way-C, but no longer  works with VMK. When asked if he thinks it’s possible for engineers in Congo to design the hardware of a complex high-tech device, he answered:

    “There is a lack of competencies in terms of information technologies in Congo. Engineers know how to write code, but don’t know how to embed it on an electronic chip. To be able to do this, they would need have some skills in electronics, which they lack”.

    Moreover, Adanlessossi works at the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual property. We talked about value-add of tech products made in Africa. Design is defined in the January 2005 issue of the Journal of Engineering Education as:

    “A systematic, intelligent process in which designers generate, evaluate, and specify concepts for devices, systems, or processes whose form and function achieve clients’ objectives or users’ needs while satisfying a specified set of constraints”.

    Congo-Brazzaville indeed lacks higher-education institutions in computer science and engineering (French) and equipped facilities for research and development. Of course, VMK could invoke the legend of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak’s garage in Los Altos, California. But Apple’s history might have been different if Los Altos was not in the Santa Clara Valley, one of the most sophisticated technological complexes in 1976, a proximity that allowed access to machine tools.

    I asked VMK how many patents the company had filed with the African Organization of Intellectual property to protect its products, but did not get a response. Doing some research, I found this comment made by Verone Mankou in September 2012, during the launch of his famous smartphone, reported by Congolese newspaper La semaine Africaine (French):

    “To protect the brand, the company decided to apply for a patent in China, where the smartphone Elikia is produced”.

    When asked whether Adanlessossi believes that a “Made in Africa” device that does not have its patents filed with the African intellectual Property Organization could still be considered African, he replied:

    “Saying that you filed patents in China, which nobody can trace, equals to saying that you have no patents”.

    On its website, VMK reaffirms the authenticity of its products:

    “The issue related to authentication is worth being raised. Indeed, too many people confusedly translate the English concept “designed” (which means in French “planned, the way or process in which something was planned and made – or a drawing which showed how a object, machine or building was made”) into the French word “désigner” (something which expresses physical appearance to be given to a product). Both words are totally in terms of meaning and context; however, we assume that the phonetic approach of the two words might easily mislead anybody”.

    That’s exactly the problem: VMK asserts that its devices actually possess the alleged or apparent attribute of being African. But appearances are what these products are about. So far, there has been no material evidence of VMK’s participation in the planning of this product, no clarity on investments needed, no competencies, and no past credentials for product design in Congo.

    The question on the genuine character of VMK’s devices is essential since the volume of smartphone consumers is increasing exponentially on the African continent. Africa’s role in the production chain, and thus its added value to a product, must be real if Africa genuinely wants to stand as a global player in tech innovation.

    Julie Owono runs the Africa Desk for Internet Sans Frontières, a France-based nonprofit that defends press freedom. She is also co-founder of Feowl.com, an open-source platform that produces data on public services in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is a slightly shortened version of the article that appears on her blog Quartz.

  • The project to assemble desktop and laptop computers in Mozambique seems to have collapsed, thanks to a dispute between the Mozambican government and its foreign partner in this venture, the South African company, Sahara Computers.

    The “Dzowo” computer, launched by the Ministry of Science and Technology in 2009 in homage to the founder and first president of Frelimo, Eduardo Mondlane (who used the traditional name Dzowo), was to be assembled in Maputo, and sold at a price more in line with Mozambican pockets than the prices charged for imported computers.

    At the inauguration of the project, it was said that 48 computers a day would be assembled (equivalent to 960 a month), rising to 80 computers a day in 2010.

    Such numbers never became reality. According to a report in Friday’s issue of the independence weekly “Savana”, the project stalled because Sahara demanded protectionist measures for the Dzowo computers.

    Sahara wanted a guaranteed monopoly of supply to state institutions. In other words, no part of the Mozambican state apparatus would be allowed to buy any computer other than a Dzowo.

    Such a deal would violate Mozambican laws on procurement, and so the government rejected the proposal. Sahara eventually pulled out unilaterally from the deal, leaving the project for a computer “made in Mozambique” stranded.

    The company that was to assembly the computers, Sahara ICT, was 75 per cent owned by Sahara and 25 per cent by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

    Ministry official Carlos Tamele told “Savana”, that despite the pullout by Sahara, the Mozambican government is not abandoning the project, and is looking for new partners.

    “The Ministry has been working to identify new partners who would be interested in investing and reactivating the factory”, he said.

    He said that South African, Brazilian, Portuguese and Swedish companies have expressed an interest, and negotiations are under way.

    Tamele said it had been made clear to Sahara Computers right at the start that it could not expect to override Mozambican procurement rules.

    “Several of the computers assembled were distributed to Ministries”, Tamele recalled, “but Sahara wanted to be selected automatically for supplying computers to state bodies, without passing through public tenders”.

    The prices for Dzowo computers were certainly attractive, at 14,000 meticais (465 US dollars at current exchange rates) for a desktop, and 16,000 meticais for a laptop.

  • Owners of commuter taxis operating in Kampala city now have computerised Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) stickers, the KCCA executive director Jennifer Musisi, has announced.

    The stickers, bearing KCCA logo, are meant to curb forgeries that have been discovered during the monthly revenue collection exercise.

    "We are introducing computerised stickers for vehicles after realising that there was a lot of forgery of receipts and drivers claiming that they had paid to KCCA officials. This is going to stop. The stickers will be easily detected by use of special mobile phones," Musisi told stakeholders on Friday.

    During the launch at the KCCA parking yard, she said drivers have been complaining about keeping so many receipts, while others misplace theirs. Others lie that their vehicles were in garages so they could not pay for a particular month.

    The KCCA director of revenue collection, Pheobe Lutaaya Kamya, said the system will help the authority record all information regarding commuter taxis and all those operating in the city will easily be identified.

    "The computerised sticker gives information on the commuter taxi, its owner, registers the stages of operation and will also be able to give feedback to KCCA on which vehicle has been impounded and has not been on the streets," she said.

    She said once the commuter taxi industry has adopted the system, others like the special hire vehicles, lorries and pick-ups will also be included.

  • Botswana Insurance Company (BIC) has said that it has transformed most of its physical documents into electronic format.

    Komissa Burzlaff, BIC strategy development and marketing manager, has said over 89,000 documents have been successfully converted into e-documents.

    Burzlaff adds that the process, which took approximately one year, has transformed the company’s business units into ‘paperless environments’.

    “The organisation is working on creating a green e-environment for all its processes with the client in mind,” Burzlaff said.

    Burzlaff further said the system has introduced a higher level of security by ensuring that client documentation is ‘secure’ and at a ‘minimal risk of loss or damage’.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Known for its focus on security, evriPay will allow Kenyan online merchants to accept Visa and MasterCard payments from anywhere in the world on their websites while benefitting from unique double protection. Every transaction will require 3D Secure authentication and then also be vetted by the industry leading CyberSource Fraud Management system . This service performs over 200 checks on each transaction and is probably the most sophisticated system available. These two processes provide internet merchants with international quality protection. The CyberSource Fraud Management service is also a first for Kenyan eCommerce.

    Increasing the “peace of mind” for merchants and their customers is the fact that evriPay is the only provider of merchant services in Kenya that uses a PCI-DSS Level One certified data centre to protect card data. This all goes to prove that evriPay is very, very serious about security.

    Besides the “best of breed” security provided by the evriPay service, merchants will also be able to accept Visa and MasterCard payments immediately after they have completed the online form. They can literally sell and accept payments internationally within minutes. Merchants will also notice that there are no fees required for signing up. Merchant accounts can be opened immediately at www.evriPay.com

    Currently there are two ecommerce products available, “Express” for use on websites, and “PayMi” (pronounced “pay me”) which is an electronic invoice. “Express” is easy to integrate into a website and has been designed to meet the requirements of new and start-up companies. Although not requiring great skills for implementation, the product meets all international security requirements. “PayMi” is a great product that can be used for ecommerce payments without a website. Primarily designed for businesses and entrepreneurs that need to invoice customers, this product essentially creates a one time website with credit card payment facilities built in. Typical users include freelancers and tour operators.

    For websites using popular international shopping baskets, evriPay has plug-ins for Magento and OScommerce.

    “We fundamentally understand that entrepreneurs, new and small businesses are new at this game. They generally do not have a lot of experience in payments yet. To assist them we have a Support Team that can be contacted by phone, email, Skype and Twitter,” says CEO Barry Coetzee. “With the advent of m-commerce (commerce on mobile devices) and with ecommerce growing at phenomenal rates, evriPay is really positioning itself to be the secure payment solution provider of choice for entrepreneurs, new and small businesses.”

Digital Content

  • Microsoft Corporation, one of the world's leading software companies, last week launched its new initiative, dubbed '4Afrika' in Kigali.

    The goal of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative is to disseminate affordable smart devices built specifically for Africa with an AppFactory aimed at encouraging application development by Africans for Africans.

    The initiative will also run an education platform aimed at developing technical and entrepreneurial skills as a means to improve employability especially among the youth.

    According to the Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, the entry of the Microsoft 4Afrika initiative in Rwanda is a significant boost to the country's vision to become a knowledge-based economy.

    He said the initiative will help bridge the digital divide as well as develop the skills required to create relevant content for the country's economy.

  • The WikiAfrica space was inaugurated today in Doual’art, a centre for contemporary art located in Douala, Cameroon.

    For the first time, a computer room with high-speed internet is available for people in Douala who want to participate in Wikimedia projects. Contributors can find documentation there, and will benefit from the help of employees trained to edit Wikipedia.

    Scarce access to computers and to internet has caused a lack of coverage of African topics on Wikipedia. For example, the French language Wikipedia contains more than 220,000 articles about France, but less than 1500 about Cameroon.

    To fill this gap, the WikiAfrica Cameroon project is welcoming a Wikimedian in residence for three months, with the goal of increasing articles about Cameroon and encouraging contribution by Cameroonian contributors.

    This initiative also has a training component: Twenty contributors will be trained to take pictures with provided smartphones and to upload them to Wikimedia Commons. Five other Cameroonians will follow a more complete curriculum about Wikimedia projects in order to be able to train other people themselves. Regular, shorter workshops will also take place.

    Many institutions are very interested in the WikiAfrica project. Several initiatives are currently being planned, including training workshops, content liberation and the organization of Wiki Loves Monuments.

    WikiAfrica Cameroon is a pilot project initiated by the Lettera 27 Foundation and the Africa Centre, led by Doual’art and supported by the Orange Foundation. After the Cameroonian project, it will be expanded to other African countries.

  • A recent social media call to fight homophobia stirred a lively and heated discussion. In Egypt, it's still taboo to have public debates on sexuality related topics, whether on or offline. Although homosexuality is not mentioned in Egypt's penal code, state authorities have prosecuted gays using laws on prostitution and morality.

    A Facebook event was created by Ramy Youssef in response to the increasing homophobic attacks on social media. According to him, a recent social media trend is “Crushes” pages, used by students to express their feelings towards others, witnessed some expressing their feelings for people of the same sex, resulting in numerous homophobic slurs. Youssef wrote:

    I invite you to an electronic campaign, including comment on homophobic posts in these pages, and tweeting, and posting on social media websites. We should say what do we think frankly about homophobia, say NO, express, oppose, get angry, this is the time for movement against homophobia.

    The hashtag #ضد_رهاب_المثلية (Against homophobia) attracted many supporters and opponents as well.

  • An app to help expectant mothers in Tanzania has reached a subscription of 100,000 users in 15 weeks and accumulated four million text messages.

     The mHealth Tanzania Public Private Partnership is part of “Wazazi Nipendeni” (“Parents Love Me”) campaign that gives information to pregnant mothers as part of a multimedia campaign.

    The campaign provides “informative text messages and appointment reminders in Swahili at no charge for pregnant women and mothers of newborn babies up to 16 weeks of age,” said Sarah Emerson, Country Manager, mHealth Tanzania Partnership, CDC Foundation.

    “This service offers also free information to her supporters - such as husband, friends and family - and information seekers.”

    Expectant mothers can send the word “MTOTO” (“child”) to 15001 to register, after which they are requested to state which week they are in or the age of their new-born baby.

    “This process allows the recipients to receive specific text messages at the time the information is most relevant to them. The service registered an average of 7,000 people per week,” Emerson said.

    Other medical bodies have assisted in the registration of expectant mothers and those who have delivered. This ensures the information is passed to those who need it in a timely fashion.

    Dr Mwendwa E. Mwenesi, Phones for Health (mHealth) country coordinator was confident of the new initiative. “The government actually has recognised the benefits of using technology for healthcare,” she said.

    “The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is giving a priority to mHealth initiatives and projects, because we have seen what it can do. The text message service Wazazi Nipendeni offers maternal health information and care of newborn.”

  • Microsoft World Learning Angola launched on Wednesday at Lusiada University in Luanda a programme dubbed "Microsoft youthspark".

    Speaking to Angop, the director general of Microsoft Angola, Sezar Pinheiro said that the programme is an initiative aimed to build capacity of Angolan youth, with training and tools so that they may have better conditions to enter labour market and also promote training in a group that represents 50 per cent of the active society of Angola, ranged from the age of 15 to 25.

    He said that this figure represents a unique development opportunity in the society and inside information.

    According to him, this is a specific programme to foster training in Angola and Africa.

  • United States Peace Corps volunteers together with Zambian software developers have developed a mobile application that is planned to translate English words and phrases into any of the seven major languages spoken in Zambia. The app titled "Bantu Babel" is available for Android-compatible devices in the Google Play store, the Peace Corps have said.

    The Peace Corps said the app has two parts: a dictionary for translating individual words and a survival phrase book that contains helpful terms for accommodation, shopping, food and emergencies, among other things.

    Tony Tseng, a third year volunteer, said the app, which can be used as a training tool for government and aid workers or as a supplement to formal language training runs offline therefore eliminating the need for an internet connection.

    "Peace Corps has a phenomenal language-training programme, and to be able to share it is both exciting and inspiring, and to be able to realise a solution in collaboration with host-country nationals truly embodies the spirit of Peace Corps," Tseng said.

    Three Peace Corps volunteers are said to have worked with developers from BongoHive, a Lusaka-based technology and innovation hub, to develop the app.

    BongoHive provides a place for Zambia’s local tech community to meet, swap experiences, and attend training, networking and hackathon events.

    "It is my belief that Zambia, like many other developing countries, is in a great position to leapfrog over traditional technology infrastructures. Almost all Zambians own a cellphone, and the market for mobile applications is growing,” Tseng said.

    He added, “To be able to utilise the mobile phones already in use is a new approach to development that has proven to be successful in other countries across Africa."

    The framework for the programme was developed during a two-day "hackathon" in December 2012 in the capital Lusaka, as part of the Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) global hackathon, which included participants in 32 cities and 16 countries.

  • The Google chief executive, Eric Schmidt, has been on a lobbying tour of India, in an attempt to convince the country not to regulate the internet.

    "Now is the moment for India to decide what kind of internet it wants for them [sic]: an open internet that benefits all or a highly regulated one that inhibits innovation," he wrote in a recent op-ed for the Times of India, as if those were the only two choices on offer.

    "As the internet has emerged in many of these different countries, there's quite a few countries that have no laws that pertain to the internet at all and those internets tend to be free and open with almost anything goes," he said at the Big Tent Activate Summit in New Delhi.

    It's no surprise Google wants an unregulated internet. It detests competition regulation and copyright enforcement, no doubt because it affects the corporation's bottom line. But in Africa, a continent that has experienced the effect of infringement of intellectual property on both innovation and the ability of its citizens to make a living, ministers are coming out in force to protect it.

    In sharp contrast to Schmidt's announcement, African policymakers attending a ministerial-level meeting in Tanzania agreed on the importance of developing national intellectual property frameworks in order to foster innovation.

    If an unregulated internet where "almost anything goes" is so liberating, how come those who live with that reality are far from content with the status quo? Perhaps they realise that the reason their continent has been lagging behind is not simply for the lack of wider access to unregulated telecommunications (though a recent United Nations study shows that more people on the planet have access to mobile phones than toilets).

    The African policymakers said they wanted to protect their citizens' IP rights in order to attract investment and "ensure that intellectual property becomes a tool for African economic emancipation".

    "To know that your knowledge is not just for free, you can also add something, and if you discover something, it's for you," Kenya's minister for higher education, science and technology, Margaret Kamar, told Intellectual Property Watch. "If we allow this to be learned when students are very young, it will be easier for them to hold on to it and be able to exploit it."

    It echoes the sentiment of the European Court of Human Rights, which recently ruled that this human right trumped the "human right to pirate" that the Pirate Bay founders claimed in their appeal against their Swedish conviction.

    Rather than feeling liberated by the "sharing" of their work, African artists have voiced their despair at the rampant piracy their "anything goes" internet has brought upon them.

    In an article about Zimbabwean artist Thomas "Mukanya" Mapfumo's concern about piracy, Chris Tongogara wrote: "By committing such nasty internet acts of pirating on our Zimbabwe musicians' products they are feeding on other people's blood. This is in cases where most of our entertainers throw in their blood, sweat and tears to emerge with such scintillating music hoping to make headlines, best sellers and earn decent income.

    "Once we stop supporting our own music then we are doomed. Simultaneously, the more support we give to the bootleggers, the more we have killed the talent among us."

    As Jaron Lanier said at a recent Guardian talk, the open concept creates power concentration. Initially, he said, you feel you get free treats, yet it comes at a cost. But those who own "the biggest computer" (Google) get only rewards. Perhaps that's why Schmidt is on a lobbying tour of emerging markets, such as India. It looks like his manifesto may not be met by unbridled enthusiasm once he makes it to Africa.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia has announced that its subscription based music service is planned to be available to South African consumers for $2.7 a month.

    Nokia Music+ is an additional feature to the company’s already existing free-to-stream service. However, Nokia Music+ is a premium service that is expected to provide increased control over the consumer’s listening experience.

    According to a Nokia statement, its free music service will continue to be available free to Nokia Lumia owners, with no advertisements, registration or subscription.

    Nokia Music+, meanwhile, will be available for people to try free for seven days. Thereafter, users will have to pay more than $2 a month for an update on the service.

    Some of the features that will be offered on the service include:

    - The ability to download unlimited mixes for offline playback
    - Unlimited track skips providing greater opportunities to self-curate streamed music
    - The option to select higher quality audio when connecting via Wi-Fi
    - Lyric streaming for many tracks
    - Listen to Nokia Music via internet-enabled devices including pc or tablet

More

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

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

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

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

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

  • Olusola Teniola has recently stepped down as the COO of Phase3 Telecom in Nigeria to take over the reins from Steve Herridge as CEO of Internet Solutions, Nigeria; a subsidiary of Dimension Data. Olusola was a key leader of this national fibre operator and gained valuable insight and experience in the issues and challenges that stand before Nigeria in improving its communication and ICT infrastructure.  In a brief statement on his appointment, Steve stated, “We are pleased to have secured his services and his experience”.  Olusola currently sits on the Presidential Broadband Strategy and Roadmap committee for Nigeria as a co-member and is the 1st Vice President of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and a Member of the Institute of Directors (MIoD) in London.

    Steve further stated that he is passionate about technology, especially the Internet and has always believed that Internet Solutions could make the Internet, Data Centre and Wide Area Networks a better place for companies to do business, especially in Nigeria. This is our purpose at Internet Solutions, across all our African operations. He further add “I believe we have found a successor that is as passionate about technology and making it work for businesses and who is intensely invested in solving the "connectivity" challenge for most Nigerians, despite the huge amount of submarine bandwidth at our shores in this country”.

    Steve will be returning to a new role within the IS International team, based in Johannesburg overseeing certain parts of the operations in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Mozambique; as Internet Solutions and Dimension Data look to accelerate their vision and strategy for Nigeria under Olusola’s guidance and care.

  • Pivot East 2013 to Establish Enterprises Out of Mobile APP Developers

    Pivot East is now accepting applications for its third edition, happening on the 25th and 26th of June in Kampala, Uganda. Mobile developers can make their applications till the 15th of April. Applications will be accepted in five categories - mobile finance, mobile enterprise, mobile entertainment, mobile society and mobile utilities.

    The event will see 25 developers pitch their application to a roomful of potential investors and both local and international media, which will give the developers exposure. Pivot East was started in 2011 as a pitching competition as there was no platform then to help start ups look for funding.

    Based on past experience, the Pivot East organisers say that those applying for this year's event would be taken through a series of trainings and coachings. This is with the aim of improving the quality of their pitches, especially by helping entrants understand what investors look for. The trainings will also help developers improve the quality of their apps before launch.

    Organisers for the event are led by John Kieti - m:lab East Africa manager, Moses Kemibaro, Ken Mwenda - managing director eMobilis and Erik Hersman - founder iHub Nairobi. Kemibaro will be the event publisher and is the founder of Dotsavvy - a Kenyan based digital marketing agency. He has also served as a regional director of Dealfish - an online trading platform and a sales director at InMobi - a global mobile advertising. Pivot East is organised by M-Lab, which is joint consortium between iHub, eMobilis, University of Nairobi and the World Wide Web foundation.

    Other changes to this year's event is the form of prize money. In the 2012 event, five category winners each took home $ 10,000 (KSh. 875,000 or USh. 26.35 million) in grants. This year's prize will come in the form of a mixture of grants and an investment into the winner. "The focus this year will be beyond prize money and focus on building successful enterprises," says Kemibaro.

    Some of the the qualities expected from entrants include show of a clear competitive edge, a good team composition likely to lead to a sustainable entity and also at the applicant's user base.

    The organisers also say they have identified individuals who have perfected pitching and winning in such events, and may stop them from making entries in Pivot East.

    The organisers are keen on having local investors and sponsors come on board, as most of those investing in local start ups have been foreigners. Local investors instead prefer investing in real estate, trade and industry.

    Pivot East is being held in Kampala in a bid to have more regional participation in the event. The event will also be accepting entries from South Sudan and Ethiopia.

    The organisers hold the event with the aim of stimulating app and startup discovery in the region, keeping mobile high in the agenda of regional governments and improving the quality of startups in the region.

    Notable start ups from Pivot East include M-farm, Niko Hapa and Kopo Kopo. KopoKopo is assisting businesses offer M-Pesa Buy Good functionality and charges a 1.5 percent fee per transaction. Niko Hapa now has 8 employees and 70 clients, with 30 percent of the clients being paying clients. The firm helps businesses interact and communicate with customers besides offering a loyalty program. This includes a partnership with Eat Out, a restaurant reservation service, which will soon be offering loyalty rewards to users through Niko Hapa.

    Start ups can apply on the Pivot East site

    Google’s Code Jam registration is now open as programmers battle for $15,000 and a 2014 automatic bid

    Google has opened up registration for its 2013 Code Jam programming competition. Now in its 10th year, the company is inviting all participants with higher stakes on the line. This year, the top prize has grown to $15,000 and an automatic bid to the 2014 event.

    It’s around this time of the year when Google begins accepting interested people into this event. With Code Jam, professional and student programmers are invited from all over the world to compete against each other as they try and solve “tough algorithmic puzzles”. The company said that more than 35,000 coders competed last year and Poland’s Jakub Pachocki took the title of Code Jam Champion and the $10,000 reward.

    The competition will start on April 12, 2013 with the Code Jam Qualification Round. In the second round, 3,000 contestants will advance and the top 500 will move on to the third round. Only 25 participants will be chosen to move to the Onsite Finals. In total, there will be four online rounds and the world finals will be held in London at Google’s office this August.

    In order to participate, registrants must be 13 years of age or older, not a Google employee or intern, or even an affiliate or subsidiary, not related to anyone at Google, or a resident of Quebec, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Syria, Burma (Myanmar) or anywhere that Code Jam is prohibited by law. Besides these restrictions, anyone can register starting today and all the way until the end of the Qualification Round.

    To apply by next Friday at the latest visit the website here

Issue no 649 5th April 2013

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Top story

  • Safaricom’s recently announced that it would stop selling feature phones in its retail outlets in Kenya to encourage smartphone take-up. This was based on the fact that there is now a significant convergence in terms of price and features between bottom-end smartphones and top-end featurephones. Russell Southwood looks at what this might mean for the transition to and the price leap that still needs to be made.

    Twelve months ago the handset pyramid in most African countries looked as follows: between 1-3% smartphones (5% upwards in the larger markets); 10-20% feature phones; and the balance were basic phones (voice, SMS).

    At that point, based on price, it looked like the feature phone segment of the market would expand most rapidly. Those migrating to smartphones would pass on their handsets to family members or the hired help and the attractions of low cost mobile Internet would lure more people to feature phones. Interfaces like biNu would also make it much easier to present a desktop like phone screen so users could not feel left out of the smartphone revolution.

    Our best guess a year ago was that smartphones would take 10% of the market over a three year period and that feature phones would expand to 30-35% of the market. Safaricom’s recent announcement is about want to get the top end of feature users on to more data-centric smartphones. Corporate Affairs Director Nzioka Waita said: “Safaricom is soon going to stop selling the cheap feature phones in all our retail outlets, as we try to skew the Kenyan market towards smartphones.”

    One of the issues here is that outside of telcos and handset retailers, nobody really knows what a feature phone is. Try asking a friend outside the industry and you will discover that feature phone is largely an unknown term. This has been made more complicated by the fact that the capabilities of low-end smartphones and high-end feature phones have begun to converge. Hence Safaricom’s announcement.

    However, this shift may add a significant number of percentage points on to the smartphone market share but is unlikely to shift things so much in the feature phone segment. The key price point where the current battle is being fought out is around US$100.

