Newsletter English

Issue no 607 1st June 2012

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Top story

  • Sponsored by Nokia, infoDev and the Government of Finland, this week’s Open Innovation Africa Summit (OIAS) in Nairobi focused on how to create the ecosystem that will help develop services and applications for the mobile Internet. Russell Southwood attended and used it as an opportunity to see where things have got to since that last event 18 months ago.

    Eighteen months is a long time in Africa in terms of Internet development.Eighteen months ago was almost the point that large-scale use of Internet began to become apparent, particularly social media. Facebook numbers began to grow rapidly from that point and continue to do so. MXit numbers on the continent have also shot up outside South Africa. Venture capital companies like Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital have made significant bets on tech companies on the continent. There are now 22 tech incubator spaces on the continent engaged in the process of trying to breed successful, new companies.

    But the obstacles to the creation of a functioning mobile Internet ecosystem remain. Eighteen months ago I wrote a report after the first event that said:” Mobile operators have to decide whether they are “content guys” or not. In the medium term, it matters less what the decision is and more that they simply have clarity. In our view, mobile operators are not “content guys”: if they were, they would know something about how to develop content and not deal with it tactically through SMS aggregators as deals. There is currently no intelligent “content publishing” function in most operators’ structures. So the key issue for the success of data revenues is: how can you create a compelling, financially rewarding ecosystem to generate apps, content and services that users want more of?” Nothing has really changed.

    There were no mobile operators at this OIAS event and you rarely see them at any of the mobile web events on the continent. Their channels to receive new content are narrow (both in terms of staffing and launches) and they are holding back content and services development. So if you are a developer or entrepreneur in this space you either have to assume that you find a way to go round the mobile operators (the mobile web but it has far fewer users with handsets to access it) or that you will find a way to deal with them. As we will see later, neither approach presents easy options.

    Perhaps for this reason, this OIAS was a much more practically focused event than last time, where people grappled with this central roadblock along with wider issues like reaching the bottom-of-the-pyramid customers; getting Government to use this emerging means of communication and media; and providing finance to create new services and applications.

    Mercifully the event had less of the “build a tower with straws and plastic cups” exercises and was a very nourishing mixture of high-level plenaries with good speakers on key issues like leadership and small team-working in streams. You might not like all parts of the programme but all the right people were there and the conversations were rich and rewarding.

    The highlight for me was the leadership speakers. Patrick Awauah launched a private not-for-profit university in Ghana (Ashesi) because he saw that African education was based on rote learning and did not produce people who could analyze problems and solve them. Fred Swaniker (also a Ghanaian) travelled the same road and launched the African Leadership Academy. He wants to create a network of 6,000 African leaders and the Academy’s intake is the process for achieving this goal. Each intake gets to access a small VC fund to create companies. There is perhaps some irony that two of the continent’s most articulate leadership speakers come from a country in need of incisive leadership in the ICT field.

    However, the stand-out presentation was from Yves Morieux, Boston Consulting Group. He warned Africa not to accept the “poisoned seed” contained in the phrase best leadership practices. He described with great subtlety the awful consequences of trying to respond to the complex requirements of the 21st century. At the heart of this overwhelming complexity was the matrix organization.

    He described a car manufacturer that had 5 functional areas and five horizontal responsibilities at the international level and that at regional level there were a further 5 functional areas and 5 horizontal responsibilities. Little surprise that company surveys showed staff members spending 40% of their time writing reports and 30% of their time in meetings.

    A Demo event was held where 12 companies got the opportunity to present their company’s products and services and people voted for what they thought was the best one. The entrants included: Umuntu Media (virtual pinboard); M-ganga (a recording system for community medicines); MoMaths (education); Nokia Education Delivery; MyShop (running a small business on a smartphone); WetteIndeApps (Ushahidi-style social network platform); MaxMalipo (payment terminal); Snapplify (content delivery for mobile platforms); M-Shop (as it sounds); MyOrder (ordering platform for businesses); Uhasibu (cloud-based accounting for things like petty cash); and EGG-Energy (portable rechargeable batteries). The winner was Namibian-based Umuntu Media run by Johan Nel.

    I took part in the Mobile Information Society Stream that focused on trying to overcome some of the obstacles to delivering mobile services and applications. The team looked at how to monetize mobile content. The ways listed included: mobile income split on SMS; advertising revenues (through companies like inMobi); virtual currencies (like MXit’sMoolah); apps sold through app stores; sponsored sites (like the Guinness football site in Nigeria); and content syndication. The sad truth was that where the income split was favourable (through app stores), there was unfortunately far fewer users with appropriate phones. At almost every turn, the income split with mobile operators (70/30 or 80/20) was the issue on all the other routes.

    The team decided that an industry lobby , a mobile content and service providers association (representing SMS aggregators, media and developers) should sit down and negotiate with mobile operators to improve both routes to market and income splits. It would pioneer a Young Developers scheme that would allow those in the scheme to receive a far better income share to offer them some encouragement. Afrinnovator’s Mark Kaigwaagreed to take on the difficult task of trying to get one off the ground in Kenya.

    This was one of a whole slew of ideas that were presented to the plenary session at the end of the event. Rather too many of these were about exchanging information and setting up networks (as if these did not already exist) but nevertheless there were good ideas, including a number to improve the financing of entrepreneurs and start-up companies.

    For Africa to be successful in this area many things need to happen but two stand out above the rest:

    1. The mobile content roadblock described at the beginning of this article needs to be changed in some way. Mobile will not become the powerful media it has the potential to be without this occurring. Africa’s mobile operators may yet live to regret not taking a greater interest in this problem.

    2.    A venture capital company needs to invest in an African company and sell it on at a good profit. The more times this happens, the more the continent will attract interest from elsewhere.

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

    New on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Bosun Tijani, Cocreation Hub in Lagos talks about innovation and social entrepreneurs

    Jesse Oguns, blogger at o TeKbits talks about ICT innovation in Nigeria

    From the previous week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Samantha Fleming, Afrosocialmedia on NGOs using social media

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

telecoms

  • Airtel, the largest telecom network in DRC, is the first operator to be visited by the new Telecommunications & ICT Minister in the country –Tryphon Kin-Kiey Mulumba. The visit was part of the newly appointed Minister’s familiarization program to understand the realities that the telecom operators are dealing with in the country. 

    The Minister was delighted with the  level of investments made by the Airtel telecom network in DRC: More than a billion U.S. dollars has been invested in the network over the years, and Airtel plans to invest an additional 615 million U.S. dollars over the next three years.

    Commenting on his visit, Kin-Kiey Mulumba said: “Our country is very large and the potential is huge. Airtel is a big company, and the investments made so far by Airtel in our country are amazing. We, as the Government, are under the obligation to make available the essential infrastructures to enable operators like Airtel and others to continue investing in our country and improve the national coverage. "

    "The Government’s instructions are very clear as for an immediate sale of the 3G license to telecom operators and completion of the Optical fiber landing station. The Optical fiber question is a matter of priority for the Government," he added.

    Airtel DRC Managing Director, Antoine Pamboro, thanked the Minister for this visit which allowed the new head of the telecom sector to interact with Airtel’s team. The Minister and his delegation were impressed by Airtel’s technical achievements. Whist 60% of the Congolese population is covered, there is still a lot more potential. He also pointed out the organizations commitment to youth education. To date, three schools in Kinshasa, Kasai-Oriental and Bas-Congo benefit from Airtel’s adopt a school program.

    Airtel has also expressed willingness to take up a 25 % participation of the company to be set up to manage the Optical Fiber in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • Airspan Networks Inc., a provider of broadband wireless access networks, announced last week that it has been chosen by Millenium Telecom Centrafrique for a 4G Wireless deployment in Central African Republic (CAR).

    Millenium, a new Internet Service Provider, is the first mobile broadband operator in CAR, founded in April 2011, with the aim to provide reliable and affordable high-speed Internet access to individuals & businesses.

    The initial deployment is focused on delivering mobile 4G data services to approximately 1,000 users in Bangui, the capital of CAR. Subsequent phases will expand service to 10,000 consumer and corporate users throughout the city.

    Using Airspan's leading-edge Air4G macro cell solution, the deployment incorporates a wide selection of user devices including long-range outdoor, self-install indoor, and USB devices. Millenium offers VPN services to corporations and organizations, Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities in hotels and restaurants and pre-paid card services to consumers.

    "We are very happy to work with Airspan on the first wireless high-speed Internet network in CAR," commented Souleymane Diallo, Founder & CEO of Millenium Telecom. "With Airspan's Air4G platform, we will be able to provide the best quality network and offer unique, cost-effective, data services to the population of CAR. Our objective is to cover the whole capital city, Bangui, with mobile WiMAX and Wi-Fi hotspots in our first phase launch. We expect further expansion into additional provinces by the end of 2012."

    The network, operating in the 2.5 GHz band, is delivering never-before-accessed Internet speeds and services. The city of Bangui has a population of just under 600,000 people. The estimated current Internet penetration rate in CAR is 2% of the population.
    "Africa is a dynamic and fast-growing region for 4G Internet services," commented Amit Ancikovsky, President of Products and Sales for Airspan Networks. "Airspan is seeing an acceleration of 4G network deployments and I am very optimistic on our continued growth in this territory. Millenium is just an example of the entrepreneurial 4G Internet Service Providers popping up across underserved African regions, working diligently to modernize networks and help economic growth with broadband mobile data access. Airspan provides an ideal solution that helps these companies accomplish their goals."

  • Communications technology provider Ericsson has partnered up with TiGo Ghana to deploy a free voice and data network in that country using a hybrid power solution.

    Alan Triggs, Vice President & Head of Operations Sub-Saharan Africa and Country Manager for Ericsson, said the move was aimed at bringing better education and creating opportunities for those unconnected in Ghana’s rural areas.

    Most parts of Ghana's West Mamprusi and Builsa districts have no internet and mobile cellphone connections, making communication very difficult.

    "Mobile services along with internet connectivity will boost all levels of development in this otherwise neglected area,” said Amadou Niang, the director of the Millenium Development Goals for West Africa.

    Niang adds, "I believe we will see quick advances in health, education and agriculture infrastructure and business development through this partnership.”

    Acting chief executive officer of TiGo Ghana, Obafemi Banigbe, said the mobile operator’s participation was aimed at providing access to modern communication technology to people in deep rural areas, who do not enjoy similar communication social networks as their urban counterparts.

    "It is our overriding vision to create a world where mobile services are affordable accessible and available to everywhere and to all," said Banigbe.

    The Ericsson-TiGo partnership is financed by the United Nations' Millennium Village Project and includes partners Earth Institute and Millennium Promise.

    “More than 500,000 people in 10 sub-Saharan Africa countries have benefited from mobile connectivity as a result of the Millennium Village Project,” said Triggs.

  • Broadcast, Film and Music Africa, an conference international event will take place on 10-11 July 2012 at the Oshwal Centre Westlands, Nairobi, in Kenya. An estimated 400 delegates are expected this year including some top audiovisual experts and speakers. 
    “Through our ‘Broadcast, Film and Music Africa (BFMA)’ event, we have realised that content owners, the media and telecoms industries are increasingly developing synergies. These players need to establish stronger partnerships if they want to stay competitive” said Sean Moroney, Chairman of AITEC Africa. BFMA is the continent’s only business and technology event to serve the creative content and electronic media industry through an integrated platform. It is the  fourth conference in the series and will provide a stock-taking opportunity for stakeholders in all three industries, and empower them with the knowledge and business contacts they need to build Africa’s electronic media future.

    The conference is aimed at senior and middle managers in: national television and radio stations; pay TV companies; international broadcasters like CNN, BBC, NBC, VOA and CCTV; television and film production companies; facilities providers including production equipment hire, post-production and outside broadcast; donors and faith-based organisations that run their own broadcast organisations for development purposes; television and film equipment vendors and satellite capacity suppliers;advertising and marketing agencies; and mobile and fixed telephone operators looking at convergence opportunities.

    For more information on the event, sponsorship opportunities and booking a stand, email info (@) aitecafrica.com or call +44 (0) 1480 880774

internet

  • Egypt has become the first African country to join a high-speed Internet network aimed at research institutions that will boost the speed of data transfer with thousands of universities and science facilities across the world.

    The Global Ring Network for Advanced Applications Development (GLORIAD) offers research institutions speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second. It was started in 1998, initially linking the United States with Russia.

    The African link first arrived in Egypt in 2010 — making it an entry point for this high-speed research network to the rest of Africa — but its activation was delayed due to the social upheaval that accompanied the Arab Spring.

    "Although we successfully demonstrated the link during the fourth meeting of the African Ministerial Council of Science and Technology (AMCOST IV) in March 2010, the uprising in Egypt disrupted the project, and brought new challenges," Majid Al-Sadek, project manager at the Egyptian National Scientific and Technical Information Network (ENSTINET), told SciDev.Net.

    "The major challenge was that the body that promised our funding — other than the seed funding from US National Science Foundation (NSF) —  was no longer prepared to fund the link after the revolution, but the Ministry of Scientific Research secured the funds, and the link came to life at the end of 2011."

    Al-Sadek said that the new link was designed to intelligently direct Internet traffic between the ordinary Internet and GLORIAD, depending on whether the user is focusing on research. It can also support around 75,000 concurrent videoconferences.

    But, although though the link to the GLORIAD network became active in December 2011, many researchers are still unaware of it.

    Maged El-Sherbiny, president of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology told SciDev.Net: "Most researchers in Egypt still need to be introduced to the new link, so the academy is planning a large international workshop at the start of next month."

    He added that the workshop will gather "all Egyptian universities and research centres' representatives with their counterparts in many African countries to highlight the best use of the link".

    According to El-Sherbiny the academy is now discussing extending the link to the countries in the region via two rings: a northern one for North African countries (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia), and an eastern one for the Nile Basin countries (Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan).

    Egypt is working to improve research networks in the Gulf region through GLORIAD's new GulfLight project, and in West Africa through a partnership with the telecommunications provider Baharicom. It is also seeking to develop the first Global Optical Light Exchanges (GOLE) in Africa to serve scientists and educators by increasing the speed of internet connection.

  • Africa's Internet users had something to celebrate this month. A total of 13 West African countries have just hooked up to a new underwater fiber optic cable running from Cape Town to London, bringing them better phone connections and a new high speed Internet link. But one country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), missed the boat bringing the cable ashore.

    Officially, the Democratic Republic Congo is about four months behind schedule to connect to the West African Cable System (WACS).  This is not the first time the DRC has missed out on a high speed Internet link.

    As Internet user Didier Bobange tries to download a document at his local cybercafé in Kinshasa, he has plenty of time to reflect on his country's position in the cyberspace race.
     
    "So we don't know how long we wait for it to come…you know. I was in Benin Republic 10 years ago and the connection [there] was far better than we have here today in Kinshasa," recalled Bobange.

    High speed Internet would be a blessing for Congo's businesses, researchers and even doctors who could make long distance diagnoses. It's past time they had it, says Laurent Ntumba, founder of the local Internet service provider Microcom.

    "There are many [fiber optic] cables in Africa. There are maybe seven or eight, and we're not connected. It's unacceptable," said Ntumba.

    In fact, he says, a fiber optic link between Muanda on the DRC's Atlantic coast and Kinshasa could have been switched on years ago.

    "The cable from Muanda to Kinshasa [has] already [been installed] underground three years now - we can use it," added Ntumba.

    But they cannot connect to the international line until the government has given permission, paid its dues to the cable consortium and builds a landing station at the coast. And, that is taking some time. It was a similar story in other countries, but the Congo has taken the longest time.

    The immediate reason why the Congo is not linked to WACS is that the cable landing station was not built to the right standards. Local media report that the company contracted to build it had never done this kind of job before.

    They also report that $3 million of government funds for the contract went missing last year and the former director-general of the national telecoms company, SCPT, was charged with high treason and jailed for three months in connection with the affair.

    The scandal came to light after SCPT employees protested plans to create a private company, Congo Cable, to manage fiber optic connections.

    Jean Paul Kamalata, a union representative for the telecoms sector, says this is unacceptable to cut out SCPT employees from the future revenues when they are already owed years in back pay. He also told said that the union has other valid concerns.

    Kamalata says he campaigned against the plan to create Congo Cable because he believes international telecom links are vital to a country's security and you cannot entrust a country's security to a private company.
     
    The government seems to have dropped the idea of creating a new company to manage the cable.

    Microcom's Ntumba thinks it was not a bad idea in principle. He says the SCPT will need competent private sector partners to install and maintain the fiber optic network.

    "Managing the cable is not something easy. You need to have the knowledge, you need all the support, and I don't know if the SCPT has this level of competence," Ntumba explained.

    Ntumba is also doubtful about the government's plan for the next stage, which is to lay 2,000 kilometers of cable from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi in the southeast corner of the country. He suggests it would be quicker and cheaper to connect Lubumbashi to Zambia's fiber optic cable, and other eastern cities to cables from Rwanda and Uganda. The money saved could be spent on laying connections within big cities.

    But many Congolese would oppose the idea of connecting eastern cities via Rwanda, a country that was at war with the DRC from 1998 to 2003.

    The current director general of the SCPT, Placide Mbatika, said that deals have already been signed with Ex-Im Bank China and a Chinese contractor to lay the 2,000 kilometer cable, although there will still be a need for investors for subsequent phases.

    Mbatika says the country is open to all investors for the fiber optic program. He says that thanks to President Joseph Kabila's intervention, SCPT now has political backing, competent management and a committed workforce. He predicts that the first phase of the project, landing the cable and connecting it to Kinshasa, will be finished by the end of August.

    Local media say that any further delays could jeopardize the Congo's chances of hosting the next summit of French speaking countries, scheduled to be held in Kinshasa in October.

  • South African internet service provider, MWeb plans to shut-down its lingering wireless network at the end of this month, having already migrated customers over to alternative platforms.

    The wireless network was a remnant of an early WiMAX trial in 2007 and when the trial license wasn't extended, the company retained the infrastructure to support a Wi-Fi based last-mile ISP service.

    MWeb Business General Manager, Andre Joubert told BusinessTech that expanding the network is not economically viable and that without coverage the company was turning away customers.

    When the WiMAX network was trialed, it offered service to about 1,000 customers in Cape Town and Gauteng.

computing

  • After training 150 people in 3 tranches, the nonprofit organization Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) has enrolled more 60 people in their basic ICT training courses.

    DOT Project Manager in Gakenke District, Daniel Mbaga said that their trainings are one month scheduled with intention of equipping the youth with basic ICT skills necessary for job creation and marketing of their activities.

    Speaking of the problems that face DOT project, Mbaga said that most of their trainees are male, thus living them with less number of females attending their course studies thus creating gender imbalance.

    Lack of enough computer services in comparison to an overwhelming number of youth who wish to pursue their studies is also another hindrance that DOT faces.

    Apart from ICT skill development, DOT also equips its trainees with business development skills like business plan preparations and advertising tips.

    Emmanuel Habiyambere on of DOT's trainees aged 38 and a resident of Rusagara Cell, Gakenke Sector in Gakenke district says that the received training is very crucial to his career since prior he was only dealing with electronics hardware but this time he will tackle even the software part of gadgets.

    Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) is a leading international organization, headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. DOT focuses on creating educational, economic, and entrepreneurial opportunity through the effective use of ICT for communities and people in countries that are developing, are in transition, or are under stress.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Sierra Leone’s National Commission for Privatisation signed a three-year management contract with Management and Development International Co. of Beirut to run the state-owned telecommunications company, Sierratel.

    “Sierratel still remains 100 percent government-owned,” Madonna Thompson, head of the commission’s utilities section, said in an interview in Freetown, the capital, today. “All the structures still remain, it’s just that the day-to-day operations to turn around the business will be done by a management contractor.”

    The talks over the contract lasted for nine months, Thompson said. Sierratel has monopoly over landlines in the West African nation and also provides mobile-phone and internet services.

  • A fund, which will raise money to promote access to telecommunications services in rural areas, is to be setup in Kenya..

    Kenya’s minister of information and communications, Samuel Poghisio, has confirmed that the fund is to be gazetted within the next two weeks, after plans of implementing it had been delayed for three years.

    All companies in the communications sector – be they mobile operators, ISPs, broadcasters or postal service providers - will be required to contribute 0.5% of their turnover to the fund.

    The collected money will then be focused on spreading communications across the country, especially in low income and neglected areas.

  • MTN Rwanda and MFS Africa today announced the launch of an online money transfer service that enables MTN Mobile Money customers to receive international remittances directly on their mobile phones.

    The service referred to as MTNMMO.COM is an online facility that enables MTN Mobile Money customers in Rwanda to receive international remittances directly on their mobile phones from senders in the Diaspora. MTN Rwanda is among the first MTN operations to connect to this service.

    Senders from outside Rwanda can register on the website MTNMMO.COM and send funds from their debit card or bank transfer via the internet to Rwanda by simply entering a beneficiary's mobile phone number. Funds are delivered immediately to the beneficiary's Mobile Money account in Rwanda.

    While Mobile Money customers today can already send and receive money from within Rwanda, the MTNMMO.COM service for the first time enables cross-border transfers into MTN Rwanda. The service is facilitated by MFS Africa, in partnership with BCR.

    "Making the connection to MTNMMO.COM to enable international remittances together with MFS Africa was high priority for us to better serve our customers, understanding their need to use their Mobile Money accounts to receive money from abroad," said Albert Kinuma, head of MTN Business. "We will continue to add new services to MTN Mobile Money, and grow our agent network, now standing at over 700 agents across Rwanda. With MFS Africa as a partner, we look forward to introducing additional products to Mobile Money in the near future."

    Auke Algera, the General Manager East Africa at MFS Africa said MTNMMO.COM is the first product being launched in Rwanda by the company. "The service extends the benefits of Mobile Money to the Rwandan Diaspora," he explained. "We established ourselves in Rwanda because we are committed to deploying a range of innovative financial products for mobile money providers in the region."

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • One Rwandan Mugabe Thomas has been announced the first subscriber to win a Turkish Airlines ticket to Europe in the on-going MTN Mobile Money promotion as of 25th May 2012 announcement. MTN is running a 4-week long Mobile Money consumer promotion, which started on the 16th of May and runs until the 13th of June 2012. MTN subscribers will also be rewarded with 10 percent bonus on airtime loaded through the Mobile Money platform. Every day throughout the promotion each of any 10 lucky winners receive Rwf20, 000 on their Mobile Money accounts, after making at least a registration or a transaction with Mobile Money.

Digital Content

  • Rwanda is set to open its first innovation incubator to promote the development of technologies by the tech and entrepreneurial community in Kigali.

    kLab will be based in Rwanda’s ICT Park and follow the lead of Nairobi’s iHub, which has spawned numerous start-ups as a result of linkups between techies and investors.

    Rwanda’s incubator will bring together students, engineers and designers, allowing them to share ideas and link up with entrepreneurs and investors.

    The kLab has already held a competition amongst members to develop its logo, which was won by graphic designer Eugene Rwagasore.

    He stressed the importance of the kLab’s slogan, “Community, Innovation and Openness”.

    “The numbers are there but it takes more, the truth is that a group scattered doesn't connect, misses the benefits that cohesion brings,” he said. “Having kLab as a focal point, a place where minds can meet, interact and share will help create that community.”

    The new tech hub is being developed in a joint effort between the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and Carnegie-Mellon University Rwanda.

    The Rwandan Ministry of Education alongside the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), government has also initiated the Rwanda Innovation Endowment Fund (RIEF) to promote innovation that will further the social and economic development of the country.

  • Discovery Health has launched an iPad application called HealthID that it claims will ease the burden of paperwork and administration on SA doctors, making it easier for the medical aid administrator to process claims in real time while maintaining patient confidentiality.

    Discovery Health SA CEO Jonathan Broomberg says the app is aimed at doctors and specialists. He says ability to make claims and request payment for prescribed medication in real time is saving two to three days in processing time. Doctors can also receive laboratory reports via the app.

    HealthID has been in development since 2010. Trials of an early version with 10 doctors began in March 2011, with a second version rolled out to 100 doctors in August. The latest version was launched last week.

  • Beverly Hills- River Naija Productions a division of the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce-USA launches African Women Are Gorgeous International, an online lifestyle and entertainment platform that empowers everyday women of African descent to celebrate and share their inner and aesthetic beauty with the world.

    African Women Are Gorgeous International underscores newsworthy people and events lending insight into the plight of the African woman and her desire to be recognized as beautiful, strong, self-reliant and integral to the sociological underpinnings of our world.

    African Women Are Gorgeous International also features sections on Health, Education, Beauty, Relationships, Fashion, Faith, Africa’s Finest and the AWAG International competition; which is an interactive virtual beauty contest specifically designed to uplift African Women.

    The AWAG International competition is the most popular feature of the site, enabling users to nominate their friends, colleagues and/or loved ones into a global voting pool for a chance to win luxurious products and services furnished in part by Villa Blanca Beverly Hills and Sprinkles gourmet cupcakes.

    We encourage you to visit us at www.africanwomenaregorgeous.com and cast your votes for your favorite nominees. We also invite you to follow us on Twitter @AfricanWomen1 or “Like” us on Facebook.

  • Safaricom has become the first mobile operator in Africa to open up its network for Internet Protocol version 6 testing through its partnership with iHub Nairobi, an initiative aimed at bringing together application and content developers.

    Safaricom has been running IPv6 on its network for the last year but had not opened the technology up for public services because it needed to better prepare internally to provide the technology and there was no demand from organizations for the service. In addition, there were few IPv6 applications developed for local use.

    IPv6 was designed to address the upcoming depletion of IPv4 addresses, and among other things allows for greater efficiency and flexibility in allocating addresses and routing traffic.

    With growing awareness of the technology, however, the network feels it is ready for developers to start testing applications on its IPv6 platform.

    “We chose to work with iHub because we believe that by offering IPv6 services here we help in opening a whole new world of possibilities for the community here,” said Thibaud Rerolle, Safaricom’s technology director. “The concept of iHub is to spur a revolution in the technology products and services space, give the tech community a facility where they can bring their ideas to life; our partnership will be more to enable the capabilities of this facility, which (iHub) gives Safaricom that perfect environment to test new services, too.”

    Offering an open, incubator-type space for the tech community in Kenya, iHub is hoping to encourage more application and Web developers to take advantage of the initiative and develop innovative products suited for the market.

    “In the last two years, Safaricom has opened up to the tech community especially on the data side; IPv6 deployment is vital for the tech industry because of the immense business opportunities provided,” said Erik Hersman, iHub founder.

    The Africa Network Information Center (AfriNIC), Africa’s regional Internet registry, has been working with governments, universities and corporations to drive up the rate of deployment. It was projected that the lack of legacy systems would lead to faster IPv6 deployment in the region, fueled by growing connectivity numbers and mobile network expansion.

    “IPv6 allocations and assignments have grown by more than 200 percent during the past 12 months; this is a sign that the message has started bearing fruit; 33 countries in Africa have at  least one IPv6 prefix, with the leading countries being South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Mauritius,” said Adiel Akplogan, AfriNIC CEO.

    While AfriNIC has been offering IPv6 training for the last four years, it has been hard for operators to see the business value of deploying IPv6 and the continuing availability of IPv4 has allowed some providers to wait until addresses based on the older technology are depleted. AfriNIC is projecting its IPv4 pool to last two or three years, depending on the rate of uptake.

    For Safaricom, the deployment is driven by the desire for business continuity; growing data revenue to complement voice revenue, which is on the decline; support for its growing 3G deployment; and expanding the number of residential users who have multiple gadgets, all of which require connectivity and IP addresses.

    “The issue of migration to IPv6 requires very high visibility; although stockpiles of IPv4 are still being held with AfriNIC, lack of IP addresses will pose a real threat to subscriber growth and this will become a real threat to business continuity,” added Safaricom’s Rerolle. “Looking at the low broadband penetration in the country and the need to grow numbers, (the issue of) IP addresses will come in sharp focus; migration to IPv6 will offer Safaricom an opportunity to tap into new business streams made possible by a potentially large community of connected devices that will use this protocol exclusively.”

    Given the extent of its network, Rerolle said IPv6 deployment will be gradual, and that the company will work closely with the developer teams at iHub to identify any issues that may arise before opening up the whole network to the public.

    “As you have seen with other businesses in Africa, the fast movers have the ability to lead the market in terms of products and services; if iHub developers can provide Safaricom with new products and services, then they will win the market,” said Hersman.

    Apart from tackling new business opportunities, Safaricom is hoping to reduce capital expenditure through auto-configuration of its nodes, increased security and mobility. IPv6 will also eliminate the need for Carrier Grade Network Address Translation (CGNAT), further lowering the costs. CGNAT is a service provided by major equipment vendors, that allows operators to continue offering services on both IPv4 and IPv6 but if the network fully deploys IPv6, then the company will not invest in CGNAT.