    In terms of low-end smartphones, Huawei’s Ideos is now retailing in Kenya for between US$80-100. Intel’s Yolo will go on sale for US$125. And the Chinese handset vendor who’s making all the running at the moment, Tecno, has its N3 pitched at US$92. Nokia’s low-end challenger is the Lumia 610 which is currently selling for US$231 in Kenya. Blackberry….No sign at this price? Apple...Maybe it will soon but it’s never been know to price anything at below premium prices so US$100 seems unlikely.

    The current price for an enabled basic handset in Kenya is US$40-50. So the really market-changing price point for a low-end smartphone would need to be in the US$60-70 range. This would mean taking some hard decisions about what was in the handset or a significant subsidy level from the operators.  But with this price point in the market, low-end smartphones would begin to make real inroads into the feature phone share of the market.

    I’ve made this argument using the Kenyan market, which is one of Africa’s most data savvy and tech-adopting markets. But if you look at the other markets, the shape of the argument doesn’t change, only the speed with which the changes in the handset pyramid happen.

    The key changer will be the impact of access to video on users. By the end of 2012 there will be around a dozen implementations of LTE on the continent. Once users have access to video, it will begin to be a large part of their lives. How well will the low end smartphones and the high-end feature phones able to access respond to that challenge in price terms?

    Finally, Airtel Nigeria is offering its customers What’s App for the equivalent of US63 cents a month. In other words, they are willing to discover what will happen with What’s App take-up. Will they begin to trade what might be larger but more variable revenues SMS revenues for a lower but more predictable monthly sum?

    Recently a PR company approached us about talking to one of their clients about a strategy for operators banding together to resist Over-The-Top (OTT) services. It seemed so 2012 that I had to respond as follows:” A coalition of mobile operators to fight off OTT players is whistling in the dark to keep your spirits up. Get on with the future”.

    Video briefings on:

    Technology and the Kenyan elections:

    Michela Wrong on why technology did not ensure a clean and fair election in Kenya
    Michela Wrong on the verbal violence online during the Kenya elections

    Software package to control telecoms costs in the enterprise:

    Morocco: Anas Alhilal, Medina Telecom on UniBox, a device for controlling telecoms costs

    A strategy to prepare for Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD):
    Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO, Movirtu on its two new products aimed at the BYOD market

    A broadband and video rural deployment model from India:

    Osama Manzar, Digital Empowerment Foundation on delivering broadband in rural India

    Online food delivery model from Turkey:

    Turkey's Gokhan Akan, Yemeksepeti.com on delivering all things food online

    Blog covering WSA Mobile Content 2.0 Awards, 2013 – Winning mobile apps from entertainment to things that do you good, from development to education

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

telecoms

  • A new competition in the high-end smartphone segment will get tougher with the entry of Sony Mobile Communications' new Android smartphone into the Nigeria mobile devices market.

    With the launch of its much-awaited smartphone, Xperia Z, in Lagos last week by top officials from Sony Mobile, the phone manufacturer said Nigeria is: "Our focus market because of the potential the country has and we are ready to boost our market share."

    This means Sony Mobile will have to compete with other brands such as Nokia, Samsung and even Tecno phones which already have sizable market share from low-end and high-end devices segment.

    Speaking on the Sony's new flagship Android smartphone, Marketing Manager Africa, at Sony Mobile, Younes Cherkaoui, said the new Xperia Z has a range of features, including a 5" Full High Definition 1080p Reality Display, Snapdragone S4 Pro quad-core processor, the Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 and a 13 megapixel fast-capture camera. "The Xperia Z is a game-changer in smartphone technology. It has generated a great deal of excitement internationally since its official launch at the CES in Las Vegas.

    “We anticipate the ultimate range of rich user experiences offered on this stellar model from the Xperia range to increase the momentum several times over in key African markets and Nigeria is one of these key markets," he said.

    Xperia Z's razor sharp Reality Display, powered by Mobile Bravia Engine 2, brings Sony's long-standing television expertise to the smartphone and delivers an immersive viewing experience with super brightness and clarity.

    "The smartphone shares capabilities with Sony digital cameras and features Exmor PS for mobile, the world's first image sensor with High Dynamic Range (HDR) video recording for smartphones," added.

    Also speaking on the new product's features, the Director, Business Management and Pricing at Sony, Izzat Kittaneh, explained that the Xperia Z includes Battery Stamina Mode that can improve standby duration by four times or more by automatically shutting down battery-draining apps whenever the screen is off and restoring them when the screen is on.

    He said pre-loaded on Xperia Z, the Walkman, Album and Movies apps provides access to downloaded music, Facebook social integration, movies and TV series.

  • Business Sweden, Ericsson and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs have together launched a two-year ICT venture in Sub-Sahara Africa with the aim of establishing a networked society in Africa.

    One of the core objectives of the venture is to champion the rollout and application of ICT to help connect key aspects of society within African countries, including commerce, learning, health and governance.

    The venture also aims to share knowledge, increase collaboration and trade between key countries and Sweden in order to strengthen the African ICT sector. Workshops and seminars will be hosted in ten African countries, some of the fastest growing markets in the world.

    Stakeholders in the venture, including representatives from Swedish companies, government and vertical players from trade, ICT, energy and infrastructure industries will visit several key regions including Angola, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

    Speaking at the launch held at the Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria, Ambassador Anders Hagelberg said “This partnership reflects the climate in Sweden… I am proud of the long history of support of development in Sub-Saharan Africa, not only looking for nano interests rather a much broader perspective of the development. We believe we have a good image in African countries and in Africa. This partnership creates something through which we can support the development of countries in Africa.”

    Ambassador Hagelberg mentioned that in addition to ICT, the issue of cyber freedom and its role in helping to create an environment for growth has been identified as a priority for the Swedish government.

    Fredrik Jejdling, Head: Ericsson Sub-Saharan Africa, said, “We are committed to our vision of a Networked Society in Africa, where technology enables new methods of learning and collaboration, innovative ways of doing business, and new approaches to old problems which results in a better quality of life. Over the past century, Ericsson has consistently explored ways in which we can deply our technology and solutions to support development on the continent.”

    According to the mobile broadband network service provider ICT drives GDP and the vision is to establish a networked society that connects everything that is worthwhile in society. Mobility and internet via mobility within Sub-Saharan Africa is a high growth area and focus for stakeholders in the venture.

    This initiative will form part of the agenda of a bi-national commission meeting, at deputy president level, between Swedish government representatives and the South African government scheduled for October 2013.

  • A lawsuit regarding the Zambian government’s takeover of Libya’s Lap Green Networks’ majority share in Zamtel is to be heard in England, a high court in Zambia has ruled.

    Lap Green Networks has sued the Zambian government over its repossession of the Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel) in January last year.

    The Libyan company wants the court to force the Zambian government to reverse its decision to repossess Zamtel. Zambia’s current administration has accused the previous government, which ruled between 2008 to 2011, of corruption in a range of deals, including the sale of Zamtel.

    Lap Green Networks bought Zamtel in 2010 for $257 million. The previous Zambian government sold Zamtel on grounds that it had failed to recapitalise the company.

    The Zambian government has said it can only compensate Lap Green Networks for its investment in the company as opposed to giving it back ownership of the company.

    Reports have also emerged that Libyans who worked for the Zamtel in management positions have been deported by the Zambian government.

    Subsequently, Lap Green Network wants the case heard in England because it feels that its witnesses could be intimidated by Zambian government forces.
    This has prompted Zambian high court Judge Albert Wood to rule that the case be heard in England because he considered it to be a neutral ground.

    Human rights activist Brebner Changala has said the ruling follows the deportation of many people with cases that cannot be allowed to come back to Zambia to make their cases.

  • The $3.7 billion offer from a Cyprus-based firm owned by Altimo is at a price of $0.70 per share for all of Orascom Telecom's 5.245 billion shares, the statement said.

    "The authority is currently studying the announced offer," the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority said in a statement.

    Orascom Telecom is the third large firm that is taking steps to leave the Egyptian market this year. In February, Egypt's regulator approved an offer by Qatar National Bank to acquire Cairo's National Societe General Bank.

    Orascom Construction Industries is also finalising a deal with its Dutch-listed parent company OCI NV that may lead it to leave the Egyptian stock exchange.

    "It will affect the index market capital which is already impacted by NSGB exiting and OCI, which might happen anytime now, so we are talking about more than 25 percent of the weight of the index," said Ahmed Adel, telecom analyst at Naeem Brokerage.

    "The biggest players in the Egyptian market are OCI and Orascom Telecom and NSGB, and the idea is given the market conditions and the political situation ... you cannot expect a high flow of new listings in the index right now," he added.

internet

  • Teraco Data Environments and data networks communication provider Seacom have worked double time this past week to re-connect clients affected by a cable cut that occurred some kilometres north of the coast of Egypt in the Mediterranean Sea. Lex van Wyk, Teraco CEO says that the benefits of hosting in a vendor neutral data centre was highlighted this week when the facility was able to swiftly connect the likes of MWEB, Cell C and others following the outage.

    “With SEACOM located close to their clients in the data centre, we were easily able to connect them to a different SEACOM routing environment to give them additional capacity.”

    Teraco is the most connected data centre facility in Africa already offering connectivity to major international service providers, who have network connectivity on  SAT3/SAFE, SEACOM, EASSY and WACS; mobile carriers including Vodacom, MTN and Cell C; local carriers including Telkom, Neotel and Broadband Infraco and fibre infrastructure provider, Dark Fibre Africa and many more.

    Claes Segelberg, CTO from SEACOM says, “The benefits of being in a neutral data centre like Teraco and close to our clients means that no last mile replacement is required in the event of an outage. We’ve also been able to work with partners like Teraco to swiftly identify solutions to give our clients additional capacity in situations like we’ve faced over the past couple of days.”

    To implement this restoration, the SEACOM team had to identify, negotiate and sign contracts to establish multiple paths across the Mediterranean on cable systems that were unaffected by the recent cable cuts.  Additionally, once these routing paths were chosen, cross connects at the Egypt and Marseille terminals had to be manually coupled by teams deployed at both sites.

  • Broadband provider Powertel is in negotiations with the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) as the regulator intends to begin issuing converged licences for service providers.

    A converged licence seeks to amalgamate all forms of communications connectivity including voice and data, which are presently split into different licensing regimes.

    Potraz is mandated with exercising licensing and regulatory functions in respect of postal and telecommunication systems and services in Zimbabwe.

    Powertel board chairman, Francis Chirumuuta said the company’s A class licence expires in 2014 and discussions were ongoing with the authority to renew it.

    “Potraz has announced an intention to issue a converged licence but we have been in discussions and communication with them to understand the direction that they are taking. They are in the process of defining the full context of the licence,” said Chirumuuta.

    He added: “The licence [that] we have allows us to provide converged services. We are anticipating a regulatory regime with [various categories] of licences but our licence will allow us to continue providing converged services as compared to other service providers on the market.”

    Under a class A licence, which costs US$4 million, a licensee is allowed to carry voice as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and may provide internet service provider (ISP) services.

    Chirumuuta said the company was positioning itself to make strides in the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) space in order to support the quadruple play revolution, namely fixed voice, video, data and cellular.

    Powertel, which recorded a phenomenal 700% increase in profits before tax, relies on self-financing schemes and strategic alliances to grow network and innovation, resulting in more than 5 000 km of fibre rolled out in the country.

    Through this fibre, the company already links Zimbabwe through Botswana and Mozambique gateways to sea cables while providing internet back-up system for its customers.

    Chirumuuta said Powertel invested US$8 million in the business during the period ended 2011 and plans to invest US$30 million this year.

    Areas to be covered for connection onto the network this year include Kariba, Karoi, Chegutu, Banket, Nyanga, Triangle and Chiredzi.

  • Google Ghana is committed to assisting the Ghanaian media to make their online presence more relevant and generate additional revenue, Estelle Akofio-Sowah, Country Manager of Google has said.

    “The media and journalists in particular are the main producers of content online and that is where our (Google) engagement is with the media, Mrs Akofio-Sowah said in a chat with executive members of the Network of Communication Reporters, Ghana, (NCR Ghana) in Accra.

    She said the online department or unit within media houses in Ghana was still new that needed all the support from its management because of the potential it had to propel high the organisation’s image and ways of raising extra funds.

    For us at Google, Mrs Akofio-Sowah said, our Sub Saharan goal is to build an internet ecosystem and make it relevant and useful for people. “We want to give Africans the reason to come on the internet everyday and make it part of their life,” she added.

    Google has supported a number of local media houses such as Citi FM, YFM and Multimedia Group (Joy FM) helping them to build their internet infrastructure. This kind support, Mrs Akofio-Sowah noted would be extended to many more media institutions in the coming months and years but that would be based on a particular institution’s arrangement with Google Ghana.

    To enable Google achieve its global mission of making information universally accessible, Mrs Akofio-Sowah said Google focuses on increasing access to the Internet and making it more relevant to users across the world, which also make the media an important partner.

    Google Ghana, according to her, aims to regularly meet with media houses management, especially the online department in order to understand their priorities and needs and how they could use the vast internet-based Google applications to enhance their objectives and make their work more relevant and beneficial to their stakeholders.

    “We want to encourage the media to create more content online and how they can make money through their products,” Mrs Akofio-Sowah repeated.

    She said through Google Ad Sense product, a media house could become an Ad Sense Partner and begin to make some money when an advertisement appeared on their websites. “Once you become an Ad Sense Partner, you can share revenues with Google by allowing it (Google) to advertise on your websites. The more people click to open the ads on the website, the more money you make”, she explained.

    In order to help reduce the cost internet and barriers to access, Mrs Akofio-Sowah said Google had invested a lot in infrastructure in many countries across the globe. “We have invested in the fibre optic cables, satellite and transmission…”

    In addition, she said in Ghana, “We (Google Ghana) have put in Google Cash Service and every time someone uploads video to YouTube he gets cash locally. It also helps operators to save money locally.”

    In the education sector, the Country Director of the largest search engine in the world, said Google had introduced the Google Apps Supporting Programme (ABSP), which is an enterprise version of its gmail to support tertiary institutions to improve on their internet infrastructure in order to benefit fully from Google apps.

    “For the universities we give them grants to help them to build up their internet infrastructure. The University of Ghana and Central University have so far received their grants from Google Ghana.”

    “We have worked with schools and institutions to bring cost of internet down…Google Apps Education edition offers all the tools necessary for schools to control IT costs, while improving productivity,” she noted.

    Google Ghana has targeted 11 universities so far for the support which would be delivered depending on the infrastructure need of particular university.

    Mrs Akofio-Sowah said under Google’s “Africa, Get Your Business Online” project, about 9,000 businesses in Ghana had so far been engaged and all today were making good use of the internet as their businesses can now be felt online. “About 99 per cent of them are Ghanaian businesses,” she said.

    NCR Ghana is a registered body and an affiliate of the Ghana Journalists Association, consists of seasoned journalists drawn from all the major media houses in Ghana (both print and electronic).

    The Network exists to serve as the main interface between the public and the telecoms/ICT industry, through comprehensive and veritable reportage from the perspective of both consumers and industry players.

  • In a deal struck at the fifth annual BRICS summit in Durban – attended by the heads of government of the five member states Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – Moscow-based AKADO Telecom reported signed a contract with South Africa’s Afritel to cooperate on the roll out of broadband networks in South Africa and Mozambique. Agence Ecofin notes that representatives of parent company Renova Media also inked separate deals relating to alternative energy, port construction and mining, while in attendance at the BRICS conference.

    AKADO Telecom is said to be majority owned by US-based firm Moscow CableCom Corp (MOCC), which has itself been wholly owned by Russian private equity investor Renova Media Enterprises since July 2007.

  • Iran’s ostracized leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has upped the ante in relations with Zimbabwe with reports that Tehran is involved in a massive cyber training exercise of hundreds of Zimbabwe’s intelligence and military operatives Nehanda Radio has gathered.

    The move ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections expected in less than three months, has sparked fears of a crackdown against Zanu PF opponents.

    The two nations it would seem are now consolidating their anti-western world foreign policy, amid remarks by Iran’s defence minister, Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi while meeting his counterpart defence minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa last April in Tehran that the Islamic republic:

    “Will help strengthen their military so that they are able to protect their land and culture, especially so they are prepared against the pressures and threats from Western countries.”

    Senior security service officials in a wide-range of briefings to us have confirmed that the cyber training program began in earnest in 2007, and had now reached it’s crescendo.

    “The country’s then national security minister, Didymus Mutasa was instrumental in establishing the cyber training programme, with assistance from various Iranian intelligence organizations under the auspices of that country’s ministry of intelligence and national security,” said an official working with the state security ministry in Harare.

    “Mutasa visited Iran in March 2010 where he was signing a uranium for oil deal, and took the occassion to monitor the programme he had commissioned. Groups of armed forces and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) personnel are undergoing intensive cyber training, which includes technological warfare techniques, counter-intelligence and methods of suppressing popular revolts among others, every six months.”

    Mugabe is determined in his bid of holding onto power, to use rogue cyber assaults to perform complex eavesdropping and hacking techniques against perceived government opponents, including his own ministers and Zanu PF officials suspected of sympathising with the MDC and western diplomats, the officials said.

    Tehran has developed one of the world’s most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the internet, enabling the regime to examine the content of individual online communications at a grand scale, after courting the assistance of some European telecommunications companies in developing its monitoring capabilities.

    Now there is growing panic that: “Harare has already negotiated with Tehran to provide it with similar telecommunications technology it has developed, for internal use at home,” another source said.

    A secretive intelligence arm, the Military Intelligence Unit (MIU) will be charged with the responsibility to monitor and tap into the communications of opposition figures, civil societies and journalists perceived to be “a security threat through their work”.

    Our informants believe the little known MIU is as dreaded as the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), the only difference being that the former is an apparatus operating under the defence ministry’s covert operations, reporting to the defence minister who in turn passes and coordinates intelligence with the army commander and president.

    Through a technique called “deep packet inspection”, Iran’s sophisticated mechanisms of controlling the internet enables government authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it, to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for propaganda purposes, which is a dream come true for Mugabe’s egregious security law, The Interception of Communications Act passed in 2007 to allow government to wiretape all communications of the populace, without their consent or notification.

    The law empowers the chief of defense intelligence, the director-general of the CJO, the commissioner of police and the commissioner general of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) to intercept telephonic, e-mail and cellphone messages.

    This piece of legislation also empowers state security agencies to open mail passing through the post and through licensed courier service providers.

    Apart from the covert cyber training, Iran announced in February 2010 through its ambassador to Zimbabwe, Rasoul Momeni, the construction of an airbase in the country that will be used to train local helicopter pilots, technicians, make possible supplies of new aircrafts, together with assistance in maintenance and repairs.

computing

  • News of the first African-designed smartphone release caused a lot of excitement last year. And so it should have: Africa is, after Asia, the largest mobile phone market in the world and entrepreneurs and inventors see great opportunity. But the phones are actually made in China, writes Judy Owono on her blog Quartz.

    VMK, the company that produces the Elikia smartphone, is not a new player in the tech scene. During the 2011 Africa Web Summit organized in Brazzaville, the capital city of Congo-Brazzaville, CEO Verone Mankou introduced the company’s first product, the Tablet Way-C. Positive reports began circulating in June 2011 about the tablet, which VMK says was designed in Congo-Brazzaville. Back then, I was one of the first to write about the breaking news on Global Voices, a news site that pulls from a community of international bloggers. My initial reaction was enthusiastic, but after a closer look and an interview with Mankou, there seemed too many gray areas on the claim that the tablet was “made in Africa.”

    I became suspicious when I found the exact same tablet as the one produced by VMK from an online electronics retailer and wholesaler, McBub.com, based in Shenzen in southern China. The irony was that its product was cheaper, could be purchased in bulk, and could be branded with a company logo for only a little extra cost. When asked about this, Mankou explained that the difference in price was mainly due to VMK’s planned “after-sales services” and local presence in Congo. I asked Mankou to comment for this piece and he declined.

    Congo-Brazzaville has ambitions to become the region’s tech hub: as the Congolese minister of post and telecommunications, Thierry Moungalla, explained in 2011 to China Daily, he was “overseeing a strategy to encourage the digital economy, in the provision of e-government, e-commerce, e-learning and e-health.” But Congo-Brazaville does not seem to have created an ecosystem for tech innovation, and the latter does not seem to be a priority for the government.

    In the country’s budget for 2013, the Ministry of Scientific Research and Technology Innovation will receive only $10 million for its investments in research and development. That’s 0.16% of the $6 billion budget of the country and most of this money will go to agricultural and medical research. This lack of policy prevents the country from benefiting from employment and economic opportunities that come when a government takes tech innovation seriously. Therein lies the rub, and why we should not be excited, but rather wary of the news.

    There seems to be confusion as to how much research and development cost for the Elikia: Mankou said this part of the innovation process cost $120,000 or $300,000 depending on which interview you read (French). In both cases, it’s far from the $1 billion invested yearly by Apple, a company that VMK wants to emulate.

    According to an article published on Congolese website Kumatoo.com, the government funded up to 50% of the R&D cost (French); African businessmen paid for the rest. An article (French) published on Senegalese website, Seneco Plus, explains that the government of Congo decided to give $700,000 to Mankou after banks refused to invest in the smartphone project. That sum was very helpful, according to Mankou himself.

    These contradictory statements made me interested in the engineers who had taken part in the VMK’s tablet’s development and its subsequent smartphone project in September 2012. Last week, I spoke to Bernard Adanlessossi, a senior software engineer based in Bern, Switzerland, who had worked with Verone Mankou in 2011 on the applications platform for VMK’s first product, tablet Way-C, but no longer  works with VMK. When asked if he thinks it’s possible for engineers in Congo to design the hardware of a complex high-tech device, he answered:

    “There is a lack of competencies in terms of information technologies in Congo. Engineers know how to write code, but don’t know how to embed it on an electronic chip. To be able to do this, they would need have some skills in electronics, which they lack”.

    Moreover, Adanlessossi works at the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual property. We talked about value-add of tech products made in Africa. Design is defined in the January 2005 issue of the Journal of Engineering Education as:

    “A systematic, intelligent process in which designers generate, evaluate, and specify concepts for devices, systems, or processes whose form and function achieve clients’ objectives or users’ needs while satisfying a specified set of constraints”.

    Congo-Brazzaville indeed lacks higher-education institutions in computer science and engineering (French) and equipped facilities for research and development. Of course, VMK could invoke the legend of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak’s garage in Los Altos, California. But Apple’s history might have been different if Los Altos was not in the Santa Clara Valley, one of the most sophisticated technological complexes in 1976, a proximity that allowed access to machine tools.

    I asked VMK how many patents the company had filed with the African Organization of Intellectual property to protect its products, but did not get a response. Doing some research, I found this comment made by Verone Mankou in September 2012, during the launch of his famous smartphone, reported by Congolese newspaper La semaine Africaine (French):

    “To protect the brand, the company decided to apply for a patent in China, where the smartphone Elikia is produced”.

    When asked whether Adanlessossi believes that a “Made in Africa” device that does not have its patents filed with the African intellectual Property Organization could still be considered African, he replied:

    “Saying that you filed patents in China, which nobody can trace, equals to saying that you have no patents”.

    On its website, VMK reaffirms the authenticity of its products:

    “The issue related to authentication is worth being raised. Indeed, too many people confusedly translate the English concept “designed” (which means in French “planned, the way or process in which something was planned and made – or a drawing which showed how a object, machine or building was made”) into the French word “désigner” (something which expresses physical appearance to be given to a product). Both words are totally in terms of meaning and context; however, we assume that the phonetic approach of the two words might easily mislead anybody”.

    That’s exactly the problem: VMK asserts that its devices actually possess the alleged or apparent attribute of being African. But appearances are what these products are about. So far, there has been no material evidence of VMK’s participation in the planning of this product, no clarity on investments needed, no competencies, and no past credentials for product design in Congo.

    The question on the genuine character of VMK’s devices is essential since the volume of smartphone consumers is increasing exponentially on the African continent. Africa’s role in the production chain, and thus its added value to a product, must be real if Africa genuinely wants to stand as a global player in tech innovation.

    Julie Owono runs the Africa Desk for Internet Sans Frontières, a France-based nonprofit that defends press freedom. She is also co-founder of Feowl.com, an open-source platform that produces data on public services in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is a slightly shortened version of the article that appears on her blog Quartz.

  • The project to assemble desktop and laptop computers in Mozambique seems to have collapsed, thanks to a dispute between the Mozambican government and its foreign partner in this venture, the South African company, Sahara Computers.

    The “Dzowo” computer, launched by the Ministry of Science and Technology in 2009 in homage to the founder and first president of Frelimo, Eduardo Mondlane (who used the traditional name Dzowo), was to be assembled in Maputo, and sold at a price more in line with Mozambican pockets than the prices charged for imported computers.

    At the inauguration of the project, it was said that 48 computers a day would be assembled (equivalent to 960 a month), rising to 80 computers a day in 2010.

    Such numbers never became reality. According to a report in Friday’s issue of the independence weekly “Savana”, the project stalled because Sahara demanded protectionist measures for the Dzowo computers.

    Sahara wanted a guaranteed monopoly of supply to state institutions. In other words, no part of the Mozambican state apparatus would be allowed to buy any computer other than a Dzowo.

    Such a deal would violate Mozambican laws on procurement, and so the government rejected the proposal. Sahara eventually pulled out unilaterally from the deal, leaving the project for a computer “made in Mozambique” stranded.

    The company that was to assembly the computers, Sahara ICT, was 75 per cent owned by Sahara and 25 per cent by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

    Ministry official Carlos Tamele told “Savana”, that despite the pullout by Sahara, the Mozambican government is not abandoning the project, and is looking for new partners.

    “The Ministry has been working to identify new partners who would be interested in investing and reactivating the factory”, he said.

    He said that South African, Brazilian, Portuguese and Swedish companies have expressed an interest, and negotiations are under way.

    Tamele said it had been made clear to Sahara Computers right at the start that it could not expect to override Mozambican procurement rules.

    “Several of the computers assembled were distributed to Ministries”, Tamele recalled, “but Sahara wanted to be selected automatically for supplying computers to state bodies, without passing through public tenders”.

    The prices for Dzowo computers were certainly attractive, at 14,000 meticais (465 US dollars at current exchange rates) for a desktop, and 16,000 meticais for a laptop.

  • Owners of commuter taxis operating in Kampala city now have computerised Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) stickers, the KCCA executive director Jennifer Musisi, has announced.

    The stickers, bearing KCCA logo, are meant to curb forgeries that have been discovered during the monthly revenue collection exercise.

    "We are introducing computerised stickers for vehicles after realising that there was a lot of forgery of receipts and drivers claiming that they had paid to KCCA officials. This is going to stop. The stickers will be easily detected by use of special mobile phones," Musisi told stakeholders on Friday.

    During the launch at the KCCA parking yard, she said drivers have been complaining about keeping so many receipts, while others misplace theirs. Others lie that their vehicles were in garages so they could not pay for a particular month.

    The KCCA director of revenue collection, Pheobe Lutaaya Kamya, said the system will help the authority record all information regarding commuter taxis and all those operating in the city will easily be identified.

    "The computerised sticker gives information on the commuter taxi, its owner, registers the stages of operation and will also be able to give feedback to KCCA on which vehicle has been impounded and has not been on the streets," she said.

    She said once the commuter taxi industry has adopted the system, others like the special hire vehicles, lorries and pick-ups will also be included.

  • Botswana Insurance Company (BIC) has said that it has transformed most of its physical documents into electronic format.

    Komissa Burzlaff, BIC strategy development and marketing manager, has said over 89,000 documents have been successfully converted into e-documents.

    Burzlaff adds that the process, which took approximately one year, has transformed the company’s business units into ‘paperless environments’.

    “The organisation is working on creating a green e-environment for all its processes with the client in mind,” Burzlaff said.

    Burzlaff further said the system has introduced a higher level of security by ensuring that client documentation is ‘secure’ and at a ‘minimal risk of loss or damage’.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Known for its focus on security, evriPay will allow Kenyan online merchants to accept Visa and MasterCard payments from anywhere in the world on their websites while benefitting from unique double protection. Every transaction will require 3D Secure authentication and then also be vetted by the industry leading CyberSource Fraud Management system . This service performs over 200 checks on each transaction and is probably the most sophisticated system available. These two processes provide internet merchants with international quality protection. The CyberSource Fraud Management service is also a first for Kenyan eCommerce.

    Increasing the “peace of mind” for merchants and their customers is the fact that evriPay is the only provider of merchant services in Kenya that uses a PCI-DSS Level One certified data centre to protect card data. This all goes to prove that evriPay is very, very serious about security.

    Besides the “best of breed” security provided by the evriPay service, merchants will also be able to accept Visa and MasterCard payments immediately after they have completed the online form. They can literally sell and accept payments internationally within minutes. Merchants will also notice that there are no fees required for signing up. Merchant accounts can be opened immediately at www.evriPay.com

    Currently there are two ecommerce products available, “Express” for use on websites, and “PayMi” (pronounced “pay me”) which is an electronic invoice. “Express” is easy to integrate into a website and has been designed to meet the requirements of new and start-up companies. Although not requiring great skills for implementation, the product meets all international security requirements. “PayMi” is a great product that can be used for ecommerce payments without a website. Primarily designed for businesses and entrepreneurs that need to invoice customers, this product essentially creates a one time website with credit card payment facilities built in. Typical users include freelancers and tour operators.

    For websites using popular international shopping baskets, evriPay has plug-ins for Magento and OScommerce.

    “We fundamentally understand that entrepreneurs, new and small businesses are new at this game. They generally do not have a lot of experience in payments yet. To assist them we have a Support Team that can be contacted by phone, email, Skype and Twitter,” says CEO Barry Coetzee. “With the advent of m-commerce (commerce on mobile devices) and with ecommerce growing at phenomenal rates, evriPay is really positioning itself to be the secure payment solution provider of choice for entrepreneurs, new and small businesses.”

Digital Content

  • Microsoft Corporation, one of the world's leading software companies, last week launched its new initiative, dubbed '4Afrika' in Kigali.

    The goal of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative is to disseminate affordable smart devices built specifically for Africa with an AppFactory aimed at encouraging application development by Africans for Africans.

    The initiative will also run an education platform aimed at developing technical and entrepreneurial skills as a means to improve employability especially among the youth.

    According to the Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, the entry of the Microsoft 4Afrika initiative in Rwanda is a significant boost to the country's vision to become a knowledge-based economy.

    He said the initiative will help bridge the digital divide as well as develop the skills required to create relevant content for the country's economy.

  • The WikiAfrica space was inaugurated today in Doual’art, a centre for contemporary art located in Douala, Cameroon.

    For the first time, a computer room with high-speed internet is available for people in Douala who want to participate in Wikimedia projects. Contributors can find documentation there, and will benefit from the help of employees trained to edit Wikipedia.

    Scarce access to computers and to internet has caused a lack of coverage of African topics on Wikipedia. For example, the French language Wikipedia contains more than 220,000 articles about France, but less than 1500 about Cameroon.

    To fill this gap, the WikiAfrica Cameroon project is welcoming a Wikimedian in residence for three months, with the goal of increasing articles about Cameroon and encouraging contribution by Cameroonian contributors.

    This initiative also has a training component: Twenty contributors will be trained to take pictures with provided smartphones and to upload them to Wikimedia Commons. Five other Cameroonians will follow a more complete curriculum about Wikimedia projects in order to be able to train other people themselves. Regular, shorter workshops will also take place.

    Many institutions are very interested in the WikiAfrica project. Several initiatives are currently being planned, including training workshops, content liberation and the organization of Wiki Loves Monuments.

    WikiAfrica Cameroon is a pilot project initiated by the Lettera 27 Foundation and the Africa Centre, led by Doual’art and supported by the Orange Foundation. After the Cameroonian project, it will be expanded to other African countries.

  • A recent social media call to fight homophobia stirred a lively and heated discussion. In Egypt, it's still taboo to have public debates on sexuality related topics, whether on or offline. Although homosexuality is not mentioned in Egypt's penal code, state authorities have prosecuted gays using laws on prostitution and morality.

    A Facebook event was created by Ramy Youssef in response to the increasing homophobic attacks on social media. According to him, a recent social media trend is “Crushes” pages, used by students to express their feelings towards others, witnessed some expressing their feelings for people of the same sex, resulting in numerous homophobic slurs. Youssef wrote:

    I invite you to an electronic campaign, including comment on homophobic posts in these pages, and tweeting, and posting on social media websites. We should say what do we think frankly about homophobia, say NO, express, oppose, get angry, this is the time for movement against homophobia.

    The hashtag #ضد_رهاب_المثلية (Against homophobia) attracted many supporters and opponents as well.

  • An app to help expectant mothers in Tanzania has reached a subscription of 100,000 users in 15 weeks and accumulated four million text messages.

     The mHealth Tanzania Public Private Partnership is part of “Wazazi Nipendeni” (“Parents Love Me”) campaign that gives information to pregnant mothers as part of a multimedia campaign.

    The campaign provides “informative text messages and appointment reminders in Swahili at no charge for pregnant women and mothers of newborn babies up to 16 weeks of age,” said Sarah Emerson, Country Manager, mHealth Tanzania Partnership, CDC Foundation.

    “This service offers also free information to her supporters - such as husband, friends and family - and information seekers.”

    Expectant mothers can send the word “MTOTO” (“child”) to 15001 to register, after which they are requested to state which week they are in or the age of their new-born baby.

    “This process allows the recipients to receive specific text messages at the time the information is most relevant to them. The service registered an average of 7,000 people per week,” Emerson said.

    Other medical bodies have assisted in the registration of expectant mothers and those who have delivered. This ensures the information is passed to those who need it in a timely fashion.

    Dr Mwendwa E. Mwenesi, Phones for Health (mHealth) country coordinator was confident of the new initiative. “The government actually has recognised the benefits of using technology for healthcare,” she said.

    “The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is giving a priority to mHealth initiatives and projects, because we have seen what it can do. The text message service Wazazi Nipendeni offers maternal health information and care of newborn.”

  • Microsoft World Learning Angola launched on Wednesday at Lusiada University in Luanda a programme dubbed "Microsoft youthspark".

    Speaking to Angop, the director general of Microsoft Angola, Sezar Pinheiro said that the programme is an initiative aimed to build capacity of Angolan youth, with training and tools so that they may have better conditions to enter labour market and also promote training in a group that represents 50 per cent of the active society of Angola, ranged from the age of 15 to 25.

    He said that this figure represents a unique development opportunity in the society and inside information.

    According to him, this is a specific programme to foster training in Angola and Africa.

  • United States Peace Corps volunteers together with Zambian software developers have developed a mobile application that is planned to translate English words and phrases into any of the seven major languages spoken in Zambia. The app titled "Bantu Babel" is available for Android-compatible devices in the Google Play store, the Peace Corps have said.

    The Peace Corps said the app has two parts: a dictionary for translating individual words and a survival phrase book that contains helpful terms for accommodation, shopping, food and emergencies, among other things.

    Tony Tseng, a third year volunteer, said the app, which can be used as a training tool for government and aid workers or as a supplement to formal language training runs offline therefore eliminating the need for an internet connection.

    "Peace Corps has a phenomenal language-training programme, and to be able to share it is both exciting and inspiring, and to be able to realise a solution in collaboration with host-country nationals truly embodies the spirit of Peace Corps," Tseng said.

    Three Peace Corps volunteers are said to have worked with developers from BongoHive, a Lusaka-based technology and innovation hub, to develop the app.

    BongoHive provides a place for Zambia’s local tech community to meet, swap experiences, and attend training, networking and hackathon events.

    "It is my belief that Zambia, like many other developing countries, is in a great position to leapfrog over traditional technology infrastructures. Almost all Zambians own a cellphone, and the market for mobile applications is growing,” Tseng said.

    He added, “To be able to utilise the mobile phones already in use is a new approach to development that has proven to be successful in other countries across Africa."

    The framework for the programme was developed during a two-day "hackathon" in December 2012 in the capital Lusaka, as part of the Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) global hackathon, which included participants in 32 cities and 16 countries.

  • The Google chief executive, Eric Schmidt, has been on a lobbying tour of India, in an attempt to convince the country not to regulate the internet.

    "Now is the moment for India to decide what kind of internet it wants for them [sic]: an open internet that benefits all or a highly regulated one that inhibits innovation," he wrote in a recent op-ed for the Times of India, as if those were the only two choices on offer.

    "As the internet has emerged in many of these different countries, there's quite a few countries that have no laws that pertain to the internet at all and those internets tend to be free and open with almost anything goes," he said at the Big Tent Activate Summit in New Delhi.

    It's no surprise Google wants an unregulated internet. It detests competition regulation and copyright enforcement, no doubt because it affects the corporation's bottom line. But in Africa, a continent that has experienced the effect of infringement of intellectual property on both innovation and the ability of its citizens to make a living, ministers are coming out in force to protect it.

    In sharp contrast to Schmidt's announcement, African policymakers attending a ministerial-level meeting in Tanzania agreed on the importance of developing national intellectual property frameworks in order to foster innovation.

    If an unregulated internet where "almost anything goes" is so liberating, how come those who live with that reality are far from content with the status quo? Perhaps they realise that the reason their continent has been lagging behind is not simply for the lack of wider access to unregulated telecommunications (though a recent United Nations study shows that more people on the planet have access to mobile phones than toilets).

    The African policymakers said they wanted to protect their citizens' IP rights in order to attract investment and "ensure that intellectual property becomes a tool for African economic emancipation".

    "To know that your knowledge is not just for free, you can also add something, and if you discover something, it's for you," Kenya's minister for higher education, science and technology, Margaret Kamar, told Intellectual Property Watch. "If we allow this to be learned when students are very young, it will be easier for them to hold on to it and be able to exploit it."

    It echoes the sentiment of the European Court of Human Rights, which recently ruled that this human right trumped the "human right to pirate" that the Pirate Bay founders claimed in their appeal against their Swedish conviction.

    Rather than feeling liberated by the "sharing" of their work, African artists have voiced their despair at the rampant piracy their "anything goes" internet has brought upon them.

    In an article about Zimbabwean artist Thomas "Mukanya" Mapfumo's concern about piracy, Chris Tongogara wrote: "By committing such nasty internet acts of pirating on our Zimbabwe musicians' products they are feeding on other people's blood. This is in cases where most of our entertainers throw in their blood, sweat and tears to emerge with such scintillating music hoping to make headlines, best sellers and earn decent income.

    "Once we stop supporting our own music then we are doomed. Simultaneously, the more support we give to the bootleggers, the more we have killed the talent among us."

    As Jaron Lanier said at a recent Guardian talk, the open concept creates power concentration. Initially, he said, you feel you get free treats, yet it comes at a cost. But those who own "the biggest computer" (Google) get only rewards. Perhaps that's why Schmidt is on a lobbying tour of emerging markets, such as India. It looks like his manifesto may not be met by unbridled enthusiasm once he makes it to Africa.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia has announced that its subscription based music service is planned to be available to South African consumers for $2.7 a month.

    Nokia Music+ is an additional feature to the company’s already existing free-to-stream service. However, Nokia Music+ is a premium service that is expected to provide increased control over the consumer’s listening experience.

    According to a Nokia statement, its free music service will continue to be available free to Nokia Lumia owners, with no advertisements, registration or subscription.

    Nokia Music+, meanwhile, will be available for people to try free for seven days. Thereafter, users will have to pay more than $2 a month for an update on the service.

    Some of the features that will be offered on the service include:

    - The ability to download unlimited mixes for offline playback
    - Unlimited track skips providing greater opportunities to self-curate streamed music
    - The option to select higher quality audio when connecting via Wi-Fi
    - Lyric streaming for many tracks
    - Listen to Nokia Music via internet-enabled devices including pc or tablet

More

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

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

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

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

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

  • Olusola Teniola has recently stepped down as the COO of Phase3 Telecom in Nigeria to take over the reins from Steve Herridge as CEO of Internet Solutions, Nigeria; a subsidiary of Dimension Data. Olusola was a key leader of this national fibre operator and gained valuable insight and experience in the issues and challenges that stand before Nigeria in improving its communication and ICT infrastructure.  In a brief statement on his appointment, Steve stated, “We are pleased to have secured his services and his experience”.  Olusola currently sits on the Presidential Broadband Strategy and Roadmap committee for Nigeria as a co-member and is the 1st Vice President of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and a Member of the Institute of Directors (MIoD) in London.

    Steve further stated that he is passionate about technology, especially the Internet and has always believed that Internet Solutions could make the Internet, Data Centre and Wide Area Networks a better place for companies to do business, especially in Nigeria. This is our purpose at Internet Solutions, across all our African operations. He further add “I believe we have found a successor that is as passionate about technology and making it work for businesses and who is intensely invested in solving the "connectivity" challenge for most Nigerians, despite the huge amount of submarine bandwidth at our shores in this country”.

    Steve will be returning to a new role within the IS International team, based in Johannesburg overseeing certain parts of the operations in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Mozambique; as Internet Solutions and Dimension Data look to accelerate their vision and strategy for Nigeria under Olusola’s guidance and care.

  • Pivot East 2013 to Establish Enterprises Out of Mobile APP Developers

    Pivot East is now accepting applications for its third edition, happening on the 25th and 26th of June in Kampala, Uganda. Mobile developers can make their applications till the 15th of April. Applications will be accepted in five categories - mobile finance, mobile enterprise, mobile entertainment, mobile society and mobile utilities.

    The event will see 25 developers pitch their application to a roomful of potential investors and both local and international media, which will give the developers exposure. Pivot East was started in 2011 as a pitching competition as there was no platform then to help start ups look for funding.

    Based on past experience, the Pivot East organisers say that those applying for this year's event would be taken through a series of trainings and coachings. This is with the aim of improving the quality of their pitches, especially by helping entrants understand what investors look for. The trainings will also help developers improve the quality of their apps before launch.

    Organisers for the event are led by John Kieti - m:lab East Africa manager, Moses Kemibaro, Ken Mwenda - managing director eMobilis and Erik Hersman - founder iHub Nairobi. Kemibaro will be the event publisher and is the founder of Dotsavvy - a Kenyan based digital marketing agency. He has also served as a regional director of Dealfish - an online trading platform and a sales director at InMobi - a global mobile advertising. Pivot East is organised by M-Lab, which is joint consortium between iHub, eMobilis, University of Nairobi and the World Wide Web foundation.

    Other changes to this year's event is the form of prize money. In the 2012 event, five category winners each took home $ 10,000 (KSh. 875,000 or USh. 26.35 million) in grants. This year's prize will come in the form of a mixture of grants and an investment into the winner. "The focus this year will be beyond prize money and focus on building successful enterprises," says Kemibaro.

    Some of the the qualities expected from entrants include show of a clear competitive edge, a good team composition likely to lead to a sustainable entity and also at the applicant's user base.

    The organisers also say they have identified individuals who have perfected pitching and winning in such events, and may stop them from making entries in Pivot East.

    The organisers are keen on having local investors and sponsors come on board, as most of those investing in local start ups have been foreigners. Local investors instead prefer investing in real estate, trade and industry.

    Pivot East is being held in Kampala in a bid to have more regional participation in the event. The event will also be accepting entries from South Sudan and Ethiopia.

    The organisers hold the event with the aim of stimulating app and startup discovery in the region, keeping mobile high in the agenda of regional governments and improving the quality of startups in the region.

    Notable start ups from Pivot East include M-farm, Niko Hapa and Kopo Kopo. KopoKopo is assisting businesses offer M-Pesa Buy Good functionality and charges a 1.5 percent fee per transaction. Niko Hapa now has 8 employees and 70 clients, with 30 percent of the clients being paying clients. The firm helps businesses interact and communicate with customers besides offering a loyalty program. This includes a partnership with Eat Out, a restaurant reservation service, which will soon be offering loyalty rewards to users through Niko Hapa.

    Start ups can apply on the Pivot East site

    Google’s Code Jam registration is now open as programmers battle for $15,000 and a 2014 automatic bid

    Google has opened up registration for its 2013 Code Jam programming competition. Now in its 10th year, the company is inviting all participants with higher stakes on the line. This year, the top prize has grown to $15,000 and an automatic bid to the 2014 event.

    It’s around this time of the year when Google begins accepting interested people into this event. With Code Jam, professional and student programmers are invited from all over the world to compete against each other as they try and solve “tough algorithmic puzzles”. The company said that more than 35,000 coders competed last year and Poland’s Jakub Pachocki took the title of Code Jam Champion and the $10,000 reward.

    The competition will start on April 12, 2013 with the Code Jam Qualification Round. In the second round, 3,000 contestants will advance and the top 500 will move on to the third round. Only 25 participants will be chosen to move to the Onsite Finals. In total, there will be four online rounds and the world finals will be held in London at Google’s office this August.

    In order to participate, registrants must be 13 years of age or older, not a Google employee or intern, or even an affiliate or subsidiary, not related to anyone at Google, or a resident of Quebec, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Syria, Burma (Myanmar) or anywhere that Code Jam is prohibited by law. Besides these restrictions, anyone can register starting today and all the way until the end of the Qualification Round.

    To apply by next Friday at the latest visit the website here

Issue no 648 28th March 2013

node ref id: 27481

Top story

  • Counterfeiting is rife in Africa and in many instances – with things like fake drugs and electrical products – it puts lives at risk. Sproxil has come up with a mobile-driven authentication system which it hopes will drive at least some of the counterfeiters from the market. Russell Southwood spoke to its founder Ashifi Gogo.

    In Nigeria, the car mechanics offer you the choice between non-branded parts, fake branded parts and the more expensive branded parts. Unfortunately those who find themselves taking ineffective or completely counterfeit drugs are not offered such an honest choice.

    Ashifi Gogo did a Phd looking at these issues and conducted a non-commercial pilot with another colleague (Bright Simmons, who went on to found m-Pedigree), using 3000 units of cough syrup in his native Ghana.

    ”We used this as a platform to ask people questions. Two things were apparent. Firstly, even though patients could see the value of having a way to authenticate the things they bought, they didn’t want to pay for it. It had to be free and this had a huge impact on the potential business model. Secondly, patients felt in part responsible for the availability of counterfeit products.”

    Interestingly, a third of respondents said it was the Government’s fault, a third blamed the police for not doing anything , leaving a third of consumers saying they felt responsible because they actually bought the fake drugs.

    So in 2008 Gogo launched the company from Cambridge, Massachussets in the USA. It is now present in 17 countries and has attracted funding from social impact investor Acumen. It started in Nigeria where 84 children died because of contaminated cough syrup. He connected with the person running the head of the country’s FDA and with energy and commitment on both sides, the agency decided to launch a mobile authentication scheme. So in 2009, the company was incorporated in both the USA and Nigeria, and the scheme was launched on 22 February 2010.

    “When we did pilots to test it, we discovered that there were pharmacies in Abuja that were mixing fake and genuine drugs. With a drug for diabetics, they would put one genuine blister of pills in with several fake ones. The pharmacist said to the customer, you can verify it from one blister (the genuine one). The customer reported this to the call centre that had been set up. The brand owner was able to identify the pharmacy and take action. Overall the orders for genuine drugs went up”.

    The system works by supplying unique numbers to brand owners. The customer can then check authenticity by send an SMS with the code to a mobile number and get a message back as to whether it is a genuine code. Over 700,000 products were coded during the Nigerian pilot in 2010, and Sproxil has generated over 120 million codes since then. Sproxil conducted due diligence on companies through the Nigerian FDA, NAFDAC and also to see whether a product had been banned or not.

    The business model rests on charging the companies for the unique product code numbers (in the order of a few cents) and there is a monthly charge for the call centre. Gogo says that the company will be profitable in two years time. In 2011, it secured US$1.8 million equity funding and is now present in five countries, including Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania.

    ”Some countries are only just waking up to the problem and it’s helpful for the Government to admit there is a problem and want to address it. A lot of companies sign up because of the financial benefits and it boosts brand loyalty.”

    But the service has already been taken to tackle authentication in another product area: electrical cables. The typical scam in this area is that the electrical contractor colludes with a supplier to provide an invoice showing high-standard, approved cabling. In reality, the cabling provided for the rewiring is of a low standard and may actually lead to electrical accidents and fires:”With the scheme we’re running for East African Cables, customers can now verify the cables are genuine. We already have several clients in the area of car spare parts and foam products like mattresses.

    So what’s the long term ambition?:”People call our call centres to ask a whole bunch of questions, not just about authentication, because there’s nowhere else to call. They want a service by phone. Currently the call centre agents can give the basic information or refer them to the pharmaceutical companies. So what we’d like to become is the after-sales support for the products we’re authenticating.” In geographic terms, it also wants to expand into South East Asia and Latin America.

    Video briefings on:

    An MVNO in Cameroon:

    Manfred Tumban, CEO, SNS Mobility on his Cameroon MVNO

    A strategy to prepare for Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD):

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

    A broadband and video rural deployment model from India:

    Osama Manzar, Digital Empowerment Foundation on delivering broadband in rural India

    Online food delivery model from Turkey:

    Turkey's Gokhan Akan, Yemeksepeti.com on delivering all things food online

    A mobile music deployment model from Germany:

    Oliver Koch, QTom on its music playlist software that can suit the mood you're

    Blog covering WSA Mobile Content 2.0 Awards, 2013 – Winning mobile apps from entertainment to things that do you good, from development to education

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

telecoms

  • Lusaka high court judge Albert Wood has agreed with the assertion of Libya’s LAP Green Network that its officials would be placed in danger if they gave evidence in Zambia regarding the company’s controversial tug-of-war over a 75% stake in Zamtel, and will permit the hearing to be transferred to London, The Post Online reports. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in January 2012 the Zambian government seized control of the Zamtel, reversing the hotly-contested June 2010 sale of the telco to LAP Green, setting in motion a fierce legal battle.

    In a sworn deposition, David Holliday, an advisor to LAP Green chairman Wafik Al Shater, and also the managing director of LAP Green subsidiary Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL), told the judge: ‘The CEO of Zamtel at that time, Mr Hans Paulsen, a Ugandan national, arrived at Zamtel’s premises on 24 January 2012 to find that the offices were surrounded by armed police.

    Mr Paulsen was served with a purported notice of compulsory acquisition of the petitioner’s shares in Zamtel on behalf of the government following which he was escorted to and from his office under armed guard and told to leave the premises immediately’. He went on to add that on 9 July 2012, LAP Green’s lawyers wrote to the state requesting the security of its witnesses while in Zambia for the purposes of giving evidence, a request which was promptly denied two days later. Previously, it was alleged that the company’s officials and employees had suffered ‘intimidation tactics’ at the hands of government officials.

    In his ruling, Judge Wood said that it was clear that none of the allegations against the state had been denied or challenged in anyway, adding: ‘This leads me to one conclusion: that they are true … Having found that their fear is real, I now have to determine whether this application is in accordance with the High Court Act … There is no prohibition on the receiving of evidence abroad’.

  • Spreadtrum Communications has announced a deal to provide its low-cost mobile platforms to Orange for use in smartphones in Europe and Africa.