  • Alltel Limited's flagship product, K-Pad tablet, is gaining worldwide attention due to its increased patronage, affordability and locally developed free web applications for users, according to its manufacturers.

    It runs on Google's Android operating system as well as Microsoft's Windows 7 and 8.

    The 'K' in 'K-Pad' stands for Kludgeson. Kofi Kludgeson, the Executive Chairman of Alltel Limited, a Ghanaian IT company.

    Talking to newsman this week, he said, "After five years of technical development, we have come out with a product that is a major breakthrough in the world of technology. We have come out with K-Pad and in three months the product has hit the world market in a mighty way."

    The product, which comes in 7, 8, 9.7 and 10.1-inch variants, allows people to enjoy many free web applications like never before, most of which are local content developed to suit the Ghanaian and African environment.

    It has high definition videos, precise touch screen technology, camera with high images, downloadable software, e-learning material, advanced picture quality and the latest blue tooth application.

    "Our focus on K-Pad", said Kludgeson "is to look at the rural communities because there they have problems with data.

    In the health sector for instance, we want nurses to use K-Pad to record the basic data requirement for patients in order to make healthcare more accessible and efficient."

    He said K-Pad has transformed into an African project and the goal of Alltel is to target only five per cent of each economy's population.

    "In the last few months, we have had a lot of the international press, some from Belgium Television, Reuters and BBC wanting to know more about Alltel and its products, especially the K-Pad."

    One major advantage K-Pad has is that it is an open system device with USB. "From generation to revelation, we have factored all on the K-Pad. We have negotiated for the right to have free web applications for our customers because in our part of the world affordability is a major concern."

    Another innovation Alltel is going to introduce in the next two weeks is a product called "K-Phone".

    K-Phone, is mobile phone with an android operating system and dual SIM that will give 24/7 internet service to users. In addition, Alltel hopes to develop a 4G network in Ghana.

    Alltel's mission, Mr. Kludjeson noted, is to encourage Ghanaian youth to go into web application development so that they can be self-sustaining and create jobs for themselves and other people through the devices they develop.

    "In the next three years, we should be able to create and empower skills development for about one million youths in Ghana. The country is growing currently at 15% and a lot is happening and if we do not take advantage of the knowledge and technology gap, a time will come when only foreigners will do that for us."

    Alltel intends to list on the Ghana Stock Exchange in the next 12 months, where it aims at giving about 100,000 people the right to become part owners of the company.

More

  • Virgin Mobile SA CEO Steve Bailey, who resigned from the company this month, has been appointed as chief commercial officer at Glo, the second largest mobile operator in Nigeria after MTN with more than 25m subscribers. Bailey says he will take up the new role as soon as he receives the necessary visas to travel to and work in the West African country. His responsibilities will include sales and marketing and “the commercial role and all that encompasses”. Founded in 2003, Glo Mobile is owned by the Mike Adenuga Group and has more than 2 500 employees.

  • Call for Open Data’s Code4Kenya fellows

    Do you want to help kickstart a media and civil society revolution in Kenya? Code4Kenya is offering four Code4Kenya fellowships for civic hackers who want to help change the way that our societies work.

    The fellows will be embedded into some of Kenya’s most influential media and civil society organisations (CSOs) for six months to help them re-engineer the way they use open data. They will also work with “issue experts” and data holders who are supporting public sector innovation through the use of open data.

    This means your help will build scalable, sustainable and data-driven services on the web and mobile platforms. Initial themes to catalyze the public will be focused on basic services that are essential to Kenyan citizens:

        water
        health
        education.

    The fellowships will be paid, full time positions. Host organisations may offer permanent employment or consulting positions after the fellowship, depending on your performance. The Fellowship is jointly supported by the World Bank and the African Media Initiative (AMI). Embedded fellows will be supported by an external team of specialist developers, a veteran project manager and design thinking experts from iHub Research. Host organisations will also offer internal support, ranging from technical assistance, to content specialists.

    Please follow THIS link:

    Deadline is midnight on Tuesday, June 4th 2012.

Issue no 606 25th May 2012

node ref id: 24973

Top story

  • The opening up of VoIP in Africa’s more liberalized territories over the last five years is beginning to make a small but increasing impact on the market. It is one way in which all voice will become data in the next 5-10 years, which will have profound consequences for how telcos operate. Russell Southwood looks at a couple of early birds disrupting existing models.

    This week saw Comcast in the USA offering a voice service where you can use your home number to call from Wi-Fi hot-spots. This is just another sign of how voice – which is a low bandwidth application compared to video – is ripe for transitioning to data carriage.

    The two South African examples that follow – one of a consumer ISP and the other of a corporate provider – are not yet doing huge volumes of minutes but they provide clues as to how the telecoms business will change.

    They are both businesses built on providing things customers want on the services and applications layer and they have come into being because there is a functioning interconnect regime that allows more or less anyone to break out into other operator’s networks.

    It’s a multi-layered world in which different companies provide services at different levels. However, both of the examples are about how this new ecology throws up new business opportunities for companies focused on niche opportunities.

    These companies provide a different level of service to the “hundred pound gorillas”. The vertically integrated providers have customer relationship staff who are the meat in the sandwich as they attempt to bring together several different departments. The call centre staff all ask the same mind-numbing questions before they pass the problem up to the next level. With these niche companies, you get straight through to the person who can fix it.

    Local operator finding a service niche that other operators find hard to reach

    Johan Kruger started Safricom Telecommunications in Potchefstroom in 2006 to provide wireless internet services for farms, small businesses, and university students in the area. But it has built its business around providing for Potchefstroom’s (total  population: 300,000) key market, students.

    The North West University has 20,000 students and Safricom has both provided connectivity to the University and into student housing: 18,000 of the students live off campus and many have no proper Internet connectivity: “We have 250 outdoor Wi-Fi hot-spots which we use as the primary means of Internet access (for these students) and 3,000 students are currently accessing it this way.” You either pay monthly on a credit card or purchase a pre-pay voucher.

    It has also signed an agreement with the University whereby students can get a discounted voucher that gives them access both on campus and in their accommodation. It also gives Safricom access to the 1 Gbps connection that the University gets from TENET. But it’s not just students but also farmers and lodges that he offers connectivity to and form key cornerstones of his business. For example. he has 250 farmer clients.

    The service is delivered on unlicensed Wi-Fi and Safricom is installing a 20 kms metronet on a co-build basis with Dark Fibre Africa that connects all of the towers. It is also extending its coverage area into Vanderbijlpark and Mafeking, which has two other North West University campuses.

    But the recent consumer-grade VoIP development is almost as interesting. It competes head-on with Telkom and recently the company has stopped re-provisioning its fixed lines on the edge of town after copper cable vandalism. So Safricom now provides a phone service in partnership with local VoIP provider ECN. Calls to existing customers on its network are free and calls across the network offer 30% savings over Telkom:”The fibre connection gives quality and this was the missing piece for doing proper IP-based voice.”

    Smartphone customers using a SIP client can access voice calling through any public hot-spot or decent broadband connection:”3G coverage is totally overloaded in our market and there is no voice coverage in some student housing.” He is also looking at solutions that connect out into the 3G networks on the same SIP client basis.

    Currently, they are only doing 50,000 minutes which is tiny but it’s clear that there is potential for a focused local provider to give a service that a larger company like Telkom will find hard to match. Also there’s no real competition from the mobile operators. However Kruger observes:”Number portability has been really important and the introduction of new, lower interconnection rates.”

    This kind of highly localized provider is not just operated by Safricom. WAPA (the Wireless Access Providers Association of South Africa) currently have 123 members and 49,996 clients as of 2011 and its members also operate 600 public hotspots.

    Of course, South Africa is wealthier than other Sub-Saharan countries and the model described will port across seamlessly to other places. But there are many towns where there are either large Government installations, private sector facilities like mines or education facilities where this kind of focused like voice and data service has every chance of success.

    At a broader level, it’s clear both from South Africa and the more liberalized markets of South Africa that VoIP calling (except over Skype) has been slow to take off. It’s a combination of old habits die hard and that although SIP clients have become increasingly easy to use, there’s still something slightly techie about soft-phones. There needs to the equivalent of an Apple-like interface that allows for easy set-up and seamless operation.

    Recently someone called me internationally on a mobile using a TelFree client and the call quality was more or less perfect. If you’re a mobile operator, you can see where this is going. Customers will use local hot-spot providers to make calls over IP and only use the mobile network when it’s absolutely necessary. That’s the logic and operators are currently protected by a lack of customer knowledge, a lack of easy Wi-Fi hot-spot roaming regimes and the natural conservatism people have for new things.

    Business customers going over to VoIP PBX’s as costs fall

    Connection Telecom started in 2005 when VoIP was legalized in South Africa. It started by doing Asterisk-based PBXs and services built around them as well as distributing equipment. It then introduced a multi-tenant, carrier grade platform which manages a whole set of services which it put out into the market under the label Telviva.

    Corporate customers can register IP phones into the platform and use handsets like those from Polycom and SNOM. There are also apps that will allow customers to use smartphones on their campus Wi-Fi. But as Rob Lith, Connection Telecom points out:”You can also use the phone as a SIP client when you have good enough coverage. At present 3G coverage is too variable but things will change with LTE.”

    The transition to VoIP of this kind will accelerate with the changing interconnect regime. Next year rates will come down to R0.40 (US4.7 cents) a minute:”This is stil high but it changes things.”

    So how many companies are using the platform? Connection Telecom has a couple of key “blue chip” customers. The bank FNB is using it in its own private environment and currently has between 5-6,000 extensions. The system has been provisioned to have 20,000 extensions. Retailer Ellerines is currently rolling out and has 150 branches with 1,200 extensions. It will have between 8-9,000 extensions when the roll-out is fully implemented. It also has Old Mutual Financial Services which has 176 branches with 10 extensions per branch.

    It also provides wholesale services for ISP players targeting the same market like Vox Telecom’s Vertu and Datapro’s PowWow. These services are targeted at everyone from SMEs to larger corporates. Between them, these services have 4,500 extensions. And as Lith notes:”There’s a bit of a trend to use us as an entry level call centre application and with queuing for agents in contact centres.”

    Currently the majority of calling goes through closed corporate networks but it has hit 1.9 million minutes going out through the public extensions platform. This is modest in the grander scheme of things but both the improving interconnect regime and the lowering of installation costs will begin to move more into this market.

    “The cost of extensions go to a point where it used to cost R150-160 for a customer to have a hosted PBX solution and this has dropped to R65 for entry level. VoIP handsets from Polycom and SNOM have come down from US$1,500 to US$750. The national fibre network is now in place. Local loop fibre is increasingly available, making it easier to get services off hosted platforms. Customers are realizing that they can use the central control of calling costs to monitor their expenditure, get the benefit of cheaper calling costs and have additional services like conference calling.”

    “There are still some hurdles to overcome as potential customers have reliability concerns. Therefore we go through a roadmap that takes them along a path that is hybrid. When IP fails, there is an analogue back-up.”

    Competitors in this space at the large end include Euphoria Networks, MTN Business and Internet Solutions with smaller players like Dial Networks also in the market.

    In Africa’s more liberalized markets like Kenya all of the things described above have happened and will continue to grow. Liberalisation allows whole new categories of operators to come into the market with everyone from local loop fibre providers (connecting corporates to the news national fibre backbones) as well as the service and application operators that ride on the networks.

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

    New on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Bosun Tijani, Cocreation Hub in Lagos talks about innovation and social entrepreneurs

    Jesse Oguns, blogger at o TeKbits talks about ICT innovation in Nigeria

    From the previous week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Samantha Fleming, Afrosocialmedia on NGOs using social media

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

telecoms

  • South Africa-based mobile group Vodacom has confirmed that it is ready to expand its operational footprint across Africa, and is on the hunt for small-scale acquisitions. Vodacom, which is majority owned by the UK’s Vodafone Group, currently operates in five countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and chief executive Pieter Uys told Dow Jones Newswires that the company is looking to make a series of acquisitions in the USD100 million range.

    Uys noted that Vodacom will focus on countries that offer a stable political environment, have densely populated cities and offer room for growth. As such, the CEO pinpointed Angola, Ethiopia and Uganda as likely targets. Announcing its FY11 results earlier this week, Vodacom noted that the financial year ended March was the first time that its operations outside South Africa have contributed positive cash flow. As a result, Uys told Dow Jones: ‘We feel more comfortable that we have the recipe to be successful outside South Africa’.

    In March 2012 Sifiso Dabengwa, CEO of Vodacom’s chief rival MTN Group confirmed that his company was interested in lining up so-called ‘bolt-on’ deals in new African markets, once again naming Angola and Ethiopia. In the former, a third mobile licence has been expected for some time, with state-run incumbent Angola Telecom keen to secure an international partner to assist with its entrance to the sector. Meanwhile, Ethiopia is one of the few countries in Africa still operating a monopoly in the wireless sector, with state-run Ethio Telecom the sole licensee.

    Elsewhere, Uganda is overcrowded by comparison, boasting six active wireless operators, with another, Sure Telecom Uganda, waiting in the wings. Of the country’s cellcos, Uganda Telecom Ltd and Warid Telecom Uganda are plausible targets, with the ownership of both companies coming under scrutiny in recent years.

    In other news, the CEO reiterated Vodacom’s commitment to fighting the long-running court case concerning a so-called ‘success fee’ that it owes to former consultant Moto Mabanga. In March Vodacom was ordered by a Kinshasa court to pay Mabanga USD21 million after losing a court appeal dating back to 2008. Mabanga, who was hired by the company to assist in negotiations with co-owner Congolese Wireless Networks between 2007 and 2008, was paid USD2.8 million for the work, but sued the company for a further USD40.8 million that he believes he is owed.

    Congolese courts recently ruled that if Vodacom does not settle the payment, the courts will conduct a public auction of its shares in Vodacom Congo on 3 June. Uys told Reuters: ‘The bottom line is that we will not let that asset go, we will not get to a situation on 3 June where the asset is just sold.’

  • The Chairman of the Parliamentary oversight committee on Information and Communication, Hon Yapo Condeh Conteh has announced that all mobile phone companies operating in Sierra Leone will be summoned by parliament to answer questions relating to the poor performance of their networks.