    "Orange's goal is to make the mobile internet more accessible to all of our customers around the world," said Yves Maitre, senior vice president of Orange Group Devices. "Spreadtrum's ability to provide high-quality and low-cost chipsets will ultimately help make our smartphones even more affordable for our customers everywhere."

    Orange and Spreadtrum have now achieved the first milestone in the delivery of Spreadtrum-based handsets to Orange's markets, with a feature phone designed by Alcatel that is based on Spreadtrum's SC6531 2.5G baseband chipset and is now qualified for launch in Orange's markets beginning with France.

    Orange plans to follow this device launch with Spreadtrum-based smartphone products in the future.

internet

  • Q-KON, a Pan-African distributor of Alvarion solutions, has provided Alvarion Wi-Fi technology to Malawi’s Bishop Mackenzie International School (BMIS), enhancing the academic institution’s existing network and equipping it with valuable wireless connectivity.

    As a distributor Q-KON’s was ideally positioned to supply Alvarion solutions that connected to the School’s introduction of iPads for classroom use. Bishop Mackenzie International School (BMIS) is an IB World School offering PYP, MYP (Candidate) and Diploma Programmes to its students aged 5-18.

    As part of this truly international education, the school’s vision is to provide appropriate access to technology in the classrooms across the whole school and underpinning this is a need to improve wireless connectivity.

    “A year ago an ambitious development plan was devised which included campus-wide wireless access and iPad technology in the classrooms.  BMIS entered into dialogue with Skyband, the leading internet provider in Malawi, as to the most effective way to install and manage such a project,” explained Nik Bishop, Director, BMIS.

    BMIS was looking for a robust wireless network that would allow for any and all students to be able to access the Internet and network wirelessly, but also in a way which can be carefully monitored to ensure the system is not abused.

    Whilst there is a plethora of wireless network equipment available, all at varying costs, BMIS opted for Alvarion’s solution based on their robustness and reliability Bishop confirmed.

    These are optimised wireless broadband solutions that are designed to address the connectivity, coverage and capacity challenges of telecom operators, smart cities, security, and enterprise customers.  The innovative solutions are based on multiple technologies across unlicensed spectrums.

    Juan Prinsloo, Senior Executive: Products of Q-KON, says there are a number of benefits associated with Wi-Fi that makes the technology ideal for application within the education environment.

    “For a start there is extensive coverage and Wi-Fi can be accessed in a radius of up to 250m outdoors and 100m indoors. Each base station can accommodate up to 238 users, which means fewer installation challenges, operating and maintenance expenses and less pressure on power supply resource which is better for the environment,” says Prinsloo.

    There is less impact by noise or interference on wireless technology as a result of bi-directional beam forming it requires minimal installation and less equipment, and offers continuous, uniform coverage.

     Alvarion’s Wi-Fi solution, supplied by Q-KON to BMIS, was installed by Malawi-based Internet Service Provider, Skyband.

     Skyband’s Commercial Director, David Pinto, says the ISP is delighted to be part of this important initiative and infrastructure installation.

    “We are pleased to have installed this infrastructure for the school. Wireless infrastructure, particularly Wi-Fi, can help learners achieve a great deal by providing reliable, cost effective and available connectivity,” says Pinto.

    Iftach Hechter, Sales Director at Alvarion Ltd. Africa, adds that the partnership with Q-KON has very positive implications for connectivity across the continent and application with the continent’s education sector is just one example of how Wi-Fi is making a difference in people’s lives.

  • Egyptian authorities say they have arrested three divers trying to cut through an undersea internet cable.

    The men were caught on a fishing boat just off the port city of Alexandria, said military spokesman Col Ahmed Mohammed Ali.

    The damaged cable caused a drop in the speed of online services in Egypt and some other countries, said Egyptian news agency Mena.

    It was unclear whether the incident was linked to cables damaged last Friday.

    At the time, cable operator Seacom said several lines connecting Europe with Africa, the Middle East and Asia were hit, also slowing down internet services, reported Reuters news agency.

    The cable hit in Wednesday's apparent sabotage was the South East Asia Middle East Western Europe 4 (SEA-ME-WE 4) - one of the main cables snaking under the Mediterranean, Mena said.

    The attack took place some 750m (820 yards) north of Alexandria, it said.

    In the statement on his official Facebook page, Col Ali said the divers were arrested while "cutting the undersea cable" of the main telecommunications company, Telecom Egypt.

    He did not give any explanation for the divers' alleged motive.

  • Microsoft is testing white space technology in Kenya, and now Google is doing the same in South Africa. The company’s involvement extends to sponsorship and the use of its newly-launched spectrum database.

    Microsoft recently said it intended to trial white space technology in Kenya, and now Google is also experimenting with the wireless broadband system in Africa, this time in Cape Town, South Africa.

    White spaces are the gaps in between broadcast TV channels in the radio spectrum. These gaps are left empty as buffers, in order to avoid the TV channels bleeding into each other, but they also have the capacity to carry wireless broadband. And, because the spectrum we’re talking about is quite low-frequency, it is very good at carrying that wireless broadband over great distances – hence the technology’s promise for mostly rural areas that lack good fixed-line broadband (Google has been trialling white space broadband in the rural U.S. since 2010).

    The Cape Town trial, launched on Monday, is experimenting with white spaces as a way of bringing connectivity to schools. The base stations are being sited on the Tygerberg hill, which is next to several heavily-populated areas (I’m from Cape Town, as it happens), so the trial should provide a good idea of how white space broadband interferes – or hopefully doesn’t – with licensed spectrum holders in the vicinity.

    Google’s involvement extends to sponsorship and the use of its newly-launched spectrum database, while others taking part include the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa (TENET) and of course the local telecoms regulator, ICASA. The equipment comes from Neul and Carlson Wireless.

    The trial will last six months. According to TENET’s explanation, each of the 10 schools involved will get a “dedicated 2.5Mbps service with failover to ADSL” – hardly impressive speeds, but this is still an experiment after all.

    According to Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, Google’s public policy manager in South Africa, Google’s intention here is partly to drive regulatory change there. Like Wi-Fi spectrum, white space spectrum can be used license-free in the U.S. This may also happen in the UK, depending on what the regulator Ofcom decides. “We hope the results of the trial will drive similar regulatory developments in South Africa and other African countries,” Mgwili-Sibanda wrote in a blog post.

  • Internet Solutions Mozambique has scooped the award as best internet service provider in Mozambique. Following a two month independent study by PMR.africa, IS Mozambique was highest rated on an overall rating in the Business Sector: Internet Service Providers in Mozambique, and will receive the Diamond Arrow Award at a ceremony in May. IS Mozambique was similarly rewarded in 2011.

    “We are thrilled and extremely honoured to be recognised in this way once again,” says IS Mozambique CEO, Hermann Woithe. “It stands as testimony to our hardworking team’s dedication to service excellence, and our strategic objective of delivering top class service to the business community of Mozambique.”

    The ratings are based on the perceptions of a random national sample of 150 respondents-comprising of CEOs, MDs, business owners, company directors and managers, and senior government officials based in Mozambique.

    IS Mozambique received the award based on criteria that included the enhancement of economic growth and development of Mozambique, levels of managerial expertise, implementation of corporate governance, brand awareness, and levels of innovation.

    “The purpose of the awards is to celebrate excellence,” says PMR.africa CEO, Johan Hattingh. “Through the awards we want to acknowledge and set a benchmark for others to aspire to.”

computing

  • No fewer than 12 public primary school teachers drawn from Bariga and Shomolu communities in Lagos State were empowered last Saturday with three months free computer appreciation scholarship programme by LUCINMA.

    Mrs. Ukor Princess Mokolo, founder of LUCINMA Women Development Centre, while delivering a speech at the graduation ceremony tagged: Lucinma Computer Literacy for Educators' (LUCOLITE) said that the programme was designed to equip educators with current information technology tips, tools and critical computer literacy skills to simplify their tasks of inspiring and empowering students.

    Mokolo who spoke through the Executive Secretary of the centre, Mrs. Lucy Jonah, added that the initiative to empower the 12 awardees was driven by a deep passion for human development and commitment to positively impact on the lives of teachers, maintaining that the beneficiaries who once saw computer as a mere technology not only operate computers now but apply it for effective delivery of their duties as moulders of future leaders.

  • As part of the recently launched Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, Microsoft Corp. has announced a strategic cooperation with business incubator iHub and the m:lab East Africa consortium to enable startups, innovators and the developer community of East Africa to grow their skills and build businesses with Microsoft technologies.

    The cooperation further aims to offer these communities increased access to software, skills development opportunities and a means through which innovative startups can access capital investment and benefit from international outreach.
     
    iHub is an innovation hub for the technology community that comprises an open space made available for technologists, investors and tech companies in Kenya and surrounding areas. m:lab is a consortium of four organizations that aims to be a leader in identifying, nurturing and helping to build sustainable enterprises in the knowledge economy. Together, they actively support the growth of entrepreneurs in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Somalia and Southern Sudan. Microsoft will cooperate with the iHub and m:lab network on multiple projects spanning these countries, including the following:

        Supporting the startup community with Microsoft BizSpark memberships, trainings, participation in events, and access to business networking and capital investment opportunities. BizSpark is a global program that helps startups grow into successful businesses through software support and a vibrant ecosystem that delivers exceptional business advantage. BizSpark has supported 625 African startups since the program was first introduced in 2009.
        Enabling developers to access the latest events and workshops on Microsoft’s newest development technologies through iHub and m:lab community events, including trainings with the iHub UX lab.

        Establishing a physical presence in iHub and m:lab facilities at which Microsoft devices, including Windows Phones and Windows-based tablets, will be available for testing applications and other software developed by the local IT communities.

        Establishing a connection between the iHub Research team and Microsoft Research to enable access to research tools and collaboration on mutually beneficial projects.
        Enabling collaboration between the iHub Consulting team and Microsoft Consulting Services on joint customer projects.

  • Recently the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) granted power utility Eskom an 8% average increase per annum over the next five years. Lex van Wyk, chief executive officer of Teraco Data Environments says that with five years of power increases above CPI already weathered, and an estimated 50% of an organisation’s power usage expended on IT resources alone, the hike places immense pressure on South African business, specifically with regards to IT strategies.

    “Many South Africans will breathe a short sigh of relief that the proposed 16% hike was not approved, but the relief is short-lived with the lower than anticipated 8% increase in 2013. The reintroduction of rolling blackouts, the lack of maintenance and planning and the shortfall in South African energy is top of mind and threatens business feasibility and employment in general,” says van Wyk.

    Electricity prices in South Africa have increased by more than 170% in the past five years, whilst prices in other BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) have decreased by more than 36% in the past decade. With mounting pressure on the power grid in South Africa, the reintroduction of load shedding comes as no surprise.

    Van Wyk says that seeking alternative energy solutions isn’t always the answer. He quotes the almost 100% increase in the Diesel price over a 4 year period, which would affect those looking to consider generator power. He says that Teraco Data Environments are geared to withstand power grid issues through substantial generator backup power, but the increasing price of Diesel makes this an expensive solution.

    Van Wyk says that the choice of data centre colocation over organisational self-provisioning is a strategy that needs to be considered at the highest levels. “Power is a scarce and expensive resource and by managing it carefully in a larger environment one can get the benefits derived from economies of scale.  With the correct focus and tools there are also advantages in managing the power supply all the way to server-cabinet level.”

    Power usage effectiveness (PUE) is a measure of how efficiently a data centre environment uses its power and more specifically, how much of the power is used by the computing equipment.  “With a keen eye on efficiencies, alongside investments in power efficient technologies, elements like cooling, virtualisation and colocation all become contributors to economies of scale.

    Guy Willner, International Data Centre Group (IDC-G) founder,  co-founder of IXcellerate Datacentre Moscow, winner of the DatacentreDynamics Business Leader of the Year 2012 and Teraco board member reiterates that power is the real cost in the data centre. “Internationally, over the last decade we’ve seen the pricing model for colocation data centres change almost completely from a footprint model to that of power. Floor space is now almost completely irrelevant and power and it's guaranteed availability is the ultimate commodity traded.”

     Willner continues on to say that in South African data centres, the pricing model offered by many colocation providers is still that of space with free unmetered power. “Given the increases over the past five years and the expected rolling blackouts, this model is unlikely to be financially sustainable. The Eskom crisis will force data centre operators to revise their models in order to stay afloat.”

    “Infrastructure sharing, connectivity and efficient power management are all critical ingredients in building a competitive IT industry in South Africa. Outsourcing of data centres still provides a substantial saving on operational and capex expenditure, and might be one of the only solutions to combat the continued price increases,” concludes van Wyk.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Cheap phones have accelerated mobile money service penetration among women in Kenya and helped them to make a major step into financial inclusion.

    A study by Bankable Frontier Associates (BFA), a financial services firm, released last month found that women are under-served by the services even while they control domestic budgets that require a regular, secure and efficient mode of savings and payments.

    Lack of mobile handsets was identified as one of the hurdles to executing such businesses, even though the respondents vote overwhelmingly for the phones on security and convenience.

    “Women recognise the security and privacy of mobile money and in Kenya, for example, 95 per cent of women using mobile remittances rated them as secure and private,” the study says.

    “In comparison, only roughly a half of those using personal delivery of cash as their primary method consider it secure and private.”

    Apart from Kenya, the study also covered other countries such as Tanzania and Papua New Guinea. In Kenya, the study noted that 13 per cent of women polled were eager to ‘try’ mobile money services but cited lack of handsets as their main reason, while in Tanzania and Papua New Guinea 34 per cent and 10 per cent respectively of those interviewed cited similar difficulty.

    While prices of handsets in Kenya have come down as low as Sh1,000 a unit, the study notes that women especially in the rural areas rely on irregular source of incomes such as small businesses, sale of farm produce and casual jobs, which limit access to certain products like phones. Such incomes are sunk into more urgent household budgets, rarely ‘luxuries like phones.

    “Incomes are low, irregular and unpredictable to necessitate their visit to established banks where minimum balances are set beyond their reach while also located in major towns unlike mobile money service providers that are right outside their homes,” says the report.

    Kenyan women using mobile money services in their day-to-day running of affairs like paying school fees, ‘chama’ deposits, rent and monthly budgets say mobile transfers are “concrete proof” of payment.

    Kenya’s four mobile money transfer services are offered by Safaricom’s M-Pesa, Airtel Money, Orange Money and YuCash.

    Statistics from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) show that the total value of money transacted on the six mobile platforms — including Mobicash and Tangaza — grew by more than 100 per cent from Sh732 billion in 2010 to Sh1.5 trillion at the end of last year.

    Kenya has 15 million bank deposit accounts compared to more than 24 million mobile money transfer accounts. M-Pesa controls about 80 per cent of the mobile money transfer market and recently through a partnership with Commercial Bank of Africa CBA launched M-Shwari, a mobile banking product for saving and borrowing through their phone.

    The service, which mainly targets micro-savers and borrowers, requires users to have an M-Shwari account, into which they can deposit as low as Sh1 in savings and borrow up to Sh100, 000 payable with a one-off interest rate of 7.5 per cent. All loans are payable within a month of disbursement.

    Chief Operating Officer of Fundamo, a Visa company, Aletha Ling, said she believed mobile phone technology is a key component in advancing financial inclusion, providing the excluded, convenient and accessible point of entry to the formal financial system.

    “This is particularly true for women, who face additional barriers to entering the financial mainstream and for whom security and privacy are critical issues,” said Ling.

    “By working to build relevant services, expand distribution networks and tailor their marketing efforts, the mobile financial services community can create better approaches for reaching this underserved group.”

    GSMA Mobile for Development managing director Chris Locke supported the findings saying: “This research clearly demonstrates that women play a critical role in the success of mobile financial services deployment.

    “It underscores the fact that services delivered via mobile phone can better meet women’s financial management needs than many of the informal tools they use today and, equally important, provides actionable guidance about how MFS providers can best expand and market their services to better address women’s requirements.”

    The study noted that it is crucial that a secure way to save and keep money be put in place to avoid losses incurred from misuse from unplanned expenditures.

    Lack of proper savings channels has forced many women to rely on merry-go-round self-help groups for savings which enable them to pay school fees and meet other needs for their often extended families.

    “As primary recipients of government-to-person payments, MFS providers who serve women may be better positioned to provide solutions for the emerging wave of payments in the future,” it says.

    The Kenya government has disbursed billions of shillings over the years to various women groups via banks and saccos through the Women Enterprise Development Fund.

    As a way of reaching all women, the self-help groups encourage members to repay the loans via the mobile phone services that are linked to their groups and banks.

    In Kenya, the report notes that absorption of mobile financial services by women is often hindered by lack of identity cards since many do not have identity cards while others have their identity cards kept by their husbands.

  • EcoCash Debit CardZimbabwe’s largest mobile phone company, Econet Wireless, has unveiled an innovative functionality on its mobile money service EcoCash which allows a cell phone to also operate as a virtual debit card.

    The functionality is a first in the world and in Africa where mobile banking services are expanding as more people use the service to avoid high bank charges. In addition, mobile banking is becoming an attractive option owing to the lack of physical banking infrastructure in one of the world’s fastest growing mobile phone markets with an estimated subscriber base of more than 760-million.

    Econet says instead of carrying a plastic card, an EcoCash user can simply “swipe” their cell phone when paying through a credit card terminal.  This means that over 2 million Zimbabweans who are currently users of EcoCash now also have a debit card on their phones, says Econet Wireless Services Chief Executive Darlington Mandivenga.

  • 10.000 entrepreneurs and investors collaborate to fill early stage investment gap

    Online community VC4Africa (Venture Capital for Africa), connecting promising entrepreneurs in Africa with investors and startup resources, continues to gain momentum. This week VC4Africa welcomed it’s 10,000th member, and already 1,000 African enterprises are registered on the platform with many securing valuable partnerships to date.

    VC4Africa wants to close Africa’s startup-funding gap, bringing quality entrepreneurs and qualified investors closer together. In addition to self-help tools, business modeling workshops, and member hosted networking opportunities, registered entrepreneurs are also eligible to receive dedicated support via the VC4Africa Mentorship Program. The peer-to-peer support program draws on an international network of business experts that dedicate their time, network and expertise free of charge. Entrepreneurs in need of a capital injection are also able to initiate a fundraising request through the VC4Africa service and connect to the largest network of dedicated early stage investors interested in supporting African based ventures.

    Entrepreneurs with published venture profiles on VC4Africa can register their funding needs and upload documents to a secure documents tab. These intentions to fundraise are screened by the VC4Africa team before they are made available to accredited investors. Any registered investor can engage entrepreneurs for more details and the VC4Africa team assists its members with personal introductions and 1-1 networking opportunities. Both entrepreneurs and investors can make use of VC4Africa’s support infrastructure when closing an investment deal. In this way, the organization works to lower barriers to investing in the continent’s most promising entrepreneurs.

    Launching its investor services in May of 2012, the organization recently published a list of 40 investors active in the community. In addition to a growing number of Angels, the network also includes more established firms like 4Di, Accion, African Media Ventures Fund, Alden Impact, Alitheia Capital, Annona Sustainable Impact Fund, CMA Investment Holdings, DOB Foundation, Elea, eVentures Africa Fund, Fanisi Capital, GroFin, incluvest, Innovation 4 Africa, Jacana Partners, Kitendo Capital, Kukua Fund, Matamba Anonaka Technology Holding, Premanco Ventures, Sanaga Ventures, Sand Hill Angels, Social Venture Capital, the TBL Mirror Fund, TLcom Capital, Toronto Enterprise Fund, TVC Labs and Verod Capital, amongst many others.

    The ventures on VC4Africa are early stage and require investments between USD $10K and USD $1 million. The documentation has to be top level and social traction within the community counts. Entrepreneurs have already raised more than a USD $1 million in funding through VC4Africa, and joint ventures and investments have been secured by members in countries as diverse as Cameroon, South Africa, the United States, Kenya, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Somalia and Zambia. Since January 1st, 2013, 8 ventures initiated fundraising campaigns. 3 have since secured lead investors and currently 5 new deals are under negotiation.

    Entrepreneurs are free to sign up on their own accord or as part of pre- existing partnerships. VC4Africa collaborates with leading incubators like ActivSpaces in Cameroon, MEST in Ghana, the Nailab and the GrowthHub in Kenya, Innoventures and Ice Cairo in Egypt, Ice Addis in Ethiopia, Mara Launchpad in Uganda, Wennovation Hub in Nigeria, CTIC Dakar in Senegal, Enviu in The Netherlands, 88mph and Seed Engine in South Africa, among others. VC4Africa is also a member of the LIONS Africa partnership and supported the inaugural DEMO Africa 2012 event.

Digital Content

  • IN an apparent attempt to consolidate on its modernization efforts for eventual take-over from the Service providers in June, the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, has developed a web-based application to provide information and guidance for international trade business processors in the areas of import, export and transit trade.

    The portal,  a non-restrictive online medium, is an intuitive and interactive platform for classifying goods.

    National Public Relations Officer of NCS, Wale Adeniyi, said in a statement that trade processors were enabled to find exact Harmonized System Codes (HS Codes) required for related tariffs and duties.

    Adeniyi said this would enhance compliance by traders and avail them the required information on tariff in areas like the prohibited items and taxes/levies due for payment upon importation.

    He said: "The application is also designed to touch on the aspect of trade facilitation such that trade processors can access information from all related government agencies. Guidelines and procedures for obtaining permits, licences and certificates of specified commodity and country of origin that a trade will require for business processing is available on the portal.

  • Kenya's Safaricom has launched a back-up service for phonebook contacts in customers handsets. The service is being provided by Gemalto.

    Gemalto's LinqUs Cloud Backup combines both SIM and handset phonebook backup systems. Protection of the entire phonebook is just a single click process and restoration of contacts is equally straightforward.

    Gemalto's also claims that subscribers using the service are staying on average an extra nine months with the same operator before considering churning.

    "This mass market service fits perfectly with our strategy to offer complete peace of mind to all of our customers' needs," commented Thibaud Rerolle, Technical Director at Safaricom.

  • Ousman Faal, a young computer instructor and IT professional from The Gambia, has traded the classroom for a blog.

    Faal is the man behind the Faal Academy, a website that offers video lectures, presentations, and tips on various computer programs. Don't know how to create a certain effect in Adobe Photoshop? Need help making a newsletter in Microsoft Word? Faal can show you how.

    After spending most of his career in the classroom, Faal now spends the majority of his time teaching online. Global Voices recently caught up with Faal and asked him about the move.

    Demba Kandeh (DK): What motivated you to blog?

        Ousman Faal (OF): I have been an IT instructor in capacity building training with non-governmental organisations for several years in my career as a tutor. I have also formed a youth group called ICT Community. And I have lots of Google online platforms and blogging sites, WordPress, Webs & Blogger. I have experience in creating interactive video lectures and this greatly motivated me to blog.

    DK: How long have you being blogging?

        OF: Well, I have been blogging for a year now and found it amazing because it's another way of expressing myself and putting my content online and sharing them. I started with Google's blogger and Google Sites then to a fast growing CMS (Content Management System) WordPress which I found very interactive and user friendly.

    DK: How has blogging changed your life?

        OF: Blogging helps me to express myself and has made it possible for more and more people to see my talents. I am therefore, in a way, contributing to help more people out there now than ever before. And this makes me feel happy as a blogger.

    DK: What do you hope to achieve in blogging?

        OF: I am “thinking big”. I hope that blogging will change a lot in my career as an ICT practitioner.

    DK: How is life as a teacher on a blog different from life as a teacher in the classroom?

        OF: I always want to show my students that I am always available for them, as sometimes you teach in the class students might not actually get the exact picture of what you were trying to explain maybe because of distraction, but I believe that with a blog full of interactive content they can always view it with ease and understand more. This is a great source of satisfaction.

    DK: What are your success stories?

        OF: After having six years in the IT field and having done so much research on information technology I really realized that I am paving myself a way to a successful career. I have successfully trained many professionals within a short period of time and that is something worth celebrating. The Internet, my second home, has offered my students a permanent reference point for interactive content.

        The successful management of the following sites is also a pride for me: ICT Gambia, OusFaal, Jollof Tutors, Ousman Lectures and My YouTube channel.

    DK: What challenges do you face?

        OF: I do not bother so much about challenges. In Africa generally and the Gambia in particular, challenges are common and they range from slow but expensive Internet connections to erratic power cuts. Yet I look forward to more challenging opportunities in the future because I believe that the future is brighter as far as technology is concern.

    DK: What are your plans for the future?

        OF: I have a lot in mind because I am “thinking big” every day. I would love to have my own social network in the future which will be based on real advanced technology. A social media for better and more refined teaching styles and outputs is also part of my dreams.

    DK: Please share anything else you consider important.

        OF: I wish to take this opportunity to call on like minded bloggers to join hands and bring about positive change in their environment. I think this is a good thing to do to put together bloggers that are willing to use their time to create an online platform for sharing information for the benefit of others.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • MTN's Nigerian subsidiary has been fined N90 million (US$567,000) by the telecoms regulator for missing quality of service levels.

    Director, Public Affairs of the Commission, Mr. Tony Ojobo said the fine was imposed following a drive text carried out in December 2012 in which MTN failed to meet the minimum standard of quality of service including the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) set out by the commission.

    In related news, MTN separately said that it would upgrade about 5,500 of its sites across the country.

    The company expects to spend around US$1.5 billion this year on various network upgrades, having already spent US$1.3 billion last year.

  • Vodacom has slashed its Prepaid data pricing by up to 84% on its latest data promotion which is set to run from 27 March to 30 April 2013.

    Phil Patel, Chief Officer of Vodacom’s Consumer Business Unit commented: “The market is rapidly moving towards smartphones and we’d like our customers to enjoy more Facebook, Twitter and email whenever they want. We hope the new promotional rates will enable them to do just that.”

    Customers who consume large amounts of data can score up to R2700 in savings on the MyGig 20 data package which now offers 20GB for only R499, providing 84% savings; while light data users get to double the value on MyMeg 30 which was previously charged at R25 and is now available for only R12.

    All Prepaid customers qualify for the promotion and there are no restrictions on the quantities sold. Bundles are valid up to 24h00 on the 30th day from the day of purchase.

More

  • Telkom SA appoints new GCEO

    In South Africa, the Telkom Board has announced the appointment of telecommunications executive Sipho Maseko as Group Chief Executive Officer and executive director of Telkom Group with effect from 1 April 2013.

    Airtel Appoints Charity Chanda Lumpa As First Female MD In Africa

    Leading telecommunications provider, Bharti Airtel has announced the appointment of Ms. Charity Chanda Lumpa as Managing Director (MD) of Airtel’s operation in Zambia with effect from May 1st 2013.

    Speaking on the appointment, George Sokota, Chairman of Airtel’s operation in Zambia said, “I am delighted at Charity’s appointment, which is in line with Airtel’s stated philosophy of promoting local talent in Africa. ”

    “She has an exceptional track record of accomplishments at top management level in private, public and international organizations and I am confident that with her rich experience she will grow the organization from strength to strength”, he added.

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

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

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

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

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

Issue no 647 22nd March 2013

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Top story

  • There’s a growing acknowledgement that the all-data future is upon us but much less idea what the road looks like between here and there. MTN has announced that it will launch Triple Play at some point in the near future and become a “services company”. Russell Southwood looks at the sequence of changes that will need to be made by any successful operator.

    In business terms, the mobile operators’ lot is not a happy one. In most of Africa’s big markets there is now an intense level of competition. Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) is down below the US$10 mark and amongst those who are really hurting, at around US$2-3. So the priority for mobile operators in making the transition to data must not be to see it as the new Eldorado that will add to voice revenues. You will be a lucky if it can be a defensive strategy that helps maintain the existing low levels of ARPUs in key markets.

    Why so? Thus far the data products offered – which have largely been versions of bandwidth packages – have been aimed at the salary boys with laptops. Although prices have in some markets fallen considerably, there’s still much of a premium spring in their step. If everything follows past patterns, this will be the same with LTE data packages. The salary boys will get soaked again for high prices (“They can afford it and they’re not paying themselves.”) and in 18 months to 2 years the prices will cascade down to something approaching reasonable.

    But the data market the operators will need cannot be developed this way. The existing market is a high-value and niche but is crying out for something really transformational. If the cascade in data prices always ends up at the bottom, then why not turn the problem on its head? Start with low prices and create a genuine mass market for data.

    I can already see the blood draining from the Product Managers’ faces so I need to explain why it’s necessary to cut out all that cascading tactical pricing nonsense. In broad terms, all African mobile markets have two pieces: the niche, high-value customers (often post-paid but by no means always) and various stripes of mass market using greater or lesser amounts of voice and SMS.

    In a country like Kenya, Nigeria or Cameroon, the middle ground between these two pieces of the market is capable of affording higher levels of ARPU, whether voice or data. In Liberia, the niche will remain largely a niche: education and income levels will make a transition to data extremely challenging. Different circumstances which will come back to in a future article.

    The mobile operators are all sitting on absolutely humungous amounts of unsold data capacity in the new international pipes that have been built. Prices for this capacity will continue to decline to the sub US$100 level, however much operators try and control things by rationing its introduction. Every day that passes means that you can’t get money for yesterday’s unsold capacity. So the dash for data needs to produce significant growth in wholesale revenues.

    So what follows is not a deeply worked out strategy for the dash to data but something more like a first draft. The overall objective must be to deliver as soon as possible a range of data bundles between US$5-10 per month and accompany this package with smartphones that are in the US$50-70 range.

    Put the foot on the accelerator for maximum growth in both the volume of data and the number of users. Encourage all the international and local social networking brands because these are the “must-have” products, which have been persuading people to use data, sometimes without realizing that’s what they’re doing. Also think about those social networking products like Flickr and Pinterest that require people to transfer photos to the cloud.

    Wireless access in Africa has come on by leaps and bounds in the last five years but operators and their partners need to make near universal Wi-Fi access in urban areas a driving business priority. There should be almost nowhere where people gather that they cannot get a signal.

    Ideally these signals need to be bundled in such a way that there is access to packages that offer the equivalent of universal roaming. People need to be able to turn to this access whether they are in a matatu or a market and not feel constrained by artificial limits: bring an end to capacity bundles and people will not hesitate to do things using data.

    The first step along the road to data is the introduction of video on phones using LTE. You Tube is already widely used despite the fact that bandwidth has not kept up with it. It should be made the key application to drive LTE as a mass market product.

    The next stage on this road is leaving behind old revenues. One of the operators who spoke at Africa Telecoms Forum last week said for the first time that SMS will be phased out as a service. Instead actually encourage people to migrate to services like What’s App and offer simpler e-mail applications that run from address books.

    The last step in this transition is either offering bundled data voice services or reaching deals with existing operators like Skype and Fring. It’s important to make this not a plan B or C service but something users want to turn to first.

    Finally, whatever people say about mobile being the dominant device in Africa, there will be an increased desire amongst Africa’s middle classes for things like high speed DSL or fibre to the home to deliver TV packages as well as voice and Internet.

    So how does the money thing work, I hear you asking yourself? Well if currently someone is paying US$5-10 a month, the aim is to get back approximately that same amount (or slightly more) from these customers by getting them to pay for data rather than voice or SMS. Timescale? 3-5 years so this is not some theoretical future discussion but something you need to be doing now.

    Video briefings on:

    TV White spaces:

    Steve Song, CEO, Village Telco on the TV White Spaces Workshop

    Henk Kleynhans, formerly Chair of WAPA on TV White Spaces proposals in South Africa

    App ideas that might work in African markets:

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

    Lars Forslof, Roadroid on a smartphone app that measures the bumps and holes in the road

    Abbas Adel Ibrahim, Morsi Meter on measuring the Egyptian President's performance online – how you might measure the performance of the next Kenyan President

    The roll-out of LTE in the UK market:

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

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

telecoms

  • Ethio-telecom announced that it will upgrade its current 3G telecom infrastructure networks to LTE. Dr. Mesfin Belachew, e-government directorate director at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, told reporters that, "Ethio-telecom is undertaking a technical evaluation of the proposals submitted by the Huawei Technologies and ZTE corporations companies."

    The state-owned telecom monopoly announced plans two months ago to divide the country into eleven infrastructure zones, in order to better manage each network. The zones are to be distributed between the two companies, Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corporation, presently bidding for the network and upgrade expansion project. The two-year project, estimated to cost 1.5 billion dollars, is aimed at doubling the existing 20 million mobile phone users by 2014/15, and alleviating present network problems.
    Source: The Government of Ethiopia

    Cambium Networks deploys world’s first IP wireless GIGATOWER to expand global service provider broadband reach

     Cambium Networks has introduced the Gigatower, a new wireless broadband access solution that delivers the industry’s highest level of throughput for enterprises and triple-play service providers worldwide. Based on the Canopy point-to-multipoint (PMP) 450 platform, the Gigatower enables service providers to further expand capacity to existing customers and offer high capacity broadband to new customers in urban, suburban and rural environments.

     Service providers and network operators around the globe use PMP access networks to provide significantly higher bandwidth in non-line-of-sight (NLoS) and line-of-sight (LoS) applications. Utilising both licensed and unlicensed bands, Canopy’s installed base of four million modules provides broadband services for demanding enterprise and residential use. For those looking to deploy a more extensive network, the PMP 450’s modular design allows the Gigatower to provide more than 1 gigabit of broadband capacity and extend coverage area to more than 120 square kilometers.

    “Service providers need innovative solutions to deliver broadband to their users. Fiber/DSL is an expensive solution that lacks symmetrical capability. It has generally been deployed where it’s economically viable, leaving many customers underserved (unable to achieve the speeds and symmetry they desire) and unserved due to their proximity to fiber. The PMP 450 and new Gigatower offer the ability to deploy in greenfield locations or to overlay existing DSL footprint with a solution that delivers HD video and IPTV, voice and data services at a cost point that truly changes broadband economics,” says Tony Rodrigues, Regional Sales Managerat Cambium Networks. “We are also introducing an entirely new architecture, the PTP-C, (Point-to-Point Cluster) for small cell backhaul among other applications. It’s our more than 10 years’ experience as the wireless IP market leader and our deep engineering expertise in NLoS and interference mitigation that have enabled us to redefine the function and form factor that will revolutionize how small cell backhaul will be deployed in years to come.”

  • The Nigeria's telecoms regulator NCC has announced that Mobile Number Portability will go live in the country next week, and also a day earlier than originally planned.

    Reuben Muoka, Head, Media and Public Relations of the Commission told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).that contrary to the initial announcement of the launch on March 26, the regulatory body had finalised arrangements to begin the service a day earlier.

    The initial launch will affect just the GSM networks, with CDMA networks required to offer MNP services later on this year.

    Porting between GSM and CDMA networks is however not expected to be available for some time.

    Customers seeking to port their numbers will also be required to reverify their personal ID with the networks.

  • The Libyan government has put a halt to a process to award a management contract for its state-owned telecoms network, the Libyan Post, Telecommunication and Information Technology Co (LIPTIC).

    Citing Etisalat's CEO, Ahmad Julfar the Reuters news agency reported that the tender had been put on by the government for unspecified reasons.

    Etisalat had been one of the companies bidding in the tender.

    A landline monopoly, LIPTIC also owns majority stakes in the country's two mobile networks which were reclaimed from relatives of the former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi following his downfall.

    It was not clear if the tender was for just the landline network, or included the two mobile networks as well.

internet

  • Internet start-up, 10KWEB, is pleased to announce the addition of Burkina Faso in French West Africa to its global family network. This marks the latest country in Africa to join 10KWEB following Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

    The team operates out of the town of Bobo Dioulasso which is the second largest city in the country of Burkina Faso with a population of over five hundred and thirty thousand people. Its primary economic sources consist of agriculture, textiles and the service industry. Since 2000 the area has enjoyed a population and economic growth spurt due to civil unrest in the surrounding countries and the government’s reinvestment in the city. It is the site of the new West African Centre for Economic and Social Studies, a college which is the central component in what will be the country’s second university.

    10KWEB Co-Founder, Anthony Martins, is excited for this new addition because as he puts it, “It is proof of positive word of mouth. Regardless of language or cultural barriers, people recognize opportunity when they see it. And 10KWEB is happy to offer the folks in Bobo Dioulasso that opportunity.”

    10KWEB was created January 2012 by Anthony Martins and Thomas Bang as an online resource for aspiring blog writers and small business owners. Their website launched on March 5th, 2012 and is currently used in the United States, Mexico, Great Britain, Germany, China, Morocco, Trinidad, Italy and New Zealand with more markets in development.

  • Commissioners gathered for the 7th meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, held today in Mexico City, have agreed an ambitious new target designed to spur female access to the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs).

    The new target mandates ‘gender equality in broadband access by the year 2020’. At present, ITU figures confirm that in the developing world, women are much less likely to have access to technology than their male counterparts. While that disparity is lower in developed countries, a measureable gap nonetheless still exists, even in the rich world.

    Photos of the full meeting of the Commission and the Working Group on Gender can be viewed and downloaded from Flickr:

    Broadcast-quality footage can be previewed and downloaded from ITU’s Virtual Video Newsroom here:

    For full text click on this link: http://www.itu.int/net/pressoffice/press_releases/2013/08.aspx

  • The US Embassy and Mobile Web Ghana (MWG), a community of mobile technology entrepreneurs, has held a forum to discuss innovative ways in which Ghana can take advantage of the prevailing Internet freedom in the country.

    The event saw the Internet Freedom Fellow Mac-Jordan Degadjor, who is currently in Geneva, Switzerland, joining in the discussion via Skype. Mac-Jordan, an active blogger, was selected to represent the country at the Internet Freedom Fellowship on-going in Geneva.

    The innovations include the creation of virtual pressure groups and organisations to fight against issues such as human rights violation and environmental degradation within the country.

    The Internet Freedom Fellowship (IFF) is an annual event that aims to continue the struggle for freedom of expression and association on the Internet, and the pursuit of fundamental human rights.

    According to Mac-Jordan, one of the key discussions held at this year’s IFF centred on usage of the Internet to promote human rights in countries where abuses are rampant. “Despite gains being made, it is depressing to hear of governments trying to restrict freedom of expression and association on social media as in the case of China,” Mac-Jordan said.

    The use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are subjected to governmental control in China, a country known for its closed government.

    The “Happy Hour” event, which was moderated by the Information Resource Centre of the US Embassy, brought together students, professionals and social media activists. Some of the discussions bordered on the security challenge posed by the liberal Internet landscape.

    According to MWG’s Eliezer Ayertey: “Making the Internet free and open means people will be free to express their thoughts on key issues that affect them; people will also have access to websites that provide information they need. People can also create virtual groups and organisations to fight against any human rights violation and degradation within their country and beyond.”

    The Information Officer of the United States Embassy, Jeanne Clark, praised Ghana for the Internet freedom that prevails in the country.

  • Channel Islands-based satellite service provider O3b Networks has announced what it describes as a major long-termo3b-networks-ltd capacity deal providing highly resilient and affordable capacity to ‘the leading ISP in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’.

    The agreement will provide for over 500Mbps of ultra-low-latency capacity to deliver high speed broadband services throughout the country, which is home to more than 70 million people. As part of the agreement, O3b’s next generation IP trunking solution will be deployed to provide international capacity in addition to offering mobile backhaul services to connect both urban hubs and villages.

    Omar Trujillo, VP Africa for O3b Networks, commented: ‘Kinshasa and neighbouring Brazzaville are home to more than twelve million people who until now have been without broadband connectivity. By delivering highly affordable and ubiquitous bandwidth with the performance and speed of fibre, DRC will instantaneously move from one of the worst connected to one of the best connected places on the planet, spurring rapid economic and social development in the region’.

  • Ghanaian start-up, Loggu 4G Ghana Limited is gearing up to start offering uncapped, unmetered and affordable high speed internet service in Ghana.

    Founder of Loggu 4G, Gershon Adeklo told Adom Business they have already secured some US$200,000 guaranteed loan from a US EXIM Bank to set up the network to run their broadband service in the next two month though an innovative business model.

    The ITU (International Telecommunications Union) estimates that between 2010 and 2011, broadband access in Ghana grew from 7% to 23%, but that still leaves the broadband market in Ghana widely open.

    Meanwhile, a 2012 World Bank study estimates that effective broadband development will create between 2.5 and 4 additional jobs per broadband job and that 10 percent broadband penetration can increase a country's GDP by 1.5 percent.

    Telecom operators and ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are therefore gearing up to cash in the huge opportunity and also to create jobs and help the country realize the additional GDP growth.

    Adeklo said Loggu 4G has noticed the biggest challenge to internet penetration in Africa and in Ghana is lack of access devices such as laptops and tablets.

    He said Loggu has therefore adopted a business model that would provide prospective customers with laptops as a package with the affordable broadband services on the back of bandwidth from MainOne Cable Company’s fibre optic facility.

    Adeklo said Loggu 4G has obtained guarantees from Togolese-based ECOWAS Guarantee Fund and Nairobi-based African Guarantee Fund to secure the $200,000 loan from USA EXIM Bank.

    He said the company is currently in talks with two local companies to secure about 500 laptops for the business.

    “We would be renting out the laptops to our customers on short-term basis. This means a student who needs a laptop with broadband for research and typing would have to just walk to our office, fill an application form and provide his bio-data. We then review the application and sign a minimum of three hours contract with the customer,” he said.

    The young Internet Entrepreneur said Loggu 4G has measures and systems in place to retrieve the laptops in case a customer does not return it or it is stolen.

    He explained that Loggu is able to track and mine data from the system even if the laptop is taken to the remotest part of the world or if the hard drive is replaced or formatted.

    “Intel has shown interest in our model, but they need proof of its success so we are currently using Ho in the Volta Region as our pilot phase before rolling out across the country,” he said.

    Adeklo said Loggu would ultimately target universities, junior and senior high schools, individual professionals, medium and small scale industries as well as homes with its innovative services to help bridge the digital divide. .

    He said Loggu 4G also plans on offering value added services (VAS) and multimedia services, using broadband wireless networks, based on globally standardized 4G technology.

    The young Internet Entrepreneur said some of the products and services as internet access, hosting and email addresses, among other services, adding that the network design provides fixed and nomadic wireless connectivity for the home and office, as well as mobile services to customers.

  • In what is a step closer to establishing a premier Cloud services marketplace for Africa, Pamoja, the Cloud services business unit of Pan-African ICT enabler SEACOM, has launched its go-to-market strategy to partners and customers at a presentation held in Bryanston, Johannesburg.

    The company, established in 2011 by SEACOM’s founder Brian Herlihy and Stafford Masie, former GM of Google SA, is a provider of wholesale Cloud computing services via telecommunication companies, ISPs and other service providers in Southern and East Africa.

    These institutions have also recognised the Cloud as a source of new revenues, with global investments in cloud services projected to more than double from an estimated US$55 billion in 2011 to almost US$130 billion annually by 2015.

    Pamoja is focused on a wider market, incorporating the fast-growing Small-to-medium Enterprise (SME) segment, and will leverage off  SEACOM’s infrastructure, exposure to partnerships and Africa’s growing mobile and Internet market to entrench its services model.

    Albie Bester, General Manager of Pamoja, said the company is differentiated by access to SEACOM’s extended network, which covers the entire continent, and its role as Cloud business unit for the Channel.

    “Our wholesale model rules out conflict in the channel… there are no downstream issues resulting from us competing with our resellers. Another benefit to partnership with Pamoja is that we eliminate the risk for organisations entering the Cloud computing market. This is about creating economies of scale,” said Bester.

    “Aside from funding and infrastructure, we also have access to SEACOM’s relationships with telco and ISP’s. Pamoja exists because of what is happening in the Cloud … according to Forbes’ top ten strategic CIO issues for 2013, at number six is “Upgrade ‘Cloud Strategy’ to ‘Business Transformation Enabled by the Cloud’. At the end of the day, the Cloud is not a technology matter to an organisation, it is about empowerment. In Africa, it is about business agility and for businesses to become more competitive,” he added.

    Steven Ambrose, CEO of Strategy Worx, said connectivity is critical to the growth of mobile and the realisation of the internet in Africa.

    “Researchers say 50 billion devices are going to be connected to the Internet by 2020… the number is so large. There are seven billion people in the world and there are approximately five billion with mobile phones, so connections are key and will change the world. We are living in a time when new thinking has to come into play. In 2008 a total of 80Gbps of internet capacity was available to the continent… it now stands at 35460 Gbps. There has been a huge shift in sheer capacity to Africa,” said Ambrose.

    “We are also seeing a massive explosion in terrestrial connectivity. The fact is that you cannot do what people are doing on mobile unless you have terrestrial connections and connections to the Internet, nothing much would be happening in Africa,” he added.

    Pamoja’s Cloud services will be provided via the company’s network of datacentres, located directly on the SEACOM submarine infrastructure. The first Cloud platform is running in the Mtunzini cable landing station near Richards Bay. The second platform is planned for Kenya, after which roll out will occur as and where there is demand.

    As SEACOM’s strategic arm leading entry into content aggregation and associated Cloud computing services, Pamoja is leveraging off its parent company to build an SME Cloud services marketplace and take its white-labelled Cloud services to the market through an exclusive channel of resellers.

    To date Pamoja has three channel partners in South Africa, three in Kenya and in discussion with others in Tanzania, Rwanda and Zambia.

    Speaking at the launch Mark Simpson, CEO of SEACOM, said, “Our rapidly growing IP network has been, in recent times, a key enabler for SEACOM and its customers, providing services that are more flexible and much more resilient. Our IP transit and Ethernet products have deepened our relationships within the market, particularly with emerging ISPs and customers working hard to build Africa’s ICT future. We continue to monitor and participate in what we called the African Internet ecosystem.”

computing

  • Solar truck equipped with remarkable range of facilities could revolutionise healthcare in rural parts of sub-Saharan Africa

    At the back of the truck is a small soundproof booth with a chair, light and pair of headphones. Outside the door sits a "screening memory audiometer" with a laptop and printer. This is an ear clinic on wheels, designed to reach the far-flung corners of Africa.

    "Before they go to school, children are tested so we know their specific needs," says Kea' Modimoeng, of Samsung, unveiling the $250,000 (£168,000) vehicle in Cape Town, South Africa, this week. "If David has a hearing difficulty, let him sit at the front of the class instead of the back, where he's not able to take part in the lesson."

    The ear clinic is just one element of what is billed as Africa's first solar-powered mobile health centre. The seven-metre truck also contains a fully equipped eye and blood clinic and a dental surgery. Its target is the six in 10 people in sub-Saharan Africa who live in rural areas, often lacking the time and money to travel long distances to reach health services.

    Patients will be screened for conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, tooth decay and cataracts. There will be an emphasis on health education and encouraging tests as a preventative measure.

    In the next 10 weeks, Samsung plans to add a mother-and-child clinic capable of 4D ultrasound scans and delivering babies.

    "Healthcare and education are the key challenges in Africa," Modimoeng says. "The challenges are huge. In Africa our existing healthcare system is overcrowded. We are trying to ease that burden."

    On Wednesday, the truck was parked on Grand Parade, where thousands gathered to hear Nelson Mandela's first speech from the city hall after his release from prison in 1990. It was among innovations promoted by Samsung, the South Korean giant better known for mobile phones and televisions, under the slogan, "Built for Africa".

    The mobile health centre was constructed in Johannesburg, painted in Samsung's corporate blue and white, and included, under an awning, a TV screen. Modimoeng said public information videos would be shown to communities as they queued. Inside, many of the products are made by specialist manufacturers or pharmaceutical companies.

    At the front is the eye and blood clinic, with a reclining chair for the patient, a sink and mirror, and hi-tech equipment including a blood analyser, spectacle repair kit and "Reichert PT100 portable NCT" – a non-contact tonometry test to measure pressure inside the eye. It is likely to have a staff of four.

    The facility would enable testing for HIV, malaria and numerous other conditions, Modimoeng says. "You can get blood test results instantly. They can print a prescription for you."

    Next comes the dental clinic, much like any other with its familiar chair and overhead light. It also has an x-ray unit, air motor, mobile suction unit, water distiller and needle incinerator. It will have three staff.

    At the rear is the ear clinic, expected to have two staff.

    This is the first of its kind, Modimoeng says, and the ambition is to reach 1 million people in Africa by 2015. "We are scaling up with Africa in mind. We want to collaborate with governments. The intent is there from various countries."

    But he admitted that solar power alone is still not enough. "This uses a lot of energy. The solar power charges the lighting, TV and so on. The rest relies on an inbuilt generator using unleaded fuel or a power plug. It's a step in the right direction and, as time unfolds, we are looking at getting equipment that uses less energy."

    But can the health centre withstand Africa's notorious potholed, bone-jarring roads? "Definitely," Modimoeng insists.

    Also on show at the Samsung forum, where the Guardian was among 200 invited media guests, was a solar-powered internet school – a 12-metre container that can accommodate at least 21 pupils, each with a laptop, and has 24 solar panels providing nine hours of power a day.

    Fully charged, the batteries last three to five days. Since their launch in 2011, the $100,000 schools have begun operating in Angola, Botswana, Ivory Coast, Lesotho, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa, helping an estimated 7,000 children. Nearby was a solar power generator that can be connected to conventional classrooms. Samsung says that, on average, less than 25% of rural areas in Africa have access to electricity.

    Leonard Tleane, smart schools solutions provider for the company, says solar energy is a growing part of the solution. "The costs are definitely coming down and most of corporate South Africa is moving into solar power. You walk into the townships these days and almost every house has a solar geyser."

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The government has set up an online identity and verification system in order to create a secure online transaction environment.

    Kenya ICT Board Project Manager Evans Kahuthu said that the digital certificates will be issued by Accredited Certification Authorities, through the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK).

    "The Kenya Information and Communication Act has specified how to issue certificates, CCK will issue the authority through a requirement process to online business users who apply so that they have the power to issue the certificates," he explained.

    Kahuthu added that once the accredited certification authorities have been given a green light, a user will apply for the certificate to the Accredited Certification Authorities website.

    "Before we can give out the digital certificates, the user has to meet face to face authentication with the Accredited Authorities to verify their identity and their information," he added.

    Kahuthu said that the digital certificate has one to two years validity and one has to have a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) enabled application to use it.

    "The certificate can be downloaded on a computer hard disc or a USB token and a secret password will be given, however be careful to give out your certificate less someone else uses it," he cautioned.

    The digital certificates will be used as online identity cards and will be used in all online business transactions.

    He also added that all issued digital certificates will be published in a public website for confirmation on whom they correspond to and their validity for users' verification.

    The project was contracted to Samsung SDS a Korean company - leading in creating innovative changes and will be finished in three months time.

    Kahuthu also said that the pilot of the project will be done this October by the Kenya revenue authority and there after open to other online business users.

  • Zain Sudan has been able to repatriate a portion of its operating profit abroad in 2012, a senior banking official told Sudan Tribune today.

    The official who spoke on background said the telecom company, which is a unit of the Kuwait's Zain, was able to move approximately $450 million outside of the country through Sudan's Central bank.