    He said his committee has received several complaints from mobile phone users across the country relating to the poor quality service the GSM companies are providing, noting that as an oversight committee in charge of communication they have decided to summon NATCOM, the regulatory body, and other service providers such as Airtel, Africell, Comium and Sierratel before parliament to explain the reason for the poor quality of their networks.

    The Chairman of the committee made reference to the Telecommunications Act which states that; “every consumer is entitled to a telecommunication service on payment of the prescribed tariff is entitled to a compensation incase service is denied or interrupted due to an act or omission of the service provided”.

  • Balancing Act is running the piece below because it provides good insights into how mobile customers in Nigeria see their providers. If you must make a call to anybody's mobile phone in Nigeria, you need to be understanding and patient - it can be a very frustrating and annoying experience.

    In the first place, it takes luck for the call to get through, and when both parties are connected, there is no guarantee that you will hear each other or that the line will not drop after a few seconds. A conversation which normally should not last two minutes may after several calls take 10 minutes and, believe me, both of you will pay for every second.

    Being very practical people, Nigerians have devised a way, though expensive, to ease the problem.

    Why wait for government regulators who are believed to be more interested in the huge after-profit taxes accruing from the networks than the satisfaction of subscribers?

    So everyone who can afford it has a minimum of two mobile phones from different operators. Some have as many as four. They use whichever is operational at any given time.

    We, the ignorant majority, would have thought that the networks would be restricted to the number of subscribers they can serve efficiently at any given time but, no, the experts who have all the wisdom disagree.

    The networks continue rolling out new lines, spreading frustration and dancing all the way to the bank daily.

    Early this year, the Nigerian Communications Commission decided to listen to subscribers. It warned that it would soon begin to penalise networks it might find wanting. The hammer fell in early May on the country's four leading operators - MTN, Glo, Airtel and Etisalat.

    They were fined between $1m (£634,000) and $2m each for allegedly falling below quality standards in the months of March and April this year. The penalties may appear stiff in monetary terms, but we are talking here of an industry which reins in billions of dollars annually.

    Published reactions of officials of some of the companies so far do not offer promises to improve quality of service. There are all excuses for bad performance: Bad roads, poor public electricity supply, local taxes and occasional sabotage.

    Listening to them, one would conclude that the business environment in Nigeria was unbearably hostile, yet they keep expanding and they cart away more profits. In the face of this poor quality of service, the leading networks in Nigeria have not only diversified, but are also paying more attention to internet services.

    They are aggressively marketing high-brow smart phones for business solutions, leaving their millions of other subscribers to choke on their cheap phones. As they have been unable to provide service on ordinary phones, I wonder how they can cope with phones which have gone "smart".

    Other African countries need to keep an eye on the telecoms development in Nigeria so they do not fall prey to the sweet talk on new technology.

    When Nigeria introduced the GSM network, it threw away its land-based system. Everything was now to be GSM. The discredited national telecoms company was stripped down and advertised globally for sale; 10 years on, there are no buyers on the terms the government has laid.

    The equipment is rotting away, yet the country needs the system. Experts now say that no country can do without landlines because there is much one can do through them - like delivering broadband - that cannot be done by the mobile network.

    I know nothing about the comparative technologies, but all I ask is that somebody gives me a real telephone that is a simple instrument which I can use to make and receive calls.

  • Uganda’s Communications Commission (UCC) announced that the country’s telecommunications operators will know within two weeks if they will be issued with penalties for poor service delivery. This comes just a week after Nigeria’s NCC imposed hefty fines on mobile phone operators for similar charges.

    “We started doing benchmarking and we are compiling the results and within the next two to three weeks, we shall release the results and once we approve the sanctions, then the fines will be imposed,” said Godfrey Mutabazi, the Executive Director of UCC last week.

    The fines have come about after the UCC published a report last year indicating that all of the six network operators in the country failed to deliver the quality of service required by the UCC, and were not meeting the minimum operating standards.

    Following the survey, UCC announced it would begin penalizing telecoms for poor services and unsolicited SMSs that subscribers receive and for money lost in calls that have not gone through. Mutabazi said the regulator was overwhelmed by the number of complaints from the public, and stringent measures would be put in place to ensure quality services.

  • Fixed-line telecommunications operator Telkom was on Wednesday granted leave to appeal by the high court in Pretoria in a case brought against it by ZTE Mzanzi. A court interdict preventing it from continuing with work on a multibillion-rand project to modernise its access network into homes and businesses has been suspended pending the appeal.

    Mzanzi, which is 40% owned by China’s ZTE, was granted the urgent interdict last month, which prevented Telkom from proceeding with work on the project with its chosen suppliers, Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei. ZTE fell out with Mzanzi over the interdict and informed it that it was cancelling its partnership agreements with the black-controlled SA company.

    A Telkom spokesman confirms to TechCentral that the company has been given leave to appeal against the decision and that it may now resume work on the project. Its appeal will be heard by the supreme court of appeal in Bloemfontein. The operator says it will issue a more detailed statement to the media later on Wednesday.

    The Telkom project — which could be worth as much as R13bn over five years — is being undertaken to upgrade the company’s access network, taking fibre closer to homes and businesses. This will allow the operator to offer much faster broadband connections to end users and compete more effectively against next-generation mobile broadband alternatives.

    But Mzanzi took exception to Telkom’s decision to award the contract to Huawei and Alcatel-Lucent, saying the operator’s management team had failed to follow internal tender procedures and was to blame for the court interdict that prevented it from continuing with work on the project.

    Meanwhile, the high court last Thursday found that ZTE could not summarily terminate its partnership agreements with Mzanzi and that the matter should go to arbitration. Mzanzi CEO Tumi Magasa says this is a victory for his company as it’s the decision it wanted from the court.

    Mzanzi has been given 30 days (from last Thursday’s judgment) to lodge papers with the International Chamber of Commerce in Mauritius. If it fails to do so, the agreements will be automatically terminated, says ZTE SA CEO Cris Fuentes.
    The order was given verbally by the court, with a written judgment expected to follow in the next few days.

    The high court decided that the agreements between ZTE and Mzanzi must remain in effect to allow Mzanzi to bid for new business, including an upcoming and potentially lucrative network modernisation tender to be awarded by state-owned telecoms company Broadband Infraco. 

  • Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is planning to dilute its shareholding in mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Virgin Mobile SA by selling a portion of its shares to Dubai-based telecommunications company, the Friendi Group. 

    The source says that Virgin, Calico and Friendi intend working together to pursue MVNO opportunities elsewhere in Africa through a newly structured holding company. The final agreement between the three parties has apparently not yet been signed but will be soon.

    According to Friendi’s website, the company was established in 2006 and is headquartered in Dubai Internet City. Apart from offering MVNO services, it also provides “outsourced services to mobile network operators to operate specialised brands and mobile packages on their behalf”.

    Virgin Mobile was the first — and is still the only — MVNO operating in SA. It piggybacks on Cell C’s network. Cell C sold its 50% shareholding in the company last year.

internet

  • Avanti Communications, the satellite operator, has announced the launch of the world’s first commercial Ka-band, International IP Trunking proposition that will transform international IP trunking across Africa and the Middle East with prices as low as $500 per Mbps.

    Market-changing increases in spectral efficiency are driven through combining Avanti’s Ka-band technology with NovelSat’s latest NS3 proprietary world leading modulation scheme. The result is an increase in spectral efficiency of up to 5bits/HZ, observed in trials completed in early May on Avantis Ka-band HYLAS 1 satellite. The new service will be capable of delivering high capacity bi-directional data links of up to 365Mbps between transmit and receive sites, using the most advanced NovelSat modems.

    Avanti’s market-changing price point is made possible by combining the impressive bit rate increase and lower Ka-band space segment, which together deliver significant cost efficiencies

    The new Africa and Middle East service will be available from Q3 2012 this year through Avanti’s HYLAS 2 Ka-band satellite, scheduled to launch in July, and to be operational from the end of August. Based on Avanti’s rate card MHz pricing, operators can see their costs falling as low as $500 per Mbps per month.

    Mike Fiddes, Avanti’s Sales Director Africa and ME, commented“Africa and the Middle East are the fastest growing markets for internet subscribers with ten year growth rates forecast to be in excess of 2000% .  However, demand for international high batch data transmission in emerging markets is being held back by oversubscribed terrestrial telecommunications infrastructure or the absence of reliable terrestrial infrastructure.

    “Our satellite-based International IP Trunking proposition will help ISPs, mobile operators and large corporate network operators in the Middle East and Africa side step these constraints and keep pace with market growth.  The combination of our Ka-band technology and NovelSat’s advanced modems drives down costs while increasing performance and reliability.  Improved bit rate performance, increased data compression and lower space segment combine to create what we believe to be a transformational service, with particular relevance for markets where Ku and C-band capacity is very limited.”

    Both Africa and the Middle East have limited fibre capacity, which may impact on the speed of development of digital based economies. Extending or constructing new fibre networks takes considerable time and involves extensive costs, especially in regards to the civil engineering required to provide ducts.  There have also been several recent cases where subsea internet cables have been accidentally cut, which has led to considerable financial and performance penalties for businesses and government lacking continuity provision

  • A kilometre into the Indian Ocean from Malindi, Captain John Mwaboza pulls his mobile phone from a pouch dangling from his neck. “Evidence from oral traditions supports the fact that Kiswahili was in existence even before interaction with other cultures,” he reads from his Internet-enabled mobile phone. Tourists give him the thumps up. They then watch a video in Kiswahili by NTV’s Lolani Kalu.

    Even among the communities where Kiswahili spread from, mastering the history, words, and culture of the rich language is proving difficult, especially to the young generations, which can barely maintain the linguistic discipline not to mix Kiswahili with English and other Kenyan languages.

    In Malindi, they speak Italiano-Kiswahili but the biggest threat to Kiswahili’s purity is Sheng. swahilihub.com, a hotspot to promote Kiswahili and preserve it for posterity, could not have come at a better time.

    “Even if all the old people, who are expected custodians of the language die, the language will not disappear because it is protected using the Internet,” says Capt Mwaboza, the breeze blowing away his words to the mainland.

    Prof Rocha Chimerah, a lecturer at Pwani University, would agree. He says African languages that will not have digitised by the end of 21st century risk extinction. Kiswahili will definitely not be one of them.

    www.swahilihub.com is a world-class Kiswahili website powered by Taifa Leo of Kenya and Mwananchi of Tanzania, both leading Kiswahili newspapers and brands of the Nation Media Group (NMG).

    Although Kiswahili is fast gaining popularity on the Internet as more websites and social networking sites from Facebook, Google, to Microsoft incorporate it, www.swahilihub.com is the latest and most significant contribution to the creation of an online community and learning resource for the language.

    A few months after its launch, the impact is being felt far and wide. At the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Danish student Sarah Sejer Carlsen regularly uses the site to learn Kiswahili and is developing her thesis in the language.

    The site will be teaching Kiswahili online through audio, video, and PDFs of Kiswahili teaching modules for beginners, intermediate, and advanced levels through partnership with the best institutions in East Africa.

    www.swahilihub.com is also offering historical photo archives of important events in Kenya and East Africa touching on personalities, events, and places.

  • Lanre Aina, the Business Development Manager of Google Nigeria, has advised the Nigerian media to develop local content on the Internet.

    Aina gave the advice in Lagos at a “New Media Training’’ organised by Google Nigeria for media personnel. He said that creating local content on the Internet would make the media more relevant as many Nigerians were now online.

    According to him, there are over 43 million Nigerian users online and the number is still increasing, therefore there is a need to create relevant content to suit them.

    Aina said that use of new media would enable jounalists to close geographical boundaries between them and the public.

    ``The new media ensures a gradual fading of geographic boundaries, and making physical location less significant for social relationships.

    According to him, the purpose of the training is to teach the media to learn how to apply new media skills set to their jobs, business and life.

    Adeleke Rufai, Managing Director, Microres Nigeria Ltd., an Information Technology Consulting firm, said that the company was partnering with Google to assist the media.

  • The Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, has said over 7.78 terabyte of internet capacity is lying untapped at the shores of the country, yet internet penetration in the country remains abysmally low.

    According to her, unless the capacity was connected to the hinterlands through last-mile connectivity, it would remain a challenge for the country in getting the capacity inland and that internet penetration in the country would also remain a challenge.

    Johnson who dropped the hint in Abuja the at a ministerial presentation to industry stakeholders, said the number of internet users was about 52 million, but that internet subscription is about 3.6 per cent, while internet penetration is 33 per cent.

    Broadband penetration, she added, was just 6 per cent and that the average internet download speed is 1.38megabytes per second (Mbps).

    Glo 1, Main One, MTN West African Cable System (WACS), have all landed their submarine cables at the shores of the country, costing them huge sums of money to connect submarine cables from London to Nigeria, with several landing stations at some African countries, yet broadband penetration remains low because of their inability to connect the cables through underground to connect homes and offices in the hinterlands.

    The situation, according to the minister, hindered the Nigerian Information Communications Technology (ICT) Industry from leveraging ICT for socio-economic development, such that most Nigerians are excluded from the growth and development that could be aided by information communications technology.

    In order to create an enabling environment for the accelerated roll-out of a robust reliable and cost effective ICT infrastructure to increase citizen access to ICTs efficient spectrum allocation, the Minister listed certain factors that must be addressed to include: Approval of Federal Right of Way; Site Approval for Base Stations; State and Local Government Right of Way approvals; Multiple and Illegal Levies and Taxes; Indiscriminate closure of base stations and wilful damage to fibre cables among others.

    Speaking on the achievements in connecting Nigeria with cost effective ICT infrastructure, since the creation of the Ministry nine months ago, the minister said in order to complement fibre connectivity and provide more bandwidth for the nation, the Ministry successfully launched NigComSat-1R satellite on 19th December 2011. NIGCOMSAT-1R, she said, "is a hybrid satellite for Broadcast, Telecommunications and navigational services with footprints in over thirty-five African countries, parts of Europe, and parts of Asia.

    According to her, the satellite would be used to accelerate broadband penetration in difficult-to-reach areas.

    In the area of bridging the digital divide, the Minister said the Ministry has successfully extending the benefits of ICTs to all Nigerians regardless of demographic or socio-economic status.

    She listed some of the achievements to include School Connect Programme (SCP) like School Access Programme (SAP) for Secondary Schools; Deployment of PCs and Internet access to 766 secondary schools; Tertiary Institution Access Programme (TIAP); Deployment of PCs and Internet access to 193 tertiary institutions; Deployment of IT centres in 240 locations across all the six geo-political zones; 146 Community Communications Centres deployed across the country; Collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to drive digital inclusion and financial inclusion using the post office infrastructure, among others.