    "This is an important step that eliminated the problems regarding the lack of foreign currency available to foreign companies that invest in Sudan," said the official.

    Foreign firms operating in Sudan particularly airlines and telecom companies have been barred by the central bank for several years from repatriating its profits abroad.

    The policy was a result of the continued depreciation in the value of the Sudanese pound relative to major currencies in recent years particularly after the secession of the oil-rich Sudan in July 2011.

    Last June, the government devalued the official foreign exchange rate as part of measures to compensate for the loss of South Sudanese oil.

    Also in n late 2011, Sudan raised sales taxes on telecoms companies to 30 percent from 20 percent and a profit tax to 30 percent from 15 percent.

    Last month a delegation from Zain Telecom's board of directors met with Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir to discuss issues facing its operations in the country.

    Bashir reportedly promised to remove all impediments faced by Kuwaiti investors in Sudan.

    Sudan is one of Zain's key markets, accounting for 30 percent of the group's 41.3 million subscribers and 20 percent of revenue in the nine-months to Sept. 30, the most recently available figures.

    A senior official from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has told reporters in Khartoum recently that he would discuss with Sudanese officials the issue of repatriating profits.

    "We are closely monitoring the process of repatriating profits abroad and we will work to remove barriers" said Ibrahim Sano the head of the Communication Development Department at the ITU,

  • Signalhorn has completed the rollout of over 400 point of sale (PoS) sites which service a global fuel retailer’s South African network. This global fuel retailer benefits from Signalhorn’s hybrid solution which utilizes DSL, 3G, and VSAT technologies to deliver cost-effective and fail-safe communications.

     This Signalhorn customer is one of the world's leading oil and gas companies and fuel retailers. With retail presence across South Africa and the world, the company requires a robust and global solution that can be rolled out country by country, guaranteeing the same network quality of service to support secure transactions. Signalhorn, with its global reach, operating experience, and proven expertise, has successfully rolled out the more than 400 South African retail sites and also provides the complete end-to-end managed service in support of the network.

    The two companies achieved this expansion objective two months ahead of schedule in spite of infrastructure challenges in South Africa. For years, Signalhorn has been solving regional service issues for customers including special license acquisitions, pertinent security and risk measures, as well as necessary qualifications and training to ensure uninterrupted service and connectivity for customers regardless of location or situation.   

    “Our retail customers rely on debit and credit card transactions for their day-to-day business. The connectivity between point of sale site and headquarters must be up and running at all times,” explains Helmut Böttcher, Signalhorn VP Enterprise Sales. “In Africa, the only communications technology that covers 100% of the continent is satellite. 3G covers 20%, DSL at most 10%. We optimize our customers’ networks based on a combination of the technologies available and we have the talent and global expertise internally to design, build, install, and maintain such large networks,” continues Mr. Böttcher.

    “Through working with various global retail customers, Signalhorn learned that DSL and 3G are either not available for all sites, are often unreliable, or are not available with a defined Service Level Agreement from other operators or providers,” says Robert Kubbernus, Signalhorn President & CEO. “Therefore, Signalhorn designed a solution that addresses these issues by combining standard building blocks (VSAT, DSL, and 3G) into a robust solution based on European quality standards supported by a Signalhorn SLA.  With around 10,000 locations now benefiting from our managed services, we are looking forward to the further expansion of this highly reliable offering by Signalhorn,” continues Mr. Kubbernus.

Digital Content

  • Lovers of literature have the opportunity, anywhere they live in the world, to buy books by Angolan authors, through the site of the Angolan Writers Union (UEA), which contains the formalities for the fulfilment of this desire.

    This information was released by the secretary general of UEA, Carmo Neto, adding that after visiting the site, you can find the item shop, where there are the needed clarifications for payment via Western Union.

    After following this procedure the UEA, in the possession of client's addresses will deliver the requested book.

    According to the secretary general, the action stresses the importance of the UEA site, created 12 year ago.

  • South Africa's Vodacom Business division has announced the launch of a number of mHealth initiatives together with its partner Mezzanineware.

    Based on a centralised mobile/cloud environment, Vodacom's Mezzanine mHealth services allow health care or technology providers to improve their access to clients, assets and employees. This is done through secure, real-time data collection, information processing, management and reporting.

    Originally built for the health industry, the services have been customised to work across various industry verticals.

    "This partnership enables the latest mobile health services and solutions to be delivered to any part of the African continent. We already have a dozen live commercial deployments, delivering a cross section of our solutions to the benefit of citizens. A stable, robust and wide ranging GSM network is essential to the success of any mobile health solution. While we are network agnostic, locally our partnership with Vodacom enables health providers to cost-effectively manage people, products and services over a distributed area utilizing secure data hosting and innovative mobile technology," said Jaques De Vos, Mezzanine's Managing Director.

    LoveLife, the largest national HIV prevention initiative for young people already uses the Vodacom Mezzanine platform to monitor and report on its events hosted across South Africa.

  • Within a period of four months since Rwanda's Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD), ".rw" was formally re-delegated from Belgium, more companies/individuals have started registering their websites under the '.rw' domain.

    Previously Rwandans had opted for .com, .org, .uk, because ".rw" was managed from Belgium and Rwandans were not aware of the procedures involved to access it.

    But after a seven-year long process of transferring ccTLD, last year in September, Rwanda Information Communication Technology Association (RICTA) gained all the rights from Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to manage the government's web domain after using formal procedures to apply for its repatriation.

    Speaking to The New Times on Monday, Ghislain Nkeramugaba, the CEO of RICTA, said that web domain has received huge public response and many companies and individuals are using it for their websites.

    "Since September, we have registered over 160 web domain names both companies and individuals directly under .rw, which is really encouraging. This promotes our national top level internet identity," he said.

    Registering a web domain takes a maximum of six hours

    "Some people have become aware of the domain's management presence in Rwanda and we are going to start awareness campaigns to enable the general public understand the procedures involved in accessing '.rw'," the RICTA CEO said, adding that they are planning to launch second level domains among others, .co.rw, .org.rw, .net.rw, and ac.rw.

    "Utilising our country's internet domain name promotes creation of local content, enhances cyber security and efficiently ranks Rwanda's web content on to search engines."

    RICTA is a non-profit making organisation representing the Rwandan Internet community. It comprises of different ICT institutions and individuals.

    It was formed in 2005 with the objective of managing the country code top level domains, among other purposes.

    .rw, was formerly managed in Belgium by Frederic Gregoire, a Belgian entrepreneur, under his Swiss-based company NIC Congo - Interpoint.

    Gregoire had held registration rights for the domain since 1995 after registering it through the ICANN, the organisation charged with coordinating the internet's domain names-during that time Rwanda's internet compliance was very minimal since the country was still recovering from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

    According to Didier Rutayomba, who recently registered his company under .rw, the web domain works well and it's easy to register than it was when in Belgium.

    Rutayomba is hosting several company websites under his company 'ipromo.rw'.

    RICTA provides registry services such as registrar management, domain name registration, renewal, dispute settlement services and maintains the entire .rw register system.

  • A crowdmap is live in Zimbabwe allowing citizens to report on cases of intimidation and corruption in tomorrow’s constitutional referendum, in spite of government attempts to crack down on monitoring.

    The Zimbabwe Elections 2013 crowdmap, powered by Ushahidi, has so far logged 62 reports, with 20 of these alleging intimidation.

    Zimbabweans go to the polls tomorrow to vote in a referendum on a new constitution, which sets the stage for full national elections later in the year. However, both President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change back the “yes” vote.

    The crowdmap is encouraging Zimbabweans to report cases of abuse as well as take to Twitter to discuss the referendum and upcoming elections using the hashtags #ZimElection, #ZimElections13 and #ZimElections.

    Technology is being utilised as part of the referendum process despite attempts to crack down on monitoring. Zimbabwean police took peace activist Jestina Mukoko in for questioning as she was establishing a Kenya-inspired social media network to warn voters of political violence.

    The Zimbabwe Mail reported her Zimbabwe Peace Project was raided by police who took smartphones that would be used as tools for Ushahidi users to report where incidences of violence and corruption were taking place. Police said the smartphones were “spying gadgets” supplied by hostile western governments.

    Effie Ncube, chairman of the National Association of Non Governmental Organisations (NANGO) told the Zimbabwe Mail ignorance of technology reigned within the national police force.

    “The police still use typewriters in Zimbabwe,” he said. “They have no idea about IT, or social media. They don’t know about Facebook or Twitter, so they probably have no idea about Ushahidi.

    “There was nothing secretive about this project. It was set up quite openly.

    “There is a generational problem with the ZRP (Zimbabwe Republic Police). They are stuck behind many developments in IT.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Nigerian subscribers' demand for the cost of voice tariffs to be lowered has been answered with a new mobile termination rates (MTRs) also known as interconnect rates introduced yesterday night by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) with effect from April 1, 2013.

    According to the regulator who retained Asymmetrical Rate, which favours newer operators, the new entrants and small operators irrespective of the originating network charge N6.40kobo from April 1, 2013; N5.20kobo from April 1, 2014 and N3.90kobo from April 1, 2015.

    The termination rates for voice services provided by other operators irrespective of the originating network shall be N4.90kobo from 1st of April, 2013; N4.40k from 1st of April, 2014; and N3.90k from 1st of April 2015.This new determination rate shall take effect from 1st of April 2013, and remain valid and binding on licencees for the next three years until further review by the Commission.

    A statement from Mr. Tony Ojobo, director, public affairs, NCC, said the new MTRs which have been significantly reviewed downwards were informed by the depth of competition in the industry while taken into consideration the position of new entrants.

    Ojobo said NCC "After comprehensive consultations with various stakeholders, has released a new set of interconnection rates determination for voice services. New entrant is defined as newly licenced operator entering an existing or new market within zero to three years. Small operator is defined, for the purpose of the determination, as an existing operator with a market share of 0 - 7.5 per cent in terms of subscriber base."

    He said the current interconnection rate regulation was implemented through the Commission's Interconnection Rate Determination issued on 21st December, 2009. "Since then, the Nigerian Communications Market has seen tremendous growth in both subscriber numbers as well as traffic volumes and available technologies (e.g. 3G). The current rate which is symmetric to all operators is N8.2."

    In June 2012, the NCC appointed PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP to undertake a cost study for voice interconnection. In line with its commitment to a policy of openness, transparency, fairness, and participatory regulation, the comission informed stakeholders in July 2012 of its engagement of PWC to advise on the review of interconnection rates for mobile and fixed telephony services.

    Mobile operators in the market have kicked against asymmetrical rates saying the regulator should approve a single call determination rate instead of offering new entrants into the market. At a stakeholder forum held in Lagos early February to discuss the incoming interconnect rates, the GSM operators asked for a level playing field.

  • Mobile network operator Airtel Tanzania has launched a new service that enables its customers to make off-net voice calls and SMS at savings of up to 75% compared to previous rates, without the need to change their SIM card. The new service, dubbed ‘Airtel Yatosha’, combines a one SIM, one tariff proposition bundling voice, SMS and data in one package that can be mixed to suit the customers daily needs. Prices for the new service start at TZS349 (USD0.22) for ten minutes of voice calls to any network, 100 text messages and 25MB of internet downloads (per 24hr period). Commenting on the launch, Airtel managing director Sunil Colaso said: The ’Airtel Yatosha service makes it easy, more affordable for customers and the whole of Tanzania to communicate across all networks at the most competitive rates.’ Airtel Yatosha is available in two options: the aforementioned daily subscription and a weekly one costing from TZS1,999 for 70 calls minutes, 700 SMS and 75MB of data.

  • Orange has launched a reverse charge call service dubbed ‘Nisort’ that will allow callers to make reverse charged calls. This service will allow callers to make calls and have the call recipients pay for the calls.

    The Orange Kenya Nisort service will only be available for Orange-to-Orange calls (on-net) and only complete the call if the recipient accepts the charges.  Orange allows customers a 10 number white-list; whereby the recipient can set ten telephone numbers whose Nisort calls will be accepted automatically.

    The Nisort (Pay4Me) service will, naturally, allow you to make calls even without any airtime on your phone (with zero credit).

More

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

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

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

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

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

  • The 2013 Development Leaders Scholarship - worth £15,200 - is available for developing country applicants to the one-year MSc ICT4D programme; creating ICT4D champions.
     
    It is also tenable on the MSc Management and Information Systems programme; which develops “hybrid” information systems professionals.
     
    Applicants apply first for the programme.  On receipt of an offer, send a scholarship application statement by June 2013.  Scholarship covers all tuition fees.  Details here:

Issue no 646 15th March 2013

node ref id: 27360

Top story

  • A joint venture between the ISP Indigo, Microsoft and the Kenyan Government has rolled out a TV White Spaces Proof of Concept in two parts of rural Kenya. This is the one of the first commercial trials of TV White Spaces on the continent. It offers another route through which connectivity can be delivered in rural areas. Russell Southwood spoke to Indigo’s Chairman Peter Henderson and Louis Otieno, General Manager, Microsoft East & Southern Africa.

    TV White Spaces (or dynamic spectrum, as it is sometimes called) operates in the “guard band” space between different TV spectrum transmissions. It can either operate with equipment that dynamically assigns bandwidth to the user or that has a database look-up table.

    Peter Henderson, Indigo went to see Malcolm Brew’s TV White Spaces (TVWS) installation on the Isle Bute in Scotland. What’s the connection between Scotland and Kenya? Well, Malcolm Brew used to work in the industry in Kenya and his TVWS pilot has attracted considerable attention. Henderson was knocked out by it:”I was overwhelmed by the distance the signal was travelling and by the speed it delivered. So I went back to Kenya to introduce it.”

    He met with Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications Bitange Ndemo:”He said to me:’Some God has sent you. This is exactly what we need.’” Out of that conversation a Private-Public-Partnership was formed between the Government of Kenya, Indigo and Microsoft.

    The proof of concept currently covers Nanyuki (where it was launched on 4 February), where it connects 3 schools and a health care clinic. A community centre is about to be added. Nanyuki is a small trading town where local people go for shopping and the markets:”Some people walk 4 hours there to do their Facebook page.”

    It is also being rolled out in Kalema in the Rift Valley where it will connect a Government office and schools. Kalema is a lot smaller than Nanyuki, with a single “High Street” at its heart but very much part of a farming community. Henderson says it’s about the 3 Cs:”Coverage, cost and content. Is the content relevant?”

    The second part of the delivery – devices and content, particularly in schools – is a work in progress. The schools will get refurbished computers. Microsoft is talking to Nokia about apps delivering education content.

    The Nanyuki implementation uses a 10 metre mast that transmits 10 kms down a valley from a school to 2 other schools and the health clinic: “The mast can transmit 10 kms in any direction. It uses 400 Mghz UHF frequency, usually assigned to TV transmission. When we tested whether there was any other users of the frequency, the machine flat-lined. This is unlicensed spectrum so there are no spectrum licensing charges to increase overall delivery costs.

    So which of the two TVWS technologies does it use?:”It uses dynamically assigned spectrum and one of the benefits for the regulator is that the equipment will dynamically track spectrum. Microsoft and Google (who are working on the TVWS initiative together) have produced the databases. When selecting frequency. It checks out whether there is anything interfering and assigns to avoid interference.”

    The cost of delivering the bandwidth to the pilot areas has been kept to a minimum:”The Government of Kenya has done deals to get the international leg cheaply and through relationships with the power utility KPLC, we’ve been able to use their fibre cheaply for the national leg. We’re delivering 1 Gbps from Nairobi to Nanyuki for under US$5 a month.”

    The aim is to deliver a high speed connection not only to Government premises but also to individuals for US$1 a week. The link delivers 18 mbps into Nanyuki and obviously that is contended until there is a larger number of users, it will deliver significant speeds to all users:”We want to create hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs in the rural areas”. The installations are charged by solar power and locals can use surplus power to charge their phones, laptops, tablets or lanterns. One of the ideas is to encourage local entrepreneurs to run a service for charging phones locally.

    The TVWS initiative is part of Microsoft’s overall 4Africa Initiative which has three legs: 1) Innovation; 2) skills development; and 3) access, covering both bandwidth and affordable smart devices. This TVWS initiative is part of the access leg of the work.

    As Louis Otieno explains it:”We have to address the 80% of people in rural areas because the current beneficiaries of Internet access are largely in the urban areas. There’s currently not much motivation to roll-out in the rural areas, which is why we chose to focus on dynamic spectrum access.”

    Without wishing to sound carping, the only drawback I can see is that the Government of Kenya is not yet signing cheques for the services to the schools, health centres and Government offices. With the devolution of Government under the new constitution, each of the new administrative units will need to be connected to central Government. You will know that this change has become permanent when Government departments (rather than outsiders) are actually paying their way to use the bandwidth being delivered.

    New Balancing Act video clip interviews this week:
    Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO, Movirtu on its two new products aimed at the BYOD market
    Manfred Tumban, CEO, SNS Mobility on his Cameroon MVNO

    Video briefings on:

    TV White spaces:

    Steve Song, CEO, Village Telco on the TV White Spaces Workshop

    Henk Kleynhans, formerly Chair of WAPA on TV White Spaces proposals in South Africa

    App ideas that might work in African markets:

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

    Lars Forslof, Roadroid on a smartphone app that measures the bumps and holes in the road

    Abbas Adel Ibrahim, Morsi Meter on measuring the Egyptian President's performance online – how you might measure the performance of the next Kenyan President

    The roll-out of LTE in the UK market:

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

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

telecoms

  • At the stakeholders’ forum on the best option for licensing the remaining slot on the 2.3GHz band held last week in Lagos, major internet service providers in the country including Mobitel, Spectranet and Multi-Links who rejected the plan by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to auction the 2.3GHz frequency band most commonly used for broadband wireless commercial service delivery said it was unfair competition.

    The regulatory authority, NCC had invited operators to express their views on auctioning of 30 MHz Bandwidth in 2.3 GHz spectrum and allocating total guard band of 10 MHz for inter-operator and inter-band separation. Meanwhile, NCC had in advertisement categorically announced to auction 1×30 MHz to one new operator.

    However, the operators pointed out that licensing another operator on 2.3GHz will not be in the interest of the country.

    Although Mobitel, Spectranet and DoPC are already sitting on 20MHz each of the 2.3GHz band, leaving 40MHz open for licensing, majority of the operators further argued that technical and operational problems which are inherent in the Nigerian market would not justify any plan to auction the available 40MHz to a fourth operator.

    Accordingly, Qalcomm and Huawei in their input noted that there are alternative frequency planning schemes that may help service providers to optimize the available frequency resources.

    In his presentation on behalf of Mobitel, Spectratnet and DoPC, Atul Ojiha, chief operating officer, Spectranet without mincing words told NCC to allot 10MHz extra each to the three existing operators that had expressed willingness to negotiate and pay for the additional spectrum frequency.

    He told the gathering that using 10 MHz to provide for 5 Guard bands has no meaning as each Guard band will be 2 MHz. According to him, end of 2.3 GHz band would require larger guard band due to uncontrolled emissions in 2.4 GHz.

    He further argued that the proposed sale of 30 MHz to one prospective bidder compared to 20 MHz to the existing operators was totally unfair and lessens the competition, adding that the communication regulations do not allow undue advantage and lessening of competition.

    “One operator has extra infrastructure like International Carrier’s license, as well as metro & national long distance fiber owner ship leading to cross subsidy on ISP business creating unfair competitive advantages. Uneven frequency allocation between GSM & CDMA played a vital role for CDMA operator’s failure, though there are other additional reasons. It is safe to assume that all future spectrum allocations shall provide the adequate guard band.This will lead to uneven playing field in data access network,” he said.

    While additional spectrum allocations is immediate requirement to cope with interference & throughput, the operators according to Ojiha suggested that 2.3GHz Spectrum should be increased from 20 MHz to 30 MHz for existing three operators, adding that guard band of 10 MHz between 2.3GHz and 2.4GHz should be provided.

    “Existing operators should adjust TDD ratio synchronization, provided the allocation is increases from 20 MHz to 30 MHz to manage throughput degradation and interference,” he said.

    Agreeing with Ojiha, the Managing Director of Swift Networks, Charles Anudu, said that rather than complicating the challenges among ISPs by licensing a fourth operator on the 2.3GHz, the NCC should allocate the 30MHz of the remaining slot to the three existing operators.

    “Our regulator should not multiply the misery in the segment of the IT industry. We cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. The more we continue to fragment the segment, the more miserable we will become,” he said.

    Similarly, Mobitel CEO, Mr. Johnson Salako while warning on the implication of auctioning additional slot on the band to a new operator, noted that it would compound the problems of the current operators.

    “The 2.3GHz spectrum is not the only spectrum that can be used for broadband service. The NCC has said it will be licensing the 2.5GHz spectrum, which means that there are huge opportunities for anybody who requires spectrum, ” he explained.

  • Airtel has announced the launch of the mobile HD voice service for its subscribers in Africa. The development comes as the first step in Airtel’s ambition to make mobile HD voice accessible in all its operations across the continent.

    HD voice is the most significant improvement in voice communications in the past two decades. Mobile HD voice offers crystal clear audio quality and will enhance user experience on Airtel mobile networks. “Surveys confirm that customers place a high value on HD Voice”, explains Andre Beyers, the Chief Marketing Officer, Airtel Africa. “The new service will enrich end-user experience for Airtel subscribers”.

    Mobile HD Voice enables high-quality voice calls because it reduces background noise often heard on a regular call. Airtel customers on 3G networks will experience a significant improvement in their voice communications as the new service will enable them to hear better in noisy environments.

    To enjoy the maximum benefits of this new technology, both the calling and the called party need an HD-Voice compatible mobile phone. However, improvements in call quality are also perceived when using an HD voice-enabled phone to call a non-HD Voice phone.

    Mobile HD Voice based on AMR (Adaptive Multi Rate) Wideband technology (W-AMR) operates with nine different bit rates, providing high-quality voice calls. Compared to the current narrowband speech codec, the W-AMR speech-compression algorithm doubles voice bandwidth and produces better results.

    After years of trials, HD Voice services were launched in 2009 and they are now available in 35 countries around the world. According to the results of a recent survey, 96% of customers are satisfied with HD Voice calls, hence the rapid pace of commercialization of the services across the globe.

    Airtel becomes the third operator to launch a mobile HD voice service in Africa. The telecommunications company aims to make HD voice a reality on the continent. Further launches will be scheduled in 2013.

  • South African wireless communication specialist Multisource Telecoms has won a contract that will see 20 low-cost GSM towers bringing cell phone communications to rural Zambians for the first time.

    Supplied by US-based Vanu, these Compact RAN base stations are both optimized allowing them to operate purely on "green power", solar and battery only.

    "The order was placed following a successful pilot phase which proved that in addition to the capital outlay being less than a tenth of that of traditional macro base stations, maintenance costs of the compact base stations are minimal," said Richard Smuts-Steyn, chief executive officer of Multisource.

    The decision to extend GSM network coverage to Zambia's isolated rural areas followed a call by the country's telecommunications regulatory authority for network operators to fulfil their universal service obligations.

    Lack of GSM network coverage in deeply rural areas is not unique to Zambia. Worldwide there are an estimated 3.2 billion unique subscribers, 1.8 billion short of the 5 billion addressable market expected by 2017. The vast majority of this potential market is based in rural areas, especially those in the developing African nations, not serviced by cell phone networks.

    "Compact base stations are a particularly apt solution to the constraints inherent in rural areas," said Smuts-Steyn. "Being solar and battery powered, they don't rely on the existence of a terrestrial power grid, generators or a constant supply of diesel, and the need for good road access to deliver the diesel is eliminated."

  • Etisalat-owned Atlantique Telecom, which has operations in Benin, the Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Niger and Togo, has signed a five-year multi-country managed services agreement with Ericsson.

    Under the deal, the Swedish vendor will manage Atlantique Telecom’s mobile networks in western and central Africa, enabling around ten million subscribers to benefit from improved network quality. ‘With the evolution of the competitive landscape in our markets, we need to adapt our operating model to provide a better service to our end users,’ commented Atlantique Telecom’s CEO Nagi Abboud, adding: ‘Adopting this business outsourcing model is therefore an important step in our group strategy execution that will be for the benefit of our subscribers, who remain our top priority, and this will, as well, open new growth opportunities to our employees.’

    The contract covers network operations, field maintenance, network optimisation and spare parts management for Etisalat’ s multivendor mobile networks, including access, core and transmission, as well as value added services.

    Moribund Sierra Leone Operator Promises Launch Shortly

    Libya's Lap Green Networks says that it is committed to launching its network in Sierra Leone, despite a controversy over how it acquired its majority stake in the local mobile subsidiary.

    The company bought an 85% stake in Ambitel in 2007 from its founder, Michael Kenneth Ondaan. However he claims that there is a payment of US$2 million still outstanding and that conditions of the sale have not been met.

    The mobile network had planned to launch services in 2011, but these were stalled by the uncertainty at the parent company following the downfall of the Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.

    The regulator has been pressing the company to launch mobile services, and the company said that a launch would be "soon", without elaborating.

  • Telecom Egypt has posted a near 13 percent fall in its full-year profits of EGP2.61 billion (US$386 million) as the country's economy was hurt in the post-Mubarak confusion.

    However, the company's CEO, Mohamed Elnawawy said he was optimistic about the prospects for the year ahead.

    He also confirmed that the company is hoping to launch an LTE based mobile network next year, once it secures the necessary permits from the telecoms regulator.

    The company is due to be granted a reseller license and as a 45% shareholder in Vodafone Egypt, is expected to launch its own MVNO later this year.

    There are still discussions about the future of its Vodafone stake - as the company may be blocked from owning stakes in two mobile networks.

internet

  • New generation of performance-enhanced satellite-based VPN services immediately available across entire KA-SAT coverage in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa

    Paris, 12 March 2013 - Eutelsat Communications (Euronext Paris: ETL) and OneAccess, the leading manufacturer of multi-service routers and Carrier Ethernet access devices, have joined forces to develop the first performance-enhanced platform for businesses designed to deliver services operated on Eutelsat's KA-SAT High Throughput Satellite in a secure VPN environment. Set to launch in March 2013, and immediately available across KA-SAT's entire footprint, the new service makes satellite communications even more affordable for businesses by delivering DSL-like service at DSL-like prices.

  • South Africa’s biggest gaming service provider MWEB Gaming has launched local Dota 2 servers into the test build with the Valve Corporation, an American video game development and digital distribution company. MWEB is awaiting confirmation from Valve as to when it will be deployed into the full build, which could be as early as tomorrow. As well as figuratively putting African gaming on the gaming map, a “South Africa” region will be added to the game, literally putting our continent on the map alongside Europe, North America and Asia.

    Dota 2 is one of the biggest online titles internationally, with occasions of up to 297,000 players online at the same time in spite of the fact that it is still in Beta. Proving it has an equally impressive South African following, 29 teams competed in the MWEB Dota 2 Inaugural Cup held last year in July. It is a highly team-oriented multiplayer online battle arena game, where players must coordinate with their teams in order to achieve victory. Reaction speed is a priority and the local servers will mean that finally SA gamers will be able to show off their agility and reflexes.

  • Airspan Networks Inc has announced that RCS-Communication Ltd has selected its solution for a 4G WiMAX network deployment. According to the company, Air4G is a dual platform 4G base station enabling operators to run either long-term evolution (LTE), WiMAX or both concurrently.

    “The Airspan network shows excellent results in terms of coverage and enables us to serve our clients in areas where we were previously unable to reach them on our terrestrial network”, said Philip Gerber, RCS-Communication’s country manager for South Sudan.

    The first phase of the network implementation has reportedly started in the South Sudanese capital, Juba,

    According to RCS-Communication’s managing director for South Sudan, Flippie Odenda, the company made the investment to upgrade its current WiMAX network to the latest generation technology in preparation for further network improvements and specific service offerings planned.

    “Airspan was selected as our vendor because we believe their solution offers us the best scalability and widest choice of future options,” Odendal said in the statement.

    Meanwhile, in addition to the macro base stations and other related products and services, Airspan is reportedly supplying RCS with a “comprehensive network management system” called Netspan,” which will also manage any LTE network when deployed if and when activated.

    Earlier this year, an official said South Sudan plans to lay a fibre-optic network that will link Juba with submarine cables in East Africa, in order to cut the high cost of using the Internet.

    “We are targeting this year, within this year, that we will be connected to the submarine cable,” Juma Stephen, the under-secretary in the country’s telecommunications and postal service ministry told Reuters.

    “Construction of fibre-optic cables will more than halve internet prices and make it twice as fast”, he said, adding that government wants to cut that cost by reducing reliance on satellite bandwidth.

    Almost two years since the country gained independence, internet access remains a patchy in the young nation, despite several entities, mainly mobile telecommunications companies, providing such services.

  • The African Development Bank (AfDB) has launched Open Data Platforms for the following 20 African countries: Algeria, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Open Data Platform program is part of the AfDB’s recently launched “Africa Information Highway” initiative aimed at significantly improving data management and dissemination in Africa. Work is on course to complete platforms for the rest of African countries by July 2013.

    The Open Data Platform is a user-friendly tool for extracting data, creating and sharing own customized reports, and visualizing data across themes, sectors and countries in tables, charts and maps. Through the Open Data Platform, users can access a wide range of development data on African countries from multiple international and national official sources. The platform also facilitates the collection, analysis and sharing of data among countries and with international development partners. The platform offers a unique opportunity for various users, such as policymakers, analysts, researchers, business leaders and investors around the world, to gain access to reliable and timely data on Africa. Users can visualize time series development indicators over a period of time, perform comprehensive analysis at country and regional levels, utilize presentation-ready graphics or create their own, blog, and share their views and work with others, thereby creating an informed community of users.

    The Open Data Platform initiative is a response by the African Development Bank Group aimed at significantly increasing access to quality data necessary for managing and monitoring development results in African countries, including the MDGs. It responds to a number of important global and regional initiatives to scale up the availability of quality data on Africa and so foster evidence-based decision-making, public accountability and good governance.

    Once implemented, the Open Data Platform will be used by African countries for all data submission flows to the AfDB and possibly other international development partners, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), EU Commission, World Health Organization (WHO), UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), African Union Commission (AUC) and UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). This initiative presents a unique opportunity for African countries to take the lead in implementation and promotion of international statistical standards across all countries in the region and in enhancing the quality of the data disseminated by African countries.

computing

  • The African Development Bank (AfDB) has launched Open Data Platforms (www.afdb.org/statistics) for the following 20 African countries: Algeria, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Open Data Platform program is part of the AfDB’s recently launched “Africa Information Highway” initiative aimed at significantly improving data management and dissemination in Africa. Work is on course to complete platforms for the rest of African countries by July 2013.

    The Open Data Platform is a user-friendly tool for extracting data, creating and sharing own customized reports, and visualizing data across themes, sectors and countries in tables, charts and maps. Through the Open Data Platform, users can access a wide range of development data on African countries from multiple international and national official sources. The platform also facilitates the collection, analysis and sharing of data among countries and with international development partners. The platform offers a unique opportunity for various users, such as policymakers, analysts, researchers, business leaders and investors around the world, to gain access to reliable and timely data on Africa. Users can visualize time series development indicators over a period of time, perform comprehensive analysis at country and regional levels, utilize presentation-ready graphics or create their own, blog, and share their views and work with others, thereby creating an informed community of users.

  • Teraco Data Environments, South Africa’s first provider of vendor-neutral data centres, has announced that it has now connected with the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), which interconnects over 550 IP networks, making it the world’s leading Internet hub. The direct link to Teraco’s peering service, NAPAfrica, which is effective from March 2013, brings Africa substantially closer to Europe in terms of connectivity, and ultimately offers endless opportunities for European carriers to connect across Africa.

    Lex van Wyk, Chief Executive Officer of Teraco Data Environments, says the perfect storm now exists for African Internet service providers to tap further into global carrier networks through vendor-neutral peering at NAPAfrica, thereby offering African consumers access to high-speed connections at a dramatically reduced cost, as well as rich global content from international carrier.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Pastel Software Zimbabwe, in partnership with Utande, on Tuesday launched Sage Pastel My Business Online, a cloud-based accounting programme designed for start-up and small businesses.

    The programme enables businesses to access and work on their accounts online from anywhere in the world.

    This is the first cloud-computing accounting programme in Zimbabwe, enabling small businesses to store their accounts information ‘in the cloud’ rather than on their office computer, making it accessible to them anywhere where there is Internet connection.

    Pastel Software Zimbabwe, the distributor of Sage Pastel accounting software, is providing the “My Business online” programme, while Internet service provider Utande is the host partner.

    My Business Online, South Africa-based Sage Pastel managing director Steven Cohen, said My Business Online worked in the same way that Facebook does.
    “With Facebook you can log in from home, office or the moon, if you ever decide to go there,” he said.

    “My Business Online works in the same way. Even if your computer gets stolen you can still log in.”

    Dandemutande chief technical officer Collin Franco explained that “cloud” was simply another name for Internet, which he said was every marketer’s dream tool. He said because of stiff competition, it was essential that every company has an online presence.

    Franco said the Internet had the advantage of being dynamic, interactive and attractive to customers.

    “If you want to be part of the growth, embrace the Internet,” he said. “It is useful, influential in daily life and has a place in daily strategy.”

  • Money transferred through the mobile money platform offered by mobile phone companies grew by 211 per cent last year, hitting the highest amount since its inception in Uganda about four years ago.

    The Deputy Bank of Uganda governor, Dr Louis Kasekende, told stakeholders at a function at which MTN Uganda released its 2012 financial results that Shs11.7 trillion went through the mobile money platform provided by the major players including MTN, Aitrel, Warid and Uganda Telecom’s systems last year.

    The growth in mobile money platform means that more Ugandans have gained confidence in the use of the mobile money platform to send and receive
    money, as opposed to commercial banks and other traditional such as Western Union.

    The massive uptake of mobile money service— an electronic platform that enables mobile phone subscribers to send and receive money using their phones— can be explained by the rapid growth in mobile phone penetration.

    Currently, total mobile subscription numbers stand at 15 million according to figures from the Uganda Communications Commission, as opposed to commercial banks outreach, creating a fertile ground for mobile money
    to thrive.

    In 2011, it was estimated that 84.7 million mobile money transactions were
    made, with a total value of Shs3.75 trillion wired through the platform.
    These figures are far higher than individual banks’ reserves and the
    number of bank accounts, which is estimated at about 3.6 million.

    At the end of December 2011, mobile commerce users in Uganda stood at 2.8
    million, up from 1.8 million in 2010 and now stands at 8.9 million as of
    December last year.

    According to Dr Kasekende, telecommunication companies are playing a crucial role in financial inclusion and taking banking services closer to people.

    MTN Uganda chief executive officer Mazen Maroue, said the telecom’s mobile money platform had 3.5 million active mobile money subscribers by December 2012 and about 20 million transactions were made through its platform over
    the period.

    He added that MTN’s revenue from mobile money increased by 60 per cent.
    Although there have been several concerns over mobile-money related fraud, Dr Kasekende said BoU is working with UCC to develop mobile money regulations to streamline operations.

  • The transaction cost of M-Pesa could be lowered after bankers got a court injunction against the Kenya Revenue Authority over the taxation of money transfer services.

    Safaricom has said it is considering the options that could see the transaction costs go down to the previous level.

    The the High Court last week stopped KRA from charging excise duty on money transfer products run by banks until the case filed by Kenya Bankers Association is heard on March 18.

    "We are of course following this matter very keenly and have sought independent legal and tax advice before taking any action of our own," said Nzioka Waita, Safaricom corporate affairs director.

    "The ruling (made last week) does not delve in to the substance of the suit per se, but recognises that there are important legal issues to be addressed at the full hearing," he added.

    Finance minister Njeru Githae introduced amendments to the Customs & Excise Duty Act imposing a 10 per cent excise duty tax on transaction fees for all money transfer services provided by cellular phone providers, banks, money transfer agencies and other financial service providers. The government expects to raise up to Sh4.5 billion annually form this.

    The amendments were gazetted last month prompting Safaricom to review its M-Pesa tariffs with effect from February 8. Transaction charges for amounts from Sh101 were increased by 10 per cent, while the company absorbed the tax for remittances of lower than Sh100.

    "We do however recognise that the new tax imposes a significant burden on the consumer and as we seek clarity on the new law we shall explore all possibilities at our disposal to mitigate this burden," said Waita.

    But for now consumers will continue paying the 10 per cent.

    Only Safaricom and Essar Telecom have announced an increase in their money transfer tariffs so far.

Digital Content

  • A smartphone, a strip of double-sided tape and a simple glass lens could have a significant impact on the diagnosis of intestinal parasites that affect millions in remote, rural parts of the world, where even the most basic medical testing is hard to come by.

    A recent, proof-of-concept study in rural Tanzania compared the effectiveness of a lens attached to an iPhone with the effectiveness of a standard light microscope in searching for roundworm and hookworm eggs in 199 children's stool samples.

    Although not as sensitive as the light microscope, the mobile phone microscope "revealed a sensitivity of 69.4 percent and a specificity of 61.5 percent for detecting any soil-transmitted helminth [parasitic worm] infection."

    "Mobile phone microscopy has been used in the laboratory setting, but we thought it would be a good idea to test it in a real-world setting," Isaac Bogoch, the lead investigator of the study and a doctor at Toronto General Hospital, told IRIN. "We need to improve the image quality and get a better lens and better slides, but it is quite close to the gold standard."

    "The advantage of the mobile phone microscope is that it's cheap: a smartphone - any phone with a decent camera and zoom would probably work as well as the iPhone - a glass lens that costs between US$8 and $10, and a basic flashlight.

    A lay health worker can do it, and the device is portable, which means it can be used as a point-of-care test," he added. "The standard diagnostic process requires a microscope, a person trained to use one, electricity and a decent light source, which is often not widely available in many places affected by parasitic infection."

    According to the UN World Health Organization, close to one-quarter of the world's population is infected with soil-transmitted worms: "Over 270 million preschool-age children and over 600 million school-age children live in areas where these parasites are intensively transmitted, and are in need of treatment and preventive interventions."

    Worms are transmitted by eggs in human faeces that contaminate the soil; transmission is exacerbated by poor sanitation. Children infected by worms can be physically, mentally or nutritionally impaired. A number of medications are available to control infection.

    "We plan to test it in the clinical setting - the big picture is to get these diagnostic tests into the field, into the hands of people who need them most," Bogoch said.

  • Kenya is known for its high mobile phone penetration, as well as related innovations like M-PESA (mobile money) and Ushahidi, a crisis-mapping tool that had its roots in the 2007-2008 post-election violence that marred the previous Kenyan elections.

    For the March 2013 elections, Al Jazeera used Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology to create an additional interface to connect feature phones to the web.

    Cynara Vetch, the project manager of Al Jazeera Voices, explains, “Al Jazeera Voices is an audio system that allows audiences to listen to, interact with and create citizen reports for Al Jazeera via low-end handsets, without any need for a data plan. The concept is to connect with audiences that are offline and off grid, people that Al Jazeera often cannot access or hear from. Voices is one solution in bridging the gap between vocal, connected voices, whose stories are having an impact on the media through social media, and those that still remain relatively unheard because they don't have the same access.”

    The Al Jazeera Voices system was built in collaboration with The World Wide Web Foundation and has been rolled out with various community partners. 

    Subscribers on the Safaricom network in Kenya could access the service by calling a toll-free number. Kenyan Voices received 2066 calls, with the callers listening to 942 bulletins and leaving 609 reports.

    Al Jazeera worked with The National Youth Sector Alliance and Kibera TV to set up virtual newsrooms, where content was moderated locally and meta-data attached before being forwarded to the Al Jazeera newsrooms.

    A similar pilot project was conducted in Ghana during their December 2012 elections, where about 2000 people dialed into the service, with a 50% content consumption rate and a 20% engagement rate.

    “Both Kenya and Ghana have been conducted as pilots and not mass marketed services,” says Soud Hyder, Al Jazeera English’s new media analyst. “The aim is to evaluate the use of IVR in citizen reporting, as well as to distribute news and information to audiences we would not otherwise reach.”

    For more information, visit here:

  • Customers of one of the leading telecommunications services provider, Airtel Nigeria can now access popular social networking platform, Facebook via a USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) Code. With this innovation, Airtel customers will be able to launch Facebook on their mobile devices by dialing *688#.

    According to Airtel, Facebook via USSD service aims to deliver Facebook to customers who have no access to the Internet.

    This new service will empower customers to connect with their family and friends anytime, anywhere on Facebook without using the internet or activating GPRS capabilities on their mobile devices.

    Speaking on the new initiative, Chief Marketing Officer, Airtel Nigeria, Olu Akanmu said Airtel is committed to enabling Nigerian youths connect to their friends and have all the fun they desire on-line through the most compelling innovative services in the Nigeria market.

    "At Airtel, the quest for total satisfaction of our customers drives us to continuously respond with customized offerings and services that will delight and engage telecom consumers.

    We will always occupy the front row in innovation that will enable Nigerians to build great bonds of friendships and fulfill their life aspirations.

    Airtel is committed to making the immense benefits of Facebook available to the widest number of Nigerians," he said.

    With the USSD service, customers can carry out the following activities from their mobile devices: Update Facebook status messages; View, like and comment on posts; Post on friends' walls; find/add friends; confirm friend requests; view notifications and View and send messages.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • TELECEL Zimbabwe has introduced Telecel Broadband Plus and is giving subscribers double the data they pay for when they buy data bundles worth $10 or more.

    It is also giving away 300 megabyte of data and 30 text messages with its dongle.

    If a bundle is renewed within 30 days, the account will be credited with another 100% bonus.

    In a statement the company said the new data service comes with four bundles — Compact, Lite, Standard and Heavy.

    “In the past, data was regarded as a luxury and seen as a privilege of the elite.
    “That has changed. People from all walks of life are now using data for different reasons.
    “Access to the Internet has become universal and essential for all people,” Telecel Zimbabwe’s data services & terminals supervisor Chenai Penduka said.

    “More and more people are now using data than ever before, many of them accessing it on their mobile phone.
    “They are not just accessing the Internet for fun or leisure, but for communication and research.

    “This is why we launched Telecel Broadband Plus, which provides data bundles cheaply for everyone, whether they are light, moderate or heavy users.”

  • Data from a climate vulnerability monitor for 184 nations are now available via an interactive online portal, making them more accessible to researchers, academics and policymakers worldwide.

    The data are based on the Climate Vulnerability Monitor report, first released at the UN climate conference (COP 16) in Cancun, Mexico, in 2010, and updated in September 2012.

    The revised data are now available through a searchable Online Data Portal — launched last month (14 February) — which aims to serve as a reference for less developed countries to help them devise strategies for climate change adaptation.

    The monitor is co-published by DARA, a non-profit research organisation based in Spain, and its Climate Vulnerable Forum, a network of countries that are heavily affected by climate change.

    The 2010 edition of the report considered four indicators: weather and environmental disasters; health impacts; habitat loss; and economic stress. The revised report takes into account 34 areas of climate-related concern, including fisheries, biodiversity, oil spills, droughts, agriculture, and vector-borne diseases.

    "The revised monitor has a new section of analysis labelled 'carbon', focusing on the socio-economic ramifications of pursuing carbon-intensive and climate unsafe activities," Matthew McKinnon, editor of the Climate Vulnerability Monitor, tells SciDev.Net.

    It draws on peer-reviewed scientific literature and datasets released by the UN, World Bank and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

    But it adds value to the existing reports by extracting climate change data individually for 184 countries from published reports, such as IPCC assessment reports, its designers say.

    "Our reports have a specific challenge and focus — to assess the impact of the climate change challenge in socio-economic terms with estimates of impact and vulnerability for 184 countries for 2010 and 2030," says McKinnon. "The IPCC has a much broader focus that goes further into the future."

    Country-wise analyses for economic costs and mortality resulting from climate change in 2010 and 2030 are available on the data portal.

    "The data portal will now provide the public, and all interested parties, with direct access to the full set of statistical information that was published in the Monitor last September," McKinnon explains. "The portal allows download, sorting and interactive screen views of the entire Monitor's data, including world maps and also two-page country profiles."

    Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow in the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, and a member of the monitor's advisory panel, tells SciDev.Net: "We hope that with the online version, more people will access and use the Monitor at a national level. So far, it's been primarily used to inform policy and debate at the global level."

  • In a bid to improve provision of information on flights schedules and other related issues at major airports in the country, the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) will soon introduce a new digital method.

    The new method will send the information using ATS Message Handling System (AMHS) to cut down on time and human costs that were deployed using analogue system of Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunication Network (AFTN).

    According to TCAA Director General, Mr Fadhili Manongi, the AMHS system will enable stakeholders to easily get information without visiting those centres at airports.

    The project, he said, expected to begin before the end of this fiscal year-2012/2013. The AMHS also known as Aeronautical Message Handling System assists in collecting aeronautical ground to ground communications such as the transmission of flight plans or meteorological data.

More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Christoph Limmer Joins Signalhorn as VP Marketing & Strategy

    Signalhorn announces that Mr. Christoph Limmer has joined its marketing team in the position of VP Marketing & Strategy. In this role, Mr. Limmer will lead Signalhorn's Marketing & Strategy Department into the company’s next major phase of growth.

    Mr. Limmer brings over 15 years of global marketing and business development skills to his role at Signalhorn. With his unique experience in defining strategies in developed as well as emerging markets around the world—most recently in dedicated marketing and distribution strategies for SES in Africa—Mr. Limmer's expertise fits perfectly with Signalhorn's strategy to deliver Trusted Networks and superior customer service globally.

Issue no 645 8th March 2013

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Top story

  • A global football social community network called Gbamm! has been soft-launched by entrepreneur Ayo Alli, who divides his time between London and Lagos. Asa licensed Premier League Football agent who has already worked on marketing other social networks, he has the skills and connections to make it work. Russell Southwood talked to Gbamm!’s Ayo Alli about what he’s planning.

    Two things are happening that make it an auspicious time for a footballing social networking site. The TV habit is changing with people using a second screen device (like a smartphone or tablet) to interact with friends and comment on what’s happening. Secondly, those that can’t get to a live match or TV screen are using the second screen to take part along with their friends and other fans. A detailed global study has already identified these trends elsewhere and they will undoubtedly
    Come to Africa. See the video clip interview with Alistair Hill, On Device Research here:

    What Alli is setting out to do is to create the best possible circumstances for this kind of social behavious:”Users can form their own groups and there will be white label spaces for brands to get involved. There will be pundits and stats and posts from fans. It will be like a big circle, with lots of little circles for fans of different clubs”.

    “Watching football is an inherently social experience, whether you watch at home or in bars or in a stadium. Imagine if you’re on business, you can still interact with people. It will be available on feature phones and smartphones, anywhere you can get the Internet.”

    The soft launch is a B2B one targeted at those who control the brand spend. These brand people are among the three groups of initial users. The other two groups are a control group (aged 16-40) who like football and a developer community to help add things into it. Gbamm! draws inspiration from the Woza Blackberry site that was created for the World Cup. “We’re developing Gbamm! in Africa because Africa has a mobile advantage but it’s going to be global.”

    There are several online football communities in existence but they have not really taken off as a second screen experience. So Alli believes that the killer app aspect of Gbamm! will be the ability to create different circles of fans, rather like circles in Google+.

    It will also have a set of online incentives, Gbamm! cash, an online currency. If you’re team loses you get sent to the bunker but can pay cash to get access again. If you do well, then additional services will become availailable:”There will be the ability to access more and more information and things like fantasy gaming and bespoke emoticons.”

    The lead developer is a women called Ade Goode and 40% of the team are women. The initial work is being done in London but the next stage will involve hacker teams in Lagos, Nairobi and Johannesburg.

    New Balancing Act video clip interviews this week:

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

    Manfred Tumban, CEO, SNS Mobility on his Cameroon MVNO

    Video briefings on:

    App ideas that might work in African markets:

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

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

    Lars Forslof, Roadroid on a smartphone app that measures the bumps and holes in the road

    Abbas Adel Ibrahim, Morsi Meter on measuring the Egyptian President's performance online – how you might measure the performance of the next Kenyan President

    The roll-out of LTE in the UK market:

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

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

     

     

telecoms

  • Extensive use of mobile phones to issue alerts on possible spate of attacks such as animal disease outbreaks has been widely reported among farmers and veterinarians across Africa.

    Until five years ago, veterinarians had to travel to remote regions to record data and then back to district-level offices to process the paperwork, a process that took weeks. Mobile phone apps are today in extensive use to make early stage warning, in just seconds, once a disease has attacked the livestock.

    Using the mobile technology, and specifically the Global Positioning System (GPS) function that has today been directly integrated in most mobile phones, animal diseases can be promptly detected and isolated once alerts are received by experts digitally.

    Early warnings, according to a study, can prevent the death of thousands of animals, as a result safeguarding livelihoods and food security, and even preventing diseases that can sometimes be transmitted to humans.

    According to FAO, fundamental veterinary care can be tracked with clear-cut accuracy and speed, attributable to the GPS function.

    “FAO and partners are piggy-backing on this enormous uptake of mobile phone technology for uses in reporting animal disease outbreaks, tracking vaccination campaigns and the delivery of veterinary treatments, such as deworming animals,” said Robert Allport, FAO Kenya’s Assistant FAO representative for programme implementation.

    In Kenya, where some three out of four people own a mobile phone, FAO has partnered with the Royal Veterinary College and local NGO Vetaid to support the pilot testing of a mobile phone application developed by researchers at the Imperial College London’s School of Public Health.

    The application dubbed EpiCollect, which helps track animal treatment or vaccination campaigns, monitors animals’ medical history using the mobile Web.
    The application and storage space are offered at no cost on the EpiCollect website that also assigns a unique location for each project.

    “Cellular phones eliminate delays in receiving field data, since all the information is relayed via the mobile network,” Allport said.

    “In addition, the information is assigned a geographic location, so locations are extremely accurate and available in real-time.”

    The information, which initially took weeks to process, can today be processed in a matter of minutes in addition to transmitting the info in real time. For instance, the data on the population of livestock in a herd and the number of those vaccinated is stored before being relayed to the project location on a project-specific website in seconds.

    As the herds move about, their movements can be tracked recurrently and updated. Presently, EpiCollect is solely in use by field veterinarians with cell phones provided by Google Kenya for the pilot phase.

    “Eventually, the tools could be made available to village elders and well-established networks of community animal health workers, as more and more Kenyans upgrade to Internet-enabled phones and prices for the technology inevitably come down,” Google said.

    Though a third of Kenyans currently have access to the Internet, some 99 percent of them use the mobile Web. This means information on possible epidemics can be to a large population in a matter of seconds.

    “Prevention, preparedness and early response are powerful concepts that when translated into tools can be effectively used against infectious diseases, thereby safeguard people’s livelihoods, fend off hunger and, in some cases, human illness,” said Juan Lubroth, the FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer.

  • Safaricom has issued a statement clarifying its role in the election, saying its VPN had 100% uptime in the areas it covered. This comes in response to ‘public concern’ over technical glitches during the election.