    In the area of connecting government with ICT infrastructure, the minister said there has been more comprehensive and integrated use of information communications technology in government to provide better response to citizens' demands, improve service delivery and make administration more efficient.

    According to her, 382 federal ministries departments and agencies (MDAs) are connected in Abuja and other parts of the country and that over 86,089 email addresses have been deployed for Government on .gov.ng domain names, with 250 websites hosted on .gov.ng platform.

computing

  • The Aeronautical Information Service "AIS"of the National Airport and Air Navigation Exploration Company (ENANA) will be extended to Africa/Indian region.
    This was said to Angop on Tuesday in Luanda, the administrator of ENANA, Emanuel Candengue.

    He said that the service is currently operational in the airports of Luanda and Cabinda provinces, but due to the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), these services must be extended to Africa/Indian region.

    According to him, to provide a better service to the national civil aviation, ENANA aims at installing the AIS in airports of Catumbela (Benguela), Lubango (Huíla) and Luena (Moxico), whose project are being studied.

    Thus, according to ICAO, Angola will report the data about its flight operations to the counterparts of South Africa and Brazzaville.

    The Aeronautical Information Service ensures the flow of information necessary for the safety, regularity and efficiency of international air navigation.

  • The government has planned to increase the distribution of laptops to second cycle and tertiary students to boost the teaching and learning of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) in the country, the Deputy Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, Dr. Mustapha Ahmed has disclosed.

    According to him, with the increasing need to build the capacity of students for local entrepreneurship and the job market, the government placed high premium on ICT learning, which is now an examinable subject.

    The Deputy Minister made this at the second phase of laptop distribution in Bolgatanga, the Upper East Regional capital, during which 40 tertiary students received personal laptops under the Better Ghana Agenda (BGA) programme.

    He said this critical intervention was part of government's policy to make available to students computers to help in the learning of ICT. He said the investment in the youth was to build their capacities to the fullest, and promote more learning and technology transfer.

    The Deputy Minister said the government, currently, had contracted Rlg, (an indigenous telecommunication company) to supply 100,000 laptop computers under the BGA for second cycle and tertiary students.

    However, the Ministry had taken note of the increasing demands by students for personal laptops, and was making financial arrangements to increase the distribution to reach all.

    He cautioned the beneficiaries against the use of the computers to foment trouble, but rather put them to the intended purposes.

    The Upper East Regional Minister, Mark Woyongo, said until recently, students in the second cycle institutions from the three northern regions did not have the opportunity to access personal computers.

    He expressed gratitude that more than 1,000 computers had been distributed to the basic and senior high schools for learning of ICT under the Ministry of Education.

    He called on the beneficiaries from the tertiary level under the BGA to use the computers for positive things that would broaden their knowledge and horizons in the world of ICT.

    Miss Aduri Winbeniti Lois, an accounting student of the Bolgatanga Polytechnic and a beneficiary, thanked the government for the gift.

    She said until now, her assignments were typed at business centres and she had to wait in long queues before her turn.

    She said the laptop would help in the prompt delivery of her assignments, project work, and also data entry.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Banks in Rwanda are turning to mobile phones in an effort to improve service delivery and cut costs as competition intensifies. It is now possible to pay electricity bills, top up airtime, order cheque books, pay DSTV bills and transfer money using a mobile phone.

    This is in sharp contrast to two years ago, when banks in Kigali limited mobile banking to basic transactions such as checking the account balance and getting financial statements.

    “We are about to launch our mobile payment platform, which will enable our clients to pay for purchases at selected merchants using their mobile phones,” said Lawson Naibo, chief operating officer of Bank of Kigali.

    The bank currently has about 60,000 customers utilising the mobile banking platform, with close to a million transactions registered on a daily basis.

    Bank of Kigali also plans to launch a new product dubbed “mobile wallet,” which can be linked to a current account to allow users to store cash and make transactions using their mobile phones.

    According to a recent report by the International Monetary Fund, mobile banking is emerging as a viable approach to increasing financial inclusion as currently only 14 per cent of Rwandans have access to formal banking products.

    The five main commercial banks- Bank of Kigali, Kenya Commercial Bank Rwanda, Ecobank Rwanda, Commercial Bank of Rwanda and Banque du Populaire- are now offering mobile banking. Banque du Populaire currently has about 140,000 users.

    The main advantage of the mobile phone lies in its capability to reach everywhere. It transforms the economics of service delivery by reducing the cost of financial transactions and of setting up branches.

    Mobile penetration in Rwanda is currently estimated at 41.8 per cent as of December 2011, the second lowest in the East African Community after Burundi. However, the government is looking to increase mobile penetration to 60 per cent by the end of the year.

    On average, mobile banking transactions attract a minimum fee of Rwf100 ($0.16) for a checking balance and a maximum of Rwf300 ($0.50) for a money transfer.

    Mobile banking is also seen as a good way to promote the culture of saving to the millions of rural Rwandans who have a mobile phone but no bank account.

    However, bankers say the uptake of mobile banking is still low because of limited understanding of the product, coupled with high levels of financial illiteracy. Another factor is the current structure of the Rwandan economy, which is predominately cash-based.

    “Uptake of mobile banking still remains low because the economy is still cash-based and not many people accept electronic payments,” said Maurice Toroitich, managing director of KCB Bank Rwanda Ltd.

  • M-PESA subscribers will be able to transfer money from their bank accounts into their M-PESA accounts through a new service launched with PesaPoint.

    Safaricom Financial Services General Manager Betty Mwangi-Thuo said the new service adds another 12 financial institutions to M-PESA's existing network with 25 banks and over 95 Saccos and Micro Financial Institutions.

    "For the participating banks you can actually do a transaction on your phone moving money from your bank account to M-PESA and from M-PESA to your bank. You can go to an ATM and using your bank card you put money directly on your M-PESA," she explained.

    The service will allow customers to transfer funds via any of the 80 PesaPoint ATMs countrywide on a 24-hour basis.

    Paynet Group's CEO Bernard Matthewman said the new system will leverage the high security payment switch to give M-PESA customers safe access to their bank accounts at the cost of a normal ATM withdrawal.

    "The system asks for a single number which it will record and keep. You will not be able to transfer from your bank account to another person's phone, for that you would just use the M-PESA transfer system," he said.

    Matthewman says the partnership opens the door for PesaPoint to venture into other innovative services to provide convenience to customers.

    "We have been innovating to ensure that whether what you have is a card or a mobile phone, you can withdraw cash, pay bills, buy airtime and soon will be able to buy prepaid electricity at a PesaPoint ATM," he added.

    PesaPoint is currently undertaking a similar role for M-PESA for the card-less cash withdrawal service with Vodacom in Tanzania.

    In March Safaricom reviewed its M-PESA tariffs allowing customers to send and receive amounts as low as Sh10 and transfer funds for Sh3.

    M-PESA revenue grew 43 percent to Sh16.9 billion, in Safaricom's 2012 financial year, with 15 million registered users and 40,000 nationwide outlets.

  • Airtel Ghana, in collaboration with Rancard has launched a new online store dubbed "Airtel Money Market", an online portal aimed at providing additional channel for Airtel Money customers and merchants to buy and pay for their goods and services. The Airtel Money Market runs on Rancard's Rendezvous Technology which allows Ghanaians to use social interactions and contributions from trusted individuals as a guide in their decision to buy goods online.

    The online platform will enable merchants to have multiple outlets in addition to opening a virtual store and stocking it with merchandise available for sale. For potential customers that visit the money market, they can window shop, as well as compare prices from different merchants all from the comfort of their homes or offices.

    Speaking at the launch, Managing Director of Airtel Ghana Philip Sowah said the launch of the online store falls in line with Airtel's quest to introduce innovative products which customers will find beneficial to their daily lives.

    "The Airtel Money Market is in addition to many other packages that we have added since the launch of Airtel Money. Our customers are able to contribute to their investment portfolios, we have insurance packages and the payment of utility bills including DSTv and the convenience of linking bank accounts to the Airtel Money platform as some of the many benefits derived from Airtel Money", he said.

    Director for M-Commerce at Airtel Ghana, Kola Sonola explained that the rationale for creating the Airtel Money Market is to increase the channels for Airtel Money customers to do more with the service whiles positioning Airtel Money as an easier payment solution for online shopping.

    He disclosed that the creation of the online shopping portal will help merchants with cash mobilization and increase self-initiated transactions.

    The Managing Director of Rancard, Kofi Dadzie said Airtel Mobile Money/Airtel Money Market is using Rancard's Rendezvous product to create new markets by making social commerce available through online merchant portals which gives the African consumer an opportunity to buy products based on viable recommendations.

    "Africa's growing middle class provides a burgeoning market that can be energized to create greater demand in online shopping through social recommendations - this is what Rendezvous extends with the world of social commerce", he said.

    Rancard's Rendezvous product technology he said has unleashed social commerce, a natural form of driving sales in a connected and mobile environment.

    Rancard's PayApp is a gateway that extends Airtel Mobile Money with online purchasing capability providing a complete solution that commences with social commerce enabled by Rancard Rendezvous.

    Silverbird, Appliance Masters, Compu-Ghana, Sunshine Salad Bar, Crossroads Restaurant, ticketdoug.com, Office Connexion and Niobe Salon & Spa Limited have signed onto the Airtel Money Market.

  • Airtel Ghana, in collaboration with Rancard has launched a new online store dubbed "Airtel Money Market", an online portal aimed at providing additional channel for Airtel Money customers and merchants to buy and pay for their goods and services. The Airtel Money Market runs on Rancard's Rendezvous Technology which allows Ghanaians to use social interactions and contributions from trusted individuals as a guide in their decision to buy goods online.

    The online platform will enable merchants to have multiple outlets in addition to opening a virtual store and stocking it with merchandise available for sale. For potential customers that visit the money market, they can window shop, as well as compare prices from different merchants all from the comfort of their homes or offices.

    Speaking at the launch, Managing Director of Airtel Ghana Philip Sowah said the launch of the online store falls in line with Airtel's quest to introduce innovative products which customers will find beneficial to their daily lives.

    "The Airtel Money Market is in addition to many other packages that we have added since the launch of Airtel Money. Our customers are able to contribute to their investment portfolios, we have insurance packages and the payment of utility bills including DSTv and the convenience of linking bank accounts to the Airtel Money platform as some of the many benefits derived from Airtel Money", he said.

    Director for M-Commerce at Airtel Ghana, Kola Sonola explained that the rationale for creating the Airtel Money Market is to increase the channels for Airtel Money customers to do more with the service whiles positioning Airtel Money as an easier payment solution for online shopping.

    He disclosed that the creation of the online shopping portal will help merchants with cash mobilization and increase self-initiated transactions.

    The Managing Director of Rancard, Kofi Dadzie said Airtel Mobile Money/Airtel Money Market is using Rancard's Rendezvous product to create new markets by making social commerce available through online merchant portals which gives the African consumer an opportunity to buy products based on viable recommendations.

    "Africa's growing middle class provides a burgeoning market that can be energized to create greater demand in online shopping through social recommendations - this is what Rendezvous extends with the world of social commerce", he said.

    Rancard's Rendezvous product technology he said has unleashed social commerce, a natural form of driving sales in a connected and mobile environment.

    Rancard's PayApp is a gateway that extends Airtel Mobile Money with online purchasing capability providing a complete solution that commences with social commerce enabled by Rancard Rendezvous.

    Silverbird, Appliance Masters, Compu-Ghana, Sunshine Salad Bar, Crossroads Restaurant, ticketdoug.com, Office Connexion and Niobe Salon & Spa Limited have signed onto the Airtel Money Market.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Morocco’s telecoms watchdog, the Telecommunication Regulatory National Agency (ANRT), says it is looking to launch a tender for 4G cellular licences later this year. The head of ANRT, Azdine el-Mountassir Billah, told local financial newspaper La Vie Economique that the concessions will be awarded to winning bidders at the start of 2013, following a process set to start in autumn 2012, and with LTE networks possibly being launched by late-2013.

    - Orange Kenya has launched the 3G Campus Offer, offering students from target universities one month's free unlimited internet when they buy an Orange Internet Everywhere 3G Modem. Orange is the only service provider with an unlimited data offering for its customers. Orange mobile customers currently enjoy unlimited internet for as low as KES 39 daily, KES 249 weekly and KES 990 monthly while the Orange Internet Everywhere 3G modem customers can access unlimited internet for KES 990 and KES 2,990 on weekly and monthly bases respectively. Orange will be touring various universities and colleges over the next 30 days as it seeks to create awareness of the data offering through sporting events and other social activities on campus. Students who cannot access these data devices at their campuses will be able to test and purchase them from selected Orange shops. Students can purchase a maximum of two modems upon production of a valid student identification.

Digital Content

  • M-farm Limited will launch its brand new mobile applications for agricultural commodity price information on 5th June 2012 at Ole Sereni Hotel, Nairobi. The launch which will be officiated by Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Kenya’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication will be held in the evening of the first day of East Africa’s regional mobile startup pitching conference – Pivot East. The mobile apps to be launched are on Android and Samsung’s Bada mobile platforms. At the launch, the company will unveil its revamped web and mobile technology solution including a new SMS short code for market transparency in agricultural commodity trading. The mobile solution also facilitates collective buying of agricultural inputs and collective selling of agricultural produce.

    In June 2011, while being a finalist of Pivot 25, the region’s first mobile startup pitching conference, the company drew the attention of local and international investors. In what M-farm’s CEO describes as one of the less obvious advantages of being a finalist at the annual regional startups competition, the company caught the attention of Tech4trade, an international impact investment organization. This was captured in Tech4trade’s blog as its Executive William Hoyle followed the proceedings of Pivot 25 through the conference’s live video stream and live twitter feeds. This would culminate in the organization’s investment in M-farm announced earlier in the year. Mfarm’s launch planned to coincide with Pivot East this year is a statement how important the regional mobile startups conference has become to mobile developers and entrepreneurs in East Africa.

    M-farm, a startup incubated at m:lab East Africa has existed for under two years so far. The company and its ambitions have been featured much in both national and international media. Besides being a finalist in 2011’s Pivot 25, the company has also won many accolades including winning the IPO48 competition in 2010 and becoming one of infoDev’s top 20 SMEs in 2011. In 2012, the Company’s CEO Ms. Jamila Abass became one of the first African entrepreneurs to be admitted to the Unreasonable Institute’s international fellowship program. These successes and the company’s progress towards improving productivity and livelihoods of farmers make it easy to forgive one for imagining that the company is much older than its under-two-years existence.

    Being one of the companies founded at iHub that have so far progressed to be incubated at m:lab East Africa, M-farm continues to steadily grow and to achieve new milestones with the support of the iHub community. Apart from milestones it has achieved in new product development and new investments, the company has achieved other growth milestones such as steadily increasing its core staffing from its 3 founders only to 18 full time staff in Kenya. The company has also achieved revenue growth including providing market data to television and other media stations in Kenya.

    In the year 2012, M-farm’s growth path has been propped up further with support from Samsung, one of the world’s largest consumer electronics company. Samsung will be sponsoring M-farm’s launch event program among other contributions to M-farm and others in East Africa’s mobile startup scene.

  • Three students at Makerere University in Uganda have designed mobile phone software that can monitor foetal movements and heartbeats.

    The innovation won Josiah Kavuma, Aaron Tushabe and Joshua Okello of Makarere's School of Computing and Informatics Technology (CIT) this year's Microsoft East and Southern Africa Imagine Cup. The award was presented on 3 May in Nairobi, Kenya.

    The software, WinSenga, runs on Windows-operated smartphones. The phone is then is attached to a 'SengaHorn', a Pinard Horn - which midwives have used to listen to foetuses for decades - fitted with a miniature microphone to relay the sounds to the software.

    The idea, Kavuma said, was inspired by a visit to Mulago Hospital's labour ward, where they saw the suffering of pregnant women. About 50,000 women visit Mulago every year for antenatal services.

    "We thought of something we can do change the world through the mothers," said Kavuma, adding that the three wanted to help work towards the Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal mortality by 2015.

    The SengaHorn, Kavuma said, listens to sounds in the mother's womb and transmits them electronically to the smartphone. The software then analyses the sounds received and produces a simple English read-out that inexperienced midwives and traditional birth attendants can read and apply.

    The device will enable health workers to monitor more accurately the baby's position, breathing pattern and heartbeats than a traditional Pinard Horn.

    Depending on the price of the smartphone, the gadget will be 80 per cent cheaper than an ultrasound scan machine that costs at least US$3,000, along with the need for maintenance.

    "WinSenga makes antenatal diagnosis more effective, timely and, most critically in developing countries, affordable," said Joseph Kaizzi, a software engineer with the software developing firm ThinVoid, who mentored the students.

    Users can update the software periodically via the Internet.

    Davis Musinguzi, a health systems consultant with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), said WinSenga's traditional component will make it easy to use.

    "I remember that when I was in medical school you had to have a keen ear to hear the movements [of a foetus] and watch the clock but, [the fact] that WinSenga amplifies the sounds and interprets them for is wonderful," he said.

    The students will take part in the Imagine Cup global finals in July in Sydney, Australia, competing for a prize of US$25,000.

  • The young woman sitting before a computer at a cybercafé in Nairobi, Kenya laughed heartily and gestured with her right hand, seemingly talking to herself.

    She then produced a photo from her bag and started to display it before the computer screen.

    Looking at the woman identified as Rosette, one wondered what she was doing, but it was evident she was deeply in a conversation with someone, through the internet.

    The cybercafé and tens of others in Kenya’s capital is among those offering Skype services, which enable people to converse with their loved ones, especially those out of the country at cheaper rates.

    Cybercafe operators in the East African nation are turning to Skype services to change fortunes of their businesses, which have dwindled because of wide-spread adoption of internet-enabled mobile phones and modems.

     “You must now offer Skype services if you want your business to flourish,” John Muashia, a cybercafé operator in the capital said on Sunday.

     “This is the only service where you can make good money since charges for normal browsing have plummeted to 0.006 U.S dollars per minute,” he added.

    Muashia noted that competition in offering Skype services is still minimal in Kenya. Therefore, if one has reliable internet connection, where customers get best voice clarity, they will troop to his premises.

    Kenya got connected to the rest of the world through fibre-optic cable for the first time about three years ago.

    The number of undersea fibre-optic cable service providers has now grown to four, with the latest having been launched last month.

    These are East African Sub Marine System (EASSy) which runs from Sudan to South Africa, East Africa Marine System (TEAMS) from Kenya to United Arab Emirates, and SEACOM, from Kenya to South Africa. The newest, Lower Indian Ocean Network (LION2) connects Kenya to Asia and Europe.

    These undersea cables have hastened connectivity speeds and reliability, which had been major hurdles in Kenya. Initially, businesses relied on satellite connectivity, which was slow, expensive and broke down regularly.

    Cybercafé operators in the East African nation are now cashing in on the faster internet connectivity to add value to their businesses through Skype.

  • Blogging has become an integral part of popular culture in Sub-Saharan Africa but blogging about science is still lagging behind. Many initiatives have been launched to increase the culture of sharing in the African scientific world, yet African science blogs, particularly about research, are still few and far between.

    The reason for this dearth of science blogging may be related to the uneven development of scientific research on the continent; the need for more research is well-known.

    The level of development reached by Southeast Asia should push African nations to invest into science and technology; science and technology are the only way to avoid the enduring shortcomings of Africa in international trade; it is also the only way to prevent racism and xenophobia in this increasingly inegalitarian world; the one remedy to assert African contribution to the global human knowledge pool.

    The continent is not short on talented scientists. Bernard Kom lists a few of the mosts prominent African scientists right now, and some of them are also active on the web.

    Jacques Bonjawo is a Cameroonian engineer who chairs the Board of Directors of the African Virtual University (AVU). He explains that the AVU was conceived as a complete remote online teaching institute whose mission is to train a critical mass of Africans at low cost through economy of scale. We provide a modern quality curriculum that aims to make the student immediately operational for the job market.

    Mzamose Gondwe from Malawi recognizes the need to promote more African engagement with science. That is the objective of her blog, African Science Heroes. She explains what she aims to accomplish:

         I documented in print, exhibition and film African Science Heroes, Afrrican scientists who have made considerable contributions to science. In this way I hope to generate a sense of pride in our African science accomplishments and promote public engagement with science.

    When scientific news from Africa makes it to mainstream media platforms, it is usually related to environmental programmes, public health or research on exotic animals. A typical story that was shared many times on various online media was the recent research publication of the mating habits of the female gray mouse lemur in Madagascar. The title itself, “Costly sex under female control in a promiscuous primate”, was bound to draw quite a bit of interest from the non-scientific community.

    As it turned out, the study draws interesting conclusion about strategy for the survival of the species as Sara Reardon from Science NOW explained.

    Madagascar is accustomed to have its lemur population draw more headlines that its people. However, it should not go unnoticed that the scientific blogging community there is starting to emerge. Several projects aim to collect and make available to the public all the scientific resources about the country.

    To build the necessary scientific culture of tomorrow, science must strive to become more multidisciplinary. It must be accessible to science amateurs, the general public, the research scientists.

More

  • Virgin Mobile SA CEO Steve Bailey has decided to step down and will leave the company at the end of this month. Virgin Mobile is looking for a suitable candidate to succeed Bailey in the top job.

  • Web Creation Workshop
    The Creative Web Workshop, Software Dynamics in partnership with Google East Africa will be hosting an exciting, on-site and active web, internet marketing and Social Media management workshop, to be held at the Silver Springs Hotel in June 13th to 15th 2012. For further information click here:

    Web Editor BBC
    Location: Nairobi, Kenya
    Deadline: 27 May, 2012
    WEB EDITOR BBC Swahili Service

    (Full time, fixed term contract, 9 months)

    Job Purpose: Manage the online presence of the Kenya debate programme

    Main Duties and Responsibilities:
    Develop and manage web and social media platforms and the creation and publication of programme related content in various formats to these channels
    Capture and produce rich multimedia content for digital publication, working closely with the radio and TV production teams
    Help to make content as widely usable as possible by journalists, online influencers, bloggers and audiences
    Monitor editorial content and provide analysis of user statistics

    Qualifications:
    Relevant higher education preferably in online communications
    Web development and production skills and ability
    Substantial editorial experience gained in an online media or journalism environment
    A strong knowledge of current and developing platforms, technologies and tools used in communication
    Excellent IT and web publishing skills, and experience of digital content management and production software
    Understanding of Kenya, Kenyan governance issues, Kenyan media and the role of media and communications in development

    Closing date for applications is 27th May 2012. Start date for all positions is July 2012.

    Interested candidates who meet the specifications should send a CV and a covering letter outlining role suitability and/or their motivation. Applications should be sent to bbcnairobi@gmail.com
    Only short-listed candidates will be contacted.

    Orange launches second edition of the Orange African Social Venture Prize

    Orange has the second edition of its Orange African Social Venture Prize. The goal is to promote social innovation that supports development through Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

    With this prize, Orange will provide a financial endowment as well as expert support to the young companies that put forward innovative projects with a significant social impact.

    Who can enter?

    Any entrepreneur or legal entity that has been in existence for fewer than three years at the time of the competition may participate at no cost and with no restriction on nationality. Submitted projects must be designed to be deployed in at least one of the African countries in which Orange operates and must use information and communication technology in an innovative way to help improve the living conditions of the populations in these countries.

    Applications are accepted from May 22 to September 21, 2012 on Orange's pan-African web portal, here:

Issue no 605 18th May 2012

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Top story

  • Prices for wholesale bandwidth are dropping across the continent but particularly in the more competitive markets. These price drops will shake up how wholesale bandwidth is delivered and undermine some existing business models and no-one will be exempt from this process. The price falls are necessary to deliver the cheapest possible prices to households and individual consumers but current business models may need to be sacrificed to achieve this goal. Russell Southwood looks at how these changes will affect the business.

    The logic of some changes is absolutely straightforward. If it costs more to send a meg of bandwidth from Lagos to London than it does to send the same meg from Lagos to Abuja, the latter will almost certainly come down in price. Nevertheless, although this logic was sound over three years ago when I started saying this, it’s taken that long to work its way through the system.

    After a round of visits both more competitive and less competitive markets in West and East Africa, it’s clear that prices have fallen considerably in the international and national parts of the delivery chain and although metro/local access prices have to some extent been immune to these falls, new, independent metronet operators are offering competitive prices in some countries.

    One East African operator told me that the problem was that they had both bought international fibre capacity and laid national backbone on the assumption of certain prices. Unfortunately, now the prices in the market were lower than their assumptions and there was a danger they would lose money unless the prices went up again. They complained that new entrants were unfairly undercutting their prices.

    But here’s the thing…That operator was in a fabulous piece of real estate and its competitor was in a less palatial office off the beaten track. I don’t know the respective employee headcounts but I would bet money that the competitor was employing less people delivering its bandwidth. Whilst waiting in another operator’s offices, I lost count of the number of top-of-the-range Herman Miller office chairs and everything from this relatively trivial CAPEX element to larger ones has to be paid back to someone.

    One of the operators I spoke to was talking about a 40% margin on the sale of bandwidth in order to make things stack up for its shareholders. Wholesale bandwidth has to perform financially alongside all the other product areas. Globally mobile operators are wont to complain about not wanting to end up as a “dumb pipe” but what if in future, the margin falls to between 10-20%? To sharpen the question, what if wholesale bandwidth delivery no longer makes sense as a separate business for mobile operators?

    Let’s trace the logic of this position though and see where it goes. An operator with a large national fibre backbone probably has sufficient volume going through the network to make a return even with lower margins. The capital’s already sunk and you’re stuck with it. (Unless you take a radical view and write it down and sell it off.) Reasonable profitability on low margins may be assured if the operator is one of the new mobile incumbents with a 50-60% share of a country’s wholesale business.

    However, those mobile operators with something less than a national network who are only getting a minority share of traffic from others will struggle to stay upright. Even the few carriers’ carriers on the continent will need a significant market share for things to make financial sense.

    So what are the options? For those without sufficient volume to operate on lower margins, the choices are as follows: if you’re lucky enough to be in a place where you can, buy all your bandwidth from a carriers’ carrier; or form consortia with other operators to deliver wholesale capacity as cheaply as possible; or expect the Government to finance all or part of it as a public interest commitment to using broadband to modernize the economy.

    Safaricom and Airtel have gone into a consortium in Kenya to share national fibre. The former took bids to build its own national network and once the numbers were in , decided against it. If you don’t’ already have a national fibre network, it’s not going to make much sense to build one now. From a similar logic, several of Tanzania’s mobile operators are in a consortium to deliver metronets and if the Government hadn’t decided to make TTCL’s national backbone arm a de facto monopoly provider, you sense they might also have gone the consortium route to deliver national backbone. (Airtel has outsourced the operation of its network to contractors but obviously remains in the driving seat for investment decisions like what network it needs.)

    The Government-financed national backbone option has had mixed success. The Uganda national fibre backbone tops the disaster poll stakes. Money has gone in but it’s unclear who will manage it and what there is to manage. The Kenyan backbone apparently does not all knit together well but is at least operational. The World Bank has sponsored an operator consortium in Burundi but it’s early days. I remain open-minded but not blind to the risks.

    So once you need to put your network into a consortium or buy it as service from others and you’ve sold off your towers to the tower leasing companies, what exactly is it that you do as a mobile operator? Well, of course, you manage the relationship with the customer, build the brand and develop new service propositions that will make money. But all this takes the new, non-vertically integrated mobile operator a skip and hop away from being effectively an MVNO which not unlike many ISPs, rides on the networks of others.

    Voice income which was the financial backbone of the Masters of the Universe is not what it was in many of the Africa’s bigger markets. Data requires content and services. One operator told us of the relatively large amount that it’s now making from music sales. But a combination of social media and increased Internet use on phones will not make this kind of pay-for content a horse to bet the farm on. Alternative “over-the-top” operators like Spinlet have only to gain a little traction in some markets and the income drifts away. Why pay for news headlines and football scores when the Internet’s free?

    So imagine a world if you will in which only a few vertically integrated mobile operators survive and the rest are much smaller MVNO or MVNO-style operations. The distinctions between active and passive infrastructure make less and less sense. Both MVNO and MVNO-style operations can and are making money around the world but their employee headcounts are considerably smaller than those of current operators. This is where I think the logic of the market will take us…but the last time I opened my mouth, it took over three years to happen.

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

    New on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Bosun Tijani, Cocreation Hub in Lagos talks about innovation and social entrepreneurs

    Jesse Oguns, blogger at oTeKbits talks about ICT innovation in Nigeria

    From the previous week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Samantha Fleming, Afrosocialmedia on NGOs using social media

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • On May 15, 2012, Viettel announced the official launch of Movitel – the group’s first mobile network in Africa to join its already flourishing networks in Asia and Latin America.

    In just over a year since being licensed on January 10, 2011, Viettel has built 12,600 kilometres of fiber optic cable and 1,800 mobile stations in Mozambique. This network represents 70% of the total Mozambique’s fiber optic cable network and 50% of the country’s mobile stations. The system has helped triple the density of Mozambique’s telecom infrastructure (increasing the length of fiber optic cable network and number of mobile stations per one million inhabitants in Mozambique by 2-3 times), making it one of the world’s fastest growing telecommunications networks and placing the country among the top three nations in Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of fiber optic cable systems.

    With the country’s largest network right at the launch date, Viettel’s Movitel network is the first mobile network operator in Mozambique to have doubled the network coverage level committed in its proposal for the license. In addition to expanding the network, Viettel also recruits one to two local people to provide services door-to-door in their own localities.

    At the launch ceremony, Viettel also officially announced its project of connecting and providing free internet for 4,200 schools as part of the group’s pledge to the Mozambican Government. At present, more than 500 schools have been connected thanks to this project.

    “The Mozambican Government highly appreciates Viettel’s serious investment and commitment to social responsibility. This is the first time many areas will have had access to telecom services, so the company has made a major contribution to the implementation of Mozambique’s socio-economic development and poverty reduction strategy,” said Mozambican President Armano Emilio Guebuza.

    Viettel has successfully developed and popularised telecom services in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Haiti, Mozambique and Peru.

    “Mozambique is Viettel’s first market in Africa. Viettel is seeking for new opportunities to expand its investment in other African countries.” a Viettel representative stressed.

    On entering new markets Viettel companies have consistently become the leading telecommunications player within just two years, contributing from 1-2% to a country’s national GDP; increasing national telecom network coverage by between 50% to 80% and jointly increasing telecom network density by 3 to 3.5 times more than the international average. Most local residents now have the opportunity to access telecom services, including 95% of people living in rural areas. Tens of thousands of jobs have been generated for rural people through the Viettel sales network. Free internet services are provided in all schools. These efforts have helped narrow the digital gap between rural and urban areas, and rich and poor.

  • The Pan-African telecoms service supplier, Gateway Communications, announced Wednesday that it had brought additional capacity from submarine cable SAT-3 to landlocked Botswana via South Africa, under its Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) initiative.

    Customers can now access high speed, reliable connectivity, which will help to improve Botswana’s economic sectors, including mining, tourism and agriculture.

    Gateway also revealed that more routes were being added to the networks already created in Zambia and Malawi during the initial phase of its terrestrial network initiative.

    A new path, utilising both SAT-3 and SEACOM connectivities, has been developed to provide Zambia with a fully-redundant path through Zimbabwe.

    “During the next few months, Gateway will be extending its terrestrial network by deploying another link into Malawi through the eastern border town of Mulanji. Under the next step of the project, Gateway aims to bring additional capacity to Mauritius by connecting the island via SAFE to a neutral data centre facility in South Africa and then onward to Europe via EASSy and SAT-3,” said the telecoms firm.

    The link will connect Mauritius to Africa and allow the country to connect internationally using Gateway’s pan-African MPLS network and international peering stations in London, UK.

    “Through this innovative project, we will make sure that the benefits of high speed services are available to everyone using our pan-African network,” commented Mike van den Bergh, CEO of Gateway Communications, adding: “This brings us closer to our goal of ensuring that every country in Africa has access to cost-effective and reliable capacity.”

  • Regulators in Nigeria have fined four mobile phone carriers a total of $7.3 million over poor service in a nation that depends on cellular phones for communications, a spokesman said.

    The Nigeria Communications Commission's penalties hit Bharti Airtel Ltd. of India, Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat, local firm Globacom Ltd. and South Africa-based MTN Group Ltd., some of the dominant carriers in Africa's most populous nation. Etisalat and MTN must pay $2.25 million apiece, while Airtel faces a penalty of $1.68 million and Globacom faces a $1.125 million fine, said Reuben Muoka, a commission spokesman, on Sunday.

    The fines come for poor service, dropped calls and bad line quality in March and April, Muoka said. The commission issued a statement Saturday saying that they decided to allow January and February to be a grace period for the companies to improve their services.

    In October, the communications commission warned carriers it would begin fining them for poor service.

    "The current penalties signal a new regime of quality of service management in the Nigerian telecommunications industry," the commission said.

    The companies have until May 21 to pay the regulators or they will face further penalties.

    MTN, long the dominant provider in Nigeria, has 41.1 million subscribers in the nation after 10 years of doing business there. MTN did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    Etisalat said in a statement it is committed to delivering quality service to more than 12 million subscribers in Nigeria, and expects to spend more than half a billion dollars on upgrading its network this year.

    The CEO of Etisalat's Nigeria division, Steven Evans, blamed "the failure to hit some of the quality measures" in part on industrywide difficulties including a lack of reliable power, accidental damage to transmission lines and occasional sabotage.

    "These factors are unique to the operating environment in Nigeria and pose a tough challenge for operators to deliver quality of service levels equal to that of other countries," Evans said. "What we would like to see is the declaration of the telecommunications industry as critical national infrastructure which would afford the industry and its facilities greater protection."

    Emeka Oparah, a spokesman for Airtel in Nigeria, declined to comment. Officials with Globacom could not be reached Sunday.

  • The Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) has stopped selling its contentious fixed-wireless and mobile products. In March 2012 the SPTC reportedly made an offer to withdraw its ‘ONE’ mobile phone and fixed-wireless ‘Fixedfone’ services from the market, in a bid to end its bitter ongoing dispute with the country’s sole mobile operator, MTN Swaziland.

    The offer was made on the eve of a hearing at the International Court of Arbitration in Geneva which sought to put an end to the feud. The paper reports that the SPTC has already connected around 50,000 fixed-wireless customers, 14,000 mobile customers and around 10,000 users of mobile internet dongles. The uptake is regarded as a significant achievement for the SPTC, which has claimed just 44,000 wireline subscriptions for every year since 2006.

    Amon Dlamini the SPTC’s acting managing director told the newspaper that the company stopped the sale and promotion of these products about a month ago to smooth the ongoing negotiations with MTN. However, Dlamini has claimed that all existing subscribers will remain connected to its networks, a move which is sure to anger MTN.

  • Madamobil Holdings Mauritius Limited (“MHML”) announced on 15th May, that OMERT, the telecom regulatory agency of Madagascar, has issued a decision to revoke the license of Madamobil SA, its subsidiary in Madagascar. Madamobil is the 4th mobile operator in Madagascar and holds a 3G mobile operating license, awarded in 2008. Madamobil, which has been offering telecommunications services to tens of thousands of subscribers, has been faced with a sustained campaign by the Government to pay amounts that it does not owe. MHML considers that the decision of the Government’s past and current actions, taken at the behest of existing operators, are illegal and amount to an expropriation of its investment in the country.

    In response to the decision taken by the Government, MHML and its shareholders shall be starting international arbitration proceedings against the Republic of Madagascar. Claims shall be filed under the rules of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington DC for in excess of 200 Million US Dollars in damages.

    Since 2008, MHML and its shareholders invested over US$ 60 Million in the Madagascar project after securing the country’s 4th mobile telephony license. Phase I of the network was completed in 2009 within a record time of 6 months despite the turbulent events of that time.
    After 2009, the new Government of Madagascar (through the then Prime Minister and the then Minister of Telecoms, who is now the head of OMERT) decided to block Madamobil’s interconnect to other operators after Madamobil’s refusal to accept demands for additional payments that are not specified under the Madamobil license nor in any of the prevailing laws and regulations. The impossibility for Madamobil’s subscribers to make calls to other networks limited its attractiveness for customers and severely impaired its operations and growth.

    Although the original business plan of Madamobil projected 1,200,000 subscribers in 2012, Madamobil captured far fewer subscribers due to the lack of interconnect. In addition, other direct or indirect restrictions and threats (such as the refusal to grant import licenses for technical equipment required to expand the network, the refusal to grant frequencies while at the same time granting them to the other operators, the withholding of expatriate visas to the technical staff of Madamobil, the prohibition on attending industry fairs etc.) have made it impossible for Madamobil to operate its business normally.

    In its official communications, OMERT has indicated that the license of Madamobil has been revoked as a result of Madamobil’s failure to comply with tax obligations and further to complaints from other operators about Madamobil’s competitive tariffs and “unfair competition”.
    
    Contrary to the statement made by the Government, Madamobil has fully complied with its obligations under published laws and regulations and was never notified by OMERT of any violation of its pricing or tax obligations before the decision was taken to revoke its license and expropriate its investment. MHML therefore believes that this decision is motivated solely by Madamobil’s refusal to make payments that are not specified under the Madamobil license or in any of the prevailing laws and regulations.

    MHML’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “MHML and its shareholders believe that the Government of Madagascar has severely infringed Madamobil’s rights as an operator and MHML’s rights as a foreign investor under the prevailing bilateral investment treaties. We would prefer not to stop service and not to commence international arbitration, but the Government of Madagascar leave us with no alternatives. We would be prepared to reconsider our decision only if the Government were to restore the license and its frequencies, implement interconnection and compensate for all of the losses incurred during 3 years of Government restrictions”

    Madamobil’s principal shareholders are Private Equity firm, Life Telecom managed by Life Emerging Markets Capital in the Netherlands and Tecom Investments, a subsidiary of Dubai Holdings based in Dubai. The Company employs between 80 direct and 150 indirect Malagasy staff.

internet

  • An international group of research organisations are collaborating on a project to boost Internet access in rural Sub-Saharan Africa.

    The project was discussed at a meeting of the board of the Global Research Alliance (GRA) - an international organisation that seeks to align the efforts of its members with the UN's Millennium Development Goals - in Sydney, Australia, this month (2-4 May) that looked at new strategies for improving access by the developing world to science and innovation.

    Launched in 2003, the GRA comprises nine applied research agencies from around the world - including India, Malaysia and South Africa - that jointly employ around 60,000 researchers, scientists and engineers.

    Bart Follink, GRA's chief operating officer, told SciDev.Net that this was the first board meeting since the organisation decided to establish an executive office in Melbourne, Australia, last year (June 2011), to coordinate collaborative work between members and partners, and "help the network to get to the next level of generating impact".

    "The GRA has developed and matured over time. We are now able to put together big, complex projects [to address] problems in areas like food security, health, energy availability, clean water availability and Internet connectivity," said Follink.

    The GRA favours "inclusive innovation", a model of development that seeks to create knowledge and to put in place inexpensive efforts to meet the needs of low-income populations.

    Ramesh Mashelkar, GRA's president, said this approach "requires an alignment with organisations or countries that are in search of inclusive innovation. It has to meet a demand, you can't just simply supply what you have".

    Under the auspices of GRA, several of its members are working on developing a communication infrastructure suitable for providing Internet access in rural Sub-Saharan Africa.

    They are doing this in partnership with the organisation Macha Works, which has a project to connect a rural community in Zambia to the Internet, thereby creating new work and education opportunities.

    "The rural areas of Africa are not well served [by the Internet] because the technology is built for urban environments," Gertjan van Stam, former chief executive officer of Macha Works, said.

    "The Macha Works model is very much [one] of local empowerment and [works] to support what is locally needed," said van Stam.

    "Macha is a living laboratory of [inclusive innovation] and it is showing GRA how to implement it. I think the GRA is recognising a partner that is not the best in technology, but is certainly a role player on how to deal with local communities."

  • Millions of Africans are one step closer to being connected to the global Internet following the May 11th launch of the 14,000km long West Africa Cable System (WACS) in Cape Town, South Africa. Consumers likely won’t see immediate benefits from the cable, but its operation is a landmark event in the chronicles of African connectivity.

     “It’s as though we are no longer penned in,” said Wessel van der Vyver, Managing Director for international services at Telecom Namibia

    It will be capable of carrying the equivalent traffic of Seacom, Eassy and SAT-3/WASC/SAFE cable systems combined. Wacs will meet the demand for capacity well into the first quarter of the 21st century.” – Neotel CTO and co-chairman of the Wacs management committee, Angus Hay

    It’s unclear exactly if any ISPs are immediately utilizing the new capacity, but the launch is over three years (and US$650 million) in the making. Activation of the cable comes over a year since the cable first landed in South Africa. WACS is also the first direct submarine cable to link Europe, West Africa, and South Africa in over ten years. Political stability and economic planning have certainly come a long way since the SAT-3 cable last connected many West African nations, but what does WACS bring to Africa’s broadband environment?

    Perhaps little in the next few months, but great things in the next couple of years:

    500 Gb/s initial capacity upgradable to 5.12 Tb/s – the most of any undersea cable landing in Africa to date. Which is actually too much capacity for coastal areas with direct access. Infrastructure providers will hopefully rush to bring capacity inland, however.

     In most of the nations served by the WACS cable, mobile broadband will become a reality. 4G and LTE will truly be possible. Still, as Vodacom CTO Andries Delport reminds us, “international connectivity is actually a pretty small part of the overall cost of delivering a megabyte of data via mobile.”
    Nations like Namibia, Angola, DRC, Congo, and Togo will have direct international access for the first time. Soon these countries will be able to sell extra capacity to neighboring nations.

    Its Open access policy will boost international broadband competition which will benefit the consumer. For example, smaller operators in large markets like Nigeria can acquire direct capacity instead of securing it through larger operators.
    South Africa’s government, as a pioneering partner on WACS through Broadband Infraco, can hopefully fulfill a 2020 vision of broadband for all.

    Reduced broadband delivery costs: TEAMs and EASSy have partially contributed to 50% lower costs in parts of East Africa.In the long term: lower prices will mean greater local content to address poverty and unemployment. Improved e-agriculture, e-commerce, e-learning, m-banking, and m-health will result indirectly from WACS.

    Challenges remain around terrestrial connectivity, competition in respective markets, and wholesale pricing and consumer access.

    Also, political roadblocks exist in at least the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although the DRC’s link to Monhoul Beach, the nation’s landing station for WACS, could be completed in less than two months it appears unlikely that the project will receive the go-ahead anytime soon.

    WACS is operated by a consortium of 14 companies: Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco, Cable & Wireless, Congo Telecom, MTN, Office Congolais des Postes et Télécommunications, Portugal Telecom/Cabo Verde Telecom, Neotel, Telecom Namibia, Internet Solutions (IS), Telkom SA, Togo Telecom and Vodacom. The cable has landing stations in Namibia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Cape Verde, the Canary Islands, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

  • Out of public view, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a UN agency, is working on proposal to give governments more control over the internet. The effort is supported by a number of countries including Russia, Brazil and China, and if it's successful it could mean the end of internet freedom.

    After the WikiLeaks-affair and the Arab Spring, an increasing number of countries would like to 'democratise' the internet. China India, Brazil and South Africa all use the ITU as a platform to advance their plans, says Dieuwertje Kuijpers from the Telders Foundation, a research agency connected with the pro-market VVD party.

    "It's a useful platform for them, enabling them to set rules about what is and is not allowed on the internet." That includes rules for both acceptable behaviour and internet regulation.

    Russia and China were the first UN members to propose setting up the International Code of Conduct for Information Security. The code lists the rights and responsibilities of states when it comes to the web. The rules also make it possible to fight internet criminals and extremists attempting to undermine the 'economic and political stability of the state' - in other words, bring order to the chaos.

    The first thing was to get rid of 'trivial' aspects like the right to anonymity and privacy on the web. The proposal was considered somewhat laughable in US and Europe but the controversial code of conduct is now getting a second chance.

    India, Brazil and South Africa are calling for the creation of a new UN organisation to monitor and protect equal access to the internet. The UN Committee for Internet-Related Policies (CIRP) would consist of 50 member states, along with four advisors from the business world and society. Many people don't realise that this committee would mean the end of the so-called multi-stakeholder principle that everyone has a say in the internet. The 50 countries represented would decide how around 6 billion people are allowed to use the internet.

    The United Nations is the last body that should be dealing with this issue, according to Dieuwertje Kuijpers: "The UN is too bureaucratic and opaque. That makes it almost creepy." It's also impossible to make this kind of agreement on the basis of consensus.

    The ITU has proven its usefulness in the past. The agency facilitated the liberalisation of the internet in the late eighties, guaranteeing access for everyone without restrictive international frameworks. National governments are responsible for the rules of usage. Independent organisations such as ICANN ensure the technical standards and stability of the internet.

    It's unclear exactly what the proponents of government control actually wish to accomplish. Clearly, cyber security, privacy and data storage concerns are part of their agenda, but so far the draft text has not been released to the public. Given the radical nature of the proposal, the public has a right to know more about the plan.

    Arjan El Fassed thinks the Netherlands should refuse to continue negotiating until the ITU proposal is made public: "The majority of users will benefit from an open internet, not from more control. The problem with these proposals is that civil society has almost no say. The Netherlands should have the courage to stand up for those users, like other European countries."

    The ratification of the controversial anti-piracy law ACTA has already demonstrated that politicians have little idea what these agreements entail. Specialists in the field of civil rights and internet freedom had to explain what ACTA means to computer illiterate MPs and civil servants. They cannot afford to be that ignorant this time around, says Kuijpers: "ACTA was a picnic compared to what the ITU is planning."

computing

  • Modern states require sophisticated financial systems to manage complex state finances and ensure that revenues are collected and expenditure is well managed. Zimbabwe’s drive to rebuild its finances was thus dependent on the fitness of its Public Finance Management System for the task—and South Africa-based Barnstone played a big role in helping to ensure Zimbabwe had the tools it needed to achieve its goals.

    Beginning in 2007, the country suffered a period of hyperinflation with calamitous results on a number of fronts. One of the casualties was the country’s SAP-based Public Finance Management System: the number of zeros simply became too many for the system to handle, and it was switched off. Government financial processes abruptly became manual and paper-based, opening the doors to inefficiency and corruption.

    In 2009, Zimbabwe began its slow return to financial solvency with the introduction of several foreign currencies as legal tender, the centralisation of expenditure and payment authorisation systems, and opening a new set of foreign currency accounts for the Consolidated Revenue Fund and line ministries at the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe. The government adopted the US dollar as its currency of record and reporting.

    With some measure of monetary stability returning to the system, the next step was obviously to reintroduce the Public Finance Management System. Zimbabwe’s Accountant General and the World Bank were concerned to establish that the Public Finance Management System indeed up to the task. They engaged Barnstone to assess the system.

    Barnstone’s assessment showed that the system needed reconfiguration and strengthening in certain aspects.

    “Getting the Public Finance Management System fit for purpose was clearly vital to support the Minister of Finance’s programme for returning the country to financial growth and to support integrated budget control,” says Barnstone’s Conrad Steyn.

    The World Bank obtained funding for the project, and Barnstone was engaged to provide technical assistance to the Accountant General from March 2010.

    Aside from configuring, testing and taking live the general and sub-ledgers for the Central Revenue Fund’s cash budget, and accounting in multiple currencies with reporting in a single reference currency, the project included several other elements. These included a review and, if necessary redevelopment, of financial policies and procedures to support the reconfigured Central Reserve Fund on the system, plus appropriate training. The goal was ensure the uploading of clean data for the 2009/2010 fiscal year.

    Barnstone was also required to review the IT infrastructure and recommend appropriate improvements.

    Barnstone put a multi-skilled team on the ground in Harare for the full 19 months of the project to work alongside the Account General’s team. At the end of the period, the joint teams had investigated and documented the existing structures on the system, including the chart of accounts, and mapped the chart of account to enable the extraction of financial reports. In addition, Barnstone developed standardized report sets for each ministry.

    The system was set up to handle multi-currency accounts with the US dollar as functional currency. Barnstone further developed several key financial procedures, such as the collection and recording of tax revenue and the accounting of salary expenditure.

    Under the guidance of the Accountant General, Barnstone also cleared the backlog of uncaptured transactions and performed virtually all outstanding reconciliations.

    A key part of the work was training all relevant staff, including top-level financial managers, in the new systems and procedures, and providing SAP transaction user training guides for all the processes on the system. These guides are available on the central server.

    Finally, Barnstone conducted an audit of infrastructure to determine the needs for funding requests. Funding was in fact obtained for the refurbishment of two call centres plus the purchase of a range of equipment. Looking to the long term, Barnstone also drafted a plan for infrastructure improvement.

    “Zimbabwe has already made good progress on the road to financial recovery, and that journey will be greatly facilitated by the Ministry of Finance’s far-sighted programme to ensure the right technology is in place to provide the necessary support,” says Steyn. “Barnstone was proud to be able to help make such an important project successful.”

  • The Ministry of Education aims to have distributed 200,000 computers to primary school children across the country by the end of the year. The exercise is under the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Project.

    According to Nkubito Bakuramutsa, the project's coordinator, as many as 105,000 XO laptops have already been distributed to various primary schools already.

    "A consignment of 100,000 laptops, worth US$20 million, will be arriving this month and our target is to distribute 200,000 laptops by the end of December," Bakuramutsa said.

    Over 145 schools have so far benefited from the project, he said.

    "One Laptop per Child Programme is a major driver towards a knowledge-based economy," Bakuramutsa observed. He noted that the project's initial plan was to distribute the computers to at least five schools in each district.

    This was, however, revised to at least one school in each sector as more parents now acknowledge the importance of their children using laptops. There are 416 sectors in the country.

    The official explained that each beneficiary school would have a server installed with mathematics, science and English software to enable teachers to teach using laptops.

    He said over 20,000 pupils in Primary Six across the country are capable of using various computer programmes, adding that schools with no access to electricity will be connected to solar energy.

    "I call upon parents and teachers to support the OLPC project. I am optimistic that the beneficiaries will compete favourably on the labour market after completing their studies," Bakuramutsa noted.

    Schools closer to the national grid are working with their respective districts and the Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) to have them connected to electricity, he added.

    Bakuramutsa added that the project trains two teachers to support schools on troubleshooting hardware, software and XO applications.

    OLPC Project has so far trained more than 1,500 teachers and heads of school, and the target is to train at least 1,200 more teachers.

    Government-supported schools are provided the custom-made computers free of charge saying that there was another arrangement for private schools to buy them at a subsidised price of $200 (approx. Rwf120, 000).

    The OLPC scheme was launched in Rwanda by President Paul Kagame in September 2008, with a target to have all pupils between P4 to P6 owning and using the green-and-white laptops.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The Algerian telco Djezzy, which is backed by the Russia-based telecoms group Vimpelcom, has reported a 7% rise in sales for the first three months of 2012 to DZD34.3 billion (USD457 million), which the operator attributed to an increased focus on higher-end subscribers.

    Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) grew 8% year-on-year to reach DZD20.6 billion, while subscriber numbers were up 14% at 17.69 million

  • Without providing comparative figures for the year-ago period, Orascom Telecom Media and Technology (OTMT) reported net profit of EGP994.7 million (USD164.3 million) and revenues of EGP235 million for the first three months of 2012, reports Gulf Times.

    As a result of the merger between Orascom and Russian telecoms group Vimpelcom, certain Orascom assets were spun off into a new company, OTMT. The figures are OTMT’s first standalone financial results since being hived off from its parent and listed earlier this year.

    The revenues reported by OTMT include its part-ownership of Egyptian cellco Mobinil (in the process of being sold to France Telecom) and a 75% stake in CHEO, a cellular operator in North Korea.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Prof John Nkoma, the director general for the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA), says that the government has approved regulations to allow mobile number portability (MNP) in the country. Further, he notes that the TCRA has already put in place the necessary regulations to implement MNP and that a system will hopefully go live within the next twelve months.

Digital Content

  • With a fixed-line penetration of around 8% and mobile penetration close to 100%, Algeria has one of the highest teledensities in Africa, according to Research & Markets. Its relatively well developed infrastructure includes a national fibre backbone and one of Africa’s first FttH deployments. The country’s oil and gas reserves have made it one of the wealthiest nations in Africa.

    Competition in the fixed-line sector received a setback in 2008 when the second operator, Lacom (a joint venture between Egypt’s Orascom Telecom and Telecom Egypt) exited the market after three years of operations, citing regulatory barriers that made it impossible to compete with Algerie Telecom. Only months later, the already delayed privatisation of Algerie Telecom was called off and the licensing of third generation mobile spectrum delayed further. The number of fixed lines in service fell by 16% the following year but has since then recovered. 3G licences are now expected in 2012.

    To provide fixed connections, Algerie Telecom has made extensive use of CDMA wireless technology which supports broadband and full mobility. In parallel with the access networks, the national and international fibre optic backbone is being upgraded to an IP-based next-generation network. The government has announced investments of €100 million into national fibre infrastructure over the five years to 2014.

  • Nairobi, Kenya — The government has been urged to scale up use of E-health in provision of healthcare.

    World Bank Lead Health Specialist Khama Rogo said with technological advancements, provision of healthcare no longer required direct contact between a doctor and patient.

    He told Capital FM News that advancing E-health could also be used to bridge the gap of health workers and bring down the cost of healthcare.

    "Technology has now made it possible for people to interact without seeing each other or being in the same room. The health sector offers some opportunities where that can happen and technology now makes it possible for us to get the best possible advice or even treatment for somebody who is not in the same room with you or information," Rogo noted.

    In Kenya, the doctor to patient ratio is said to be one doctor for every 17,000 patients. This is way below the World Health Organisation recommended one doctor for every 1,000 patients.

    "For Kenya and Africa, this is a particularly interesting challenge because often we have very few experts who are not all over the country. So E-health is a way of trying to bridge that distance so that even people who are not in the presence of a doctor or any other technically competent person can access and benefit from that information without necessarily having to travel the distance," he said.

    "This is what E-health is about, bringing in the advantages of technology to make it possible for people to get what they want whether they are medical products or advice from somebody who is an expert but it not there with them," Rogo added.

    He said that the infrastructure needed was the same as that being used to roll out electronic communication.

    "For Kenya we are lucky that we are extending the cable system all over the country and that should be adequate to handle quite a bit of what needs to be done," he stated.

    Rogo said E-health could be used for curative, preventive and promotive health care.

    He also dispelled fears that this could be prone to numerous medical errors.

    "There are diagnostics that are complex and there are those that are not and there are several ways of using E-health. You can use it directly to offer advice, you can use it to advice somebody who is in the same room with a patient. For example somebody in Garissa who probably is less qualified in a certain field and he has a patient there, we can talk, I could even see the patient on a video screen and advice on what to do," he explained.

    He added: "There are errors even on face to face so it is not a question of the technology; it is a question of how you use it."

    World Bank Health in Africa Initiative Policy Officer Jorge Coarasa said the national health strategy launched last year provided two avenues of E-health. These are using technology in various forms to improve what the health system already does and using technology to provide services that were previously not available.

    "One way technology is improving and has a potential to improve access to affordable care is by taking it where previously it wasn't and you have already examples of mobile phones being used to remind people to take their drugs and this brings the medical profession closer to patients that otherwise it wouldn't reach," Coarasa said.

    He said another advantage of using E-health was that it could empower the citizens.

    "This can lead to what we call in technical terms horizontal inspectors. In other words, every citizen becomes an inspector and is empowered to hold health care providers accountable for the quality of care they deliver," he said.

  • Rwanda's Ministry of Disaster and Refugee Management (Midimar) last week launched an ambitious campaign of distributing internet-equipped cell phones to all sector leaders with the aim to enhance communication on disasters.

    A total of 832 handsets, 32 smart phones and 32 laptops have already been purchased for distribution. "The cost of the entire project amounts to US$ 164,000," said Darla Rudakubana, the ministry's communications specialist.

    She added that the program to distribute phones at sector level and smart phones at district level will help ensure fast reporting and response from the authorities. The move comes in the wake of massive floods that devastated three districts including Ruhango and Musanze leaving at least five people dead.

    It was a major incident which got seven Ministers who constitute the government's Disaster Management Steering Committee led by Premier Damien Habumuremye to rush to the affected districts to inspect the level of damage. The Ministers who included James Kabarebe (Defense), Marcel Gatsinzi (Disaster Preparedness and Refugees affairs), Stanislas Kamanzi of Natural Resources, Agnes Binagwaho (Health), Musa Fazil Harerimana of Internal Security and Dr Alvera Mukabaramba (State Minister for Social Affairs) were presented reports indicating that 265 houses had been annihilated, 504 others damaged while 876 hectares of crops and plantations were destroyed.

    The leaders were told that the flood had been caused after water from Karisimbi Mountain changed course and flooded the water channels causing an over-flow.

    According to Midimar, with support from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Agency for Refugees (UNCHR) the Ministry