    Safaricom noted that it was one of several service providers contracted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission “IEBC” to provide network connectivity for the electronic transmission of electoral results.

    In a statement, signed by CEO Bob Collymore, the telco said: “In accordance with the terms of our contract with the IEBC , Safaricom’s responsibilities were twofold, the first was to provide the virtual private network (VPN) for the conveyance of the results from polling stations across the country previously identified as having sufficient mobile coverage to the IEBC’s constituency, county and national tallying center infrastructure. The second was to deliver 17,900 original manufacturer warranted handsets to the IEBC for use by polling staff for purposes of transmitting electronic results. Safaricom was neither involved in the supply of the software to be used on the mobile handsets nor the distribution and storage of the devices.”

    “The observed traffic on the VPN provided by Safaricom did not exceed 3.5 Mbps at any time. When put in to context this is a small fraction of the 3,000 Mbps traffic we observe at any time in our network. The total number of mobile devices provisioned to be used by the IEBC polling staff to relay results on the Safaricom VPN were 32,000, this represents only 2% of the 1.5 million devices connected to our data network at any given time.”

    It said Safaricom’s role was simply to provide connectivity between the mobile devices and the IEBC tallying centers. “Safaricom did not and does not have any role in the technical design, management or specification of the servers, the mobile software application nor the graphic presentation of the results data used by the IEBC. The Safaricom mobile and virtual private network has remained robust with 100% uptime in all areas where coverage was to be provided. Safaricom has provided unrestricted access to representatives of the 8 presidential candidates to assess and monitor its network performance. All of them were and still are confident in our network quality.”

  • The Libyan Government is seeking public relations support for its attempts to liberalise the country's telecoms and internet industries.

    The country, which is emerging from a brutal civil war, intends to open up a restricted business sector that has been dominated by Libya Telecom & Technology (LTT). The company was established in 1997 under the regime of former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

    International telcos, including China's Huawei and ZTE and Middle East companies Etisalat, Saudi Telecom and Qatar Telecom, are understood to be keen on entering the country, attracted by a wealthy market and limited competition. Both of the country's mobile operators are state-owned, while broadband and internet penetration lag the rest of North Africa.

    Libya's Ministry of Communication & Informatics, formed by the country's new government last year, has released an RFP that aims to build public support for its plans, which include developing ICT capacity and promoting free enterprise, private sector development and liberalisation.

    The one-year initiative requires a range of services, including content creation, media relations, monitoring, media training and digital engagement. It is overseen by Hadi Alghanai, the Ministry's director of media relations.

  • The Djibouti Data Center (DDC), a joint venture between Djibouti Telecom and Djibouti Data Center SARL, a group of local and international investors, has announced the commercial launch of a Tier 3 data centre facility in Djibouti City.

    The DDC is designed to leverage Djibouti’s strategic position in the region as the major hub for submarine fibre-optic cable systems connecting Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, to Africa. The new data centre is collocated close to Djibouti Telecom’s new cable landing station and will offer international telecoms carriers and content delivery network (CDN) providers ‘neutral’ collocation facilities, internet exchange (IX), and other enhanced services in one of the fastest growing regions in the world.

    The DDC added that it has already been selected by MTN Group to provide cable cross connect and backhaul services from the cable landing station in Djibouti.

  • Bharti Airtel has announced the launch of the mobile HD voice service for its subscribers in Africa. The development comes as the first step in Airtel's ambition to make mobile HD voice accessible in all its operations across the continent.

    HD voice is the most significant improvement in voice communications in the past two decades. Mobile HD voice offers crystal clear audio quality and will enhance user experience on Airtel mobile networks. "Surveys confirm that customers place a high value on HD Voice", explained Andre Beyers, the Chief Marketing Officer, Airtel Africa. "The new service will enrich end-user experience for Airtel subscribers".

    Mobile HD Voice enables high-quality voice calls because it reduces background noise often heard on a regular call. Airtel customers on 3G networks will experience a significant improvement in their voice communications as the new service will enable them to hear better in noisy environments.

    Airtel becomes the third operator to launch a mobile HD voice service in Africa. The telecommunications company aims to make HD voice a reality on the continent. Further launches will be scheduled in 2013.

internet

  • Nigerian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have kicked against moves by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to sell the remaining spectrum in the 2.3 gigahertz (GHz) band, arguing that such a move will further compound the misery of operators licensed and currently operating within the band. The operators are Mobitel, Spectranet and Direct on Personal Computer (DoPC).

    Atel Ajha, chief operating officer (COO) of Spectranet, who spoke on behalf the  operators at a forum organised by the NCC on the ‘Best Option for Licensing the Remaining Slots in the 2.3Ghz Band’, argued that instead of selling the remaining slots to fresh operators, they should be given the opprotunity to buy it.

    He averred that the standard practice all over the world is that operators in the band range get 30 MHz, suggesting that guardband of between 2.3Ghz and 2.4Ghz should also be provided to take care of interference and spurious emission.

    He said their request is predicated on the need for them to extend service deployement to other states of the federation with superior technology and new customers’ experience.

    “Today’s planning must provide for future technology requirement,” he warned, arguing that the proposal of the NCC to open bid for the 30 MHz will unleash an era of “unfair competition” on the industry.

    Ajha lamented that there are no significant wireless operators in the country when in fact, globally, they are the ones that provide the primary network operations.

    He said international bandwidth rate is the country is one of the highest in the world, adding that when the country is compared with the rest of the world, its national long distance and metro network is also too exorbitant so is also the rental cost too.

    He fears that if another operator is licensed and that operator has infrastructure like international carrier licence as well as metro and national long distance fibre ownership may lead to cross-subsidy on ISPs, creating an “unfair competition” in the industry.

    In his opening remarks, the executive vice chairman and chief executive officer of the NCC, Eugene Juwah, said convening the forum in line with the NCC’s participatory regulatory approach. “The objective of this forum, in line with the Commission’s policy of participatory regulation amongst other things is to provide an avenue for stakeholders and users of the 2.3 GHz band to discuss, technically criticise, exchange ideas and proffer options that will help the Commission in arriving at a decision on the further licensing of the remaining 40 MHz bandwidth in the band for the benefit of all Nigerians.

  • The website of South Sudan ruling party (SPLM) has temporarily been suspended. StartLogic, a source told Sudan Tribune, pulled down the party's website early this week. "This site has been suspended", reads a statement on visiting the party website.

    It is not clear why the US based web hosting company; a subsidiary of Endurance International Group, suspended the south-ruling party's site. No official statement has so far been issued by the party in relation to the matter.

    On Tuesday, senior officials were locked up in the party's political bureau meeting, seeking to review and adopt drafts of the SPLM basic documents ahead of their forthcoming National Liberation Council (NLC) and extra ordinary conventions. The convention, Anne Itto, the deputy SPLM secretary general said, aims to review the party's manifesto, constitution, basic rules and regulations as well as the code of conduct.

  • Internet Gabon Telecom (Telecom IG) and the Railway Company Congo-Ocean (Chemin de Fer Congo Ocean or CFCO) have signed an agreement on the supply of telecommunications services and the maintenance of a private VSAT Network, reports local news agency Pana.

    The two companies signed a two-year contract valued at CFA 1.5 billion (about USD 3 million) which will equip 29 CFCO stations with modern telecommunications equipment.

    It will be the first VSAT operator in the Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC) with more than 500 installed sites. The contract will enable the better use of trains and enforce discipline by drivers throughout the rail network.

computing

  • Ericsson has donated computers worth 30m/- to KADEA Secondary School in Kagera Region.The donation was presented to the school's administration by Echezana Ozumbe, Ericsson's Project Manager in Tanzania over the weekend.

    Ozumbe said at the presentation ceremony held at the school that this is part of the company's corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme for 2013. Ericsson has an annual programme of assisting the community in its development efforts, with emphasis to marginalised rural areas.

  • The City of Kigali, on Wednesday, donated a flat screen television set and a desktop computer to each of the 50 villages in the outskirts of the city to help the citizens remain updated.

    The gadgets are to be placed under what is being termed as "Knowledge Room" in each village, and will be accessed by all free of charge.

    The benefitting villages were drawn from the three urban districts; Gasabo (20 villages), Nyarugenge (14 villages) and Kicukiro where the programme was launched with the distribution of the facilities to 16 villages.

    The television screens have cable signal, while the computers are connected to the Internet.

    The launch was held at Nyarurama cell office, Kicukiro district, but the idea, according to city officials, is to eventually work to ensure all households in the city have access to television and Internet.

    Kigali City mayor Fidele Ndayisaba said the programme aims at helping Rwandans to have updated information about the various government programmes and what is going on in the world.

    "Use this technology to keep updated and to develop by yourselves," the mayor told the residents.

    "ICT is the key driver to development. This is the way of helping them to develop as they already had the fundamental infrastructure such as electricity and roads," Ndayisaba said.

    He said leaders will help look after the equipment and be responsible for meeting operational charges such as Internet cost.

    The facilities were donated in partnership with Tigo Rwanda.

    "We're grateful for being able to partner in initiatives that keep Tigo close to the people and that could potentially change the lives of entire communities," said Diego Camberos, the Tigo Rwanda chief executive officer.

    He said such initiatives are ideal platforms for Rwandans to stay connected with the world and develop new skills as a community.

    The event was also attended by the Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Airtel Money has added a new product to its growing bouquet. The “School Pocket Money Service” is aimed at eliminating the stress associated with parents and guardians who struggle to send pocket money to their wards in senior secondary schools.

    Corporate Relations Manager of Airtel Ghana, Kwame Gyan, explains that Airtel Money has partnered some Senior High Schools to provide a convenient and safe mode of transfer of pocket monies from parents to wards.

    “So far we have mainly Senior Housemasters from PRESEC, Labone, Ada Senior High, Accra Girls, Kumasi Girls, Accra Academy, St. Augustine’s College, Mfantsipim School, Aggrey Memorial and Prempeh College who serve as Airtel Money agents in these schools. Parents and guardians with wards in these schools are thus able to send monies to them using Airtel Money”.

    Airtel Money has consolidated its position as the leading mobile money service in Ghana, and remains the only mobile service that allows customers to link their Airtel Money wallets with their bank accounts.

  • Absa has introduced a mobile branch that can be operational anywhere in SA, within 24 hours of arrival.

    The big four bank yesterday announced the launch of its first “mobile village branch model” (Branch-on-the-move) – a mobile bank branch Absa will run on a trial basis in Idutywa, in the Eastern Cape, which recently saw the original branch razed by a fire.

    Absa says its Branch-on-the-move serves as an emergency branch and does not require technology or equipment to be dissembled before being transported. “In a commitment to improve access to financial services, the Idutywa pilot was built in only six weeks to serve the community while a new bank branch is being planned.” The financial services  group says this is in line with Absa’s commitment to meet the growing need for community banking services. Arrie Rautenbach, Absa’s head of retail markets, says the mobile bank is designed to simulate the functionality of an entire bank branch in the form of a large container on wheels, that can be set up to be fully functional anywhere in the country.

    Rautenbach says the portable bank will move to areas of the country to extend its banking services where renovations, fire damage, water damage, ATM bombings or even construction interrupt normal branch operations. “This service will especially be felt in remote rural villages.”

    Branch-on-the-move offers full banking services with two tellers, two sales consultants, a branch manager and an ATM.

Digital Content

  • Bantu Babel is a product of a Randon Hacks of Kindness hackathon, The Peace Corps Innovation Challenge Hackathon, which was held in December 2012 at BongoHive, Lusaka’s Technology and Innovation Hub. The project team included a group of developers and Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs).
     Bantu Babel is an African Language Translation mobile application available on the Android platform. You can translate words and get translations of useful survival phrases in popular African languages, on your mobile phone. No network required. Bantu Babel currently offers translations in all 7 major Zambian Languages.

  • In Northern Mali, one of the towns where French and African troops have been trying to unseat Islamist rebels is Kidal — a small, dusty hub of trans-Saharan traffic and trade.

    Portland, Ore., musicologist Christopher Kirkley spent several months there in 2009 and 2010, collecting music rarely heard by the rest of the world.

    He had traveled to West Africa with an acoustic guitar, a digital recorder and a small laptop, with the intention of recording traditional guitar music.

    Instead he found the Saharan soundscape full of tinny digital audio blaring from cheap, off-brand cellphones.

    “People use them as portable hard drives,” Kirkley said. “It actually was kind of a pain when I first encountered it, because I was there with my microphone, expecting to be trading these folk songs while people were playing them on guitar. And a lot of times I’d ask somebody, I’d say, ‘Play that song you were talking about, that old rebellion song.’ And rather than play it, someone would take out their cellphone and hit play.”

    People were sharing the songs using Bluetooth wireless technology, which works without phone service or Internet.

    With villagers, nomads, immigrants, traders, truck drivers and refugees all crossing paths in Kidal, the web of music Kirkley found there was like “the Internet without the Internet,” he said.

    He started collecting the MP3s from the cellphone memory cards, and has since put out two compilations of Saharan cellphone music — the latest was just released on vinyl.

    “These MP3s that are on cellphones often don’t have any information on them besides a file name and an ID3 tag, so when it came to tracking down the musicians, it was a really laborious process of trying to decode this really minimal information and find out A, where the musician was coming from and B, who they were,” Kirkley said.

    Much of the music he collected from cellphones is the product of a “DIY revolution of cheap technology,” Kirkley said — songs created on computers in homemade studios in villages and towns. Occasionally, songs were recorded directly onto cellphones.

    Many of the people Kirkley met in Kidal have since fled, because of the extremists who took over. In some places, extremists have instituted Sharia law, essentially banning cellphone music.

    “The Islamists have actually even taken to destroying cellphone towers, seeing them as indicative of this popular music culture,” Kirkley said.

    The phones have also been one of the only ways to capture the conflict there.

    Kirkley plans to return to Mali next month — this time with the goal of collecting videos relating to the rebellion.

    “Once the data isn’t transferred anymore, then it does disappear, due to size constraints on cellphones and the fact that it’s not being archived,” Kirkley said. “So in particular with the rebellion, I think that the really important story of what’s been happening in Northern Mali does exist on cellphone medium. And we’ll see what happens.”

  • South African taxi ordering solution Zapacab is set to launch before April this year, seeking to provide reliable and efficient taxi services on the streets of Cape Town.

    Zapacab aims to transform the current model of taxi ordering, where group affiliated drivers are obliged to operate through a centralised despatch system.

    “We are completely replacing that despatch service and providing and empowering directly to the customer,” founder Paul Donner told HumanIPO.

    Zapacab is one of nine startups part of the 88mph accelerator programme in Woodstock, Cape Town.

  • The Ministry of Trade and Industry yesterday launched a National Web Based Product Gallery  in Accra aimed at enhancing the businesses of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in the country.

    The Minister for Trade and Industry, Haruna Iddrissu who launched the site said the web based product gallery would position Ghanaian businesses to participate effectively on the platform.

    The National Web-Based Product Gallery which was developed with assistance from the World Bank would seek to provide detailed and reliable products and company information of participating firms across the country.

    He noted that the project was in line with government’s effort to transform enterprises, create jobs opportunities as well as improve livelihood in the country.

    Iddrisu challenged MSME in the country to take advantage of the technological drive to grow their business. “We are living in a digital world-technology drive where the use of internet has become a key contribution to economic growth”, he stressed.

    He added that the portal would also be a good avenue for advertising and marketing product information such as prices, market offers and contacts.

  • With the shelf life of local films expiring some time after a glitzy debut night and some cracks at international film festivals, Namibian film directors have been looking for a way to extend their products longevity while getting paid in the process.

    Cut to AfricAvenir Namibia and its director, Hans-Christian Mahnke, who have recently secured a relationship with video-on-demand platform, AfricaFilms.TV, which will afford Namibian filmmakers the opportunity to sell their films online to a global market.

    Founded by Senegal's Enrico Chiesa in close cooperation with Studio Sankara and the European Union's support programme for African, Caribbean and Pacific group states' cinema and audio visual sectors, AfricaFilms.TV is no less than a website where consumers can search for specific African films and either rent or download them for a fee.

    "In terms of a filmmaker's profit, the rights share is pretty easy and it's all very transparent," says Mahnke.

    "50 percent goes to AFTV and the rest is divided by the rights owners and their legal bindings with others. The contract is a non-exclusive VOD contract hence one can still sell film rights to other VOD channels at the same time. The territories are defined by the seller and one can choose the best option for oneself."

    Boasting films by our own Simon Wilkie, Andrew Botelle, Tim Huebschle and with films by Perivi Katjavivi on the way, Namibian filmmakers join the ranks of what AfricaFilms.TV considers the best films, soaps, cinema, documentaries, concerts and shows from the whole continent and from the Diaspora.

    "The aim is to reinforce the African film sector," say Mahnke. "To help African rights owners of film content to take hold of the digital distribution of their films, using VOD to extend their lifecycle and expand their reach to worldwide audiences."

    In terms of local filmmakers wanting to get in on the action, Mahnke urges them to contact AfricAvenir.

    "We act as agents; I can only sign the films which give us the go-ahead. The films we currently have signed with AFTV are 'Wanahepo - The Return of a Namibian Hero' by Per Sanden, 'Power Stone - The story of the Kwanyama Kingdom' and 'Born in Etosha', by Andrew Botelle, 'Testimony - Breaking the Wall of Silence' by Simon Wilkie and short films by Tim Huebschle, which are 'Beef', 'Looking for Iilonga', 'Rider without a Horse' and 'Orange Juice'.

    Support local cinema by visiting the website here  and adding one or all of the above to your online shopping cart.

  • A conservation group claims that Google is helping fuel a dramatic surge in ivory demand in Asia that is killing African elephants at record levels.

    A conservation group claims that Google has something in common with illicit ivory traders in China and Thailand: It says the Internet search giant is helping fuel a dramatic surge in ivory demand in Asia that is killing African elephants at record levels.

    The Environmental Investigation Agency, a conservation advocacy group, said in a statement Tuesday that there are some 10,000 ads on Google Japan’s shopping site that promote the sale of ivory.

    About 80 percent of the ads are for “hanko,” small wooden stamps widely used in Japan to affix signature seals to official documents. The rest are carvings and other small objects.

    Hanko are used for everything from renting a house to opening a bank account. The stamps are legal and typically inlaid with ivory lettering.

    The EIA said Japan’s hanko sales are a “major demand driver for elephant ivory (and) have contributed to the wide-scale resumption of elephant poaching across Africa.”

    Google said in an emailed response to The Associated Press, “Ads for products obtained from endangered or threatened species are not allowed on Google. As soon as we detect ads that violate our advertising policies, we remove them.”

    The EIA said it had written a letter to Google CEO Larry Page on Feb. 22 urging the company to remove the ads because they violate Google’s own policies. It said Google had not responded to the letter or taken down the advertisements.

    “While elephants are being mass slaughtered across Africa to produce ivory trinkets, it is shocking to discover that Google, with the massive resources it has at its disposal, is failing to enforce its own policies designed to help protect endangered elephants,” said Allan Thorton, the U.S.-based president of the EIA.

    Curbing the trade in so-called “blood ivory” is at the top of the agenda of the 178-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, which is meeting in Bangkok this week to discuss how to protect the planet’s biodiversity by regulating the legal trade of flora and fauna and clamping down on smuggling.

    Around 70 years ago, up to 5 million elephants are believed to have roamed sub-Saharan Africa. Today, just several hundred thousand are left.

    Over the last few years, as Asian economies have grown and demand for ivory has risen, the slaughter of elephants has reached its worst level in more than two decades. Last year alone, some 32,000 elephants were killed in Africa, according to the Born Free Foundation, which says black-market ivory sells for around $1,300 per pound. Much of it ends up as tourist trinkets and carvings.

    CITES banned the international ivory trade in 1989, but the move did not address domestic markets.

    Google’s advertising policies state that Google “doesn’t allow the promotion of products obtained from endangered or threatened species,” including elephant tusks, rhino horns and products made from whales, sharks and dolphins.

    Thorton said the policies were laudable “but sadly these are not being enforced and that’s devastating.”

    Concerned Internet shoppers have alleged that ivory is being sold on other sites as well, including eBay. Some objects now offered for more than $1,000 apiece are marketed as “ox-bone” or “faux ivory.”

    At least one wildlife group, the United Kingdom-based International Fund for Animal Welfare, has said it has worked with eBay to help them enforce anti-ivory trading policies by showing them how their rules are being flouted and improving efforts to flag suspicious items.

    In 2007, IFAW alleged that eBay was “one of the main channels through which trafficking in wildlife and wildlife products are conducted online,” but it has said the shopping site clamped down after IFAW shared research with them concerning illegal trading.

  • The Plataform KALLUN  (meaning slang), founded by Leocarpo Mário, is a recent collaborative project with the ultimate goal of gathering in just one place all the slang with Angolan origins. Kallun enables interactive search of terms and their meanings.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Nigeria’s telecom operator Globacom (Glo) has announced the launch of a new Internet wireless router in the hope that it will boost ”on-the-go and office” connections for users.

    According to the operator, the launch offers users greater access and higher Internet speeds, particularly within the home environment.

    “The Glo Mobile Wi-Fi is a mobile portable device that can connect up to five Wi-Fi gadgets (PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones and PSPs) to mobile broadband,” the company stated in a media release announcing the launch of the new router and increased services.

More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Call For Candidates: Internet Security Trainings For Gulf of Guinea Journalists and Activists

    On May 27, and July 15, 2013, Internet Sans Frontières and the University of Clemson will organise five-day "Data Security Camps" for journalists and activists from the Gulf of Guinea. The deadline has been extended: Interested candidates can now send their applications until March 29, 2013.

    In Paris and Abidjan, on May 27, and July 15, 2013, Internet Sans Frontières and Clemson University of South Carolina will organize five-day “Internet security” training seminars. These seminars will be held to allow Gulf of Guinea journalists, social media, human rights and democracy activists to learn how to proactively counteract online repression. The training seminars will be led by Doctor Richard Brooks of Clemson University in the United States, who has been working for the past year on a project called « Internet Democracy Support for West Africa ».

    The education seminars provided will teach human rights and democracy activists, journalists and activist social media users how to use the counter-surveillance technologies developed by Doctor Brooks and his team at Clemson University. The seminars will also cover network security and privacy issues. Participants will be taught how to ensure secure communications and avoid online tracking. Technologies such as Tor and I2P provide anonymous communications, but repressive governments use network filtering to block access to these services. The technical approach developed by Doctor Brooks counters existing network surveillance regimes.

    Suitably qualified people are requested to apply for places in these training seminars (see below for more details). The seminars will be offered free of charge to suitably qualified candidates, but participants will have to cover all travel and subsistence costs themselves. The seminars will be held in French and English.

    Who can Apply?

    In principle any human rights or democracy activist currently active in the Gulf of Guinea who has a record of using the Internet to further the causes of democracy or human rights, and any journalist or social media activist who reports on respect of human rights or democracy is suitably qualified. West Africans who develop counter-surveillance technologies for such activists are also suitably qualified. Universities in of the Gulf of Guinea region, which would like to participate in the project, and receive the support of Doctor Brooks and his team, are also invited to contact us.

    To allow us to assess your qualifications, please send an email, in French or English, to idswaone@gmail.com . The email should be titled “Paris – Data Security Camp” if you wish to attend the training beginning in Paris on May 27, 2013 or “Abidjan – Data Security Camp” if you wish to attend the training seminar in Abidjan that begins on July 15, 2013.  It should detail your record in human rights, democracy activism, and journalism or as an activist user of social media. If you would like more details before applying by email, please call the following telephone number (in the United States) 00-1-864-986-0813 and leave a message, including your telephone number, so that we can call you back.

    Candidates can apply until March 29th 2013 23h59 GMT. Applicants will receive a response in April 2013. Once your candidature has been accepted you will be provided with more detailed information about the training seminars. Demand for places in the training seminars will be high and the number of places is limited. To ensure a good chance of participating, please apply as soon as possible.

    Why are these training seminars needed?

    A number of recent cases tend to prove that the increased use of online media is being used by repressive regimes to identify and attack democracy advocates in the Gulf of Guinea, especially those who are novices in the use of social media. Unfortunately, it is easy for repressive Governments to find telecommunications companies ready to provide them with Internet surveillance and filtering technologies which can be used against journalists and human rights and democracy advocates.

    Network monitoring also permits repressive regimes to track the consumers of online content. This can place not only journalists and activists but also social media users at risk. There is an active debate as to whether on-line media is more beneficial to democratic activists or to repressive governments. Recent unrest in the Middle East and Iran include instances of governments using social media to identify dissidents. Participants in the training seminars will learn about systems of internet surveillance and how to counteract them.

    The Goal of the “Internet Democracy Support for West Africa” Project

    The main goal of the project named “Internet Democracy Support for West Africa” is to enable unfettered Internet access by inhabitants of countries whose regimes restrict freedom of expression, freedom of the press, democracy and human rights. The aim of the training seminars is to teach groups of people deemed to be “at risk” (journalists, social media activists, human rights and democracy advocates) how best to use Counter-Censorship technologies. Following the seminars, participants will be integrated into the program’s secure online network. They will continue to be provided with regular updates and new versions of the technologies with which they were familiarized at the training seminars. At the end of this project, many more human rights and democracy advocates in West Africa will have the tools and knowledge they need to securely circumvent current Internet censorship and surveillance technologies.

    Duration of the project

    The project is designed to last for three years, by which time partnerships between Doctor Brooks’ team at Clemson, universities in the Gulf of Guinea and activist user-groups will make the project self-sustaining. Participants at the training seminars given during the first, second and third years will receive ongoing online support.
    Source: Internet Sans Frontieres

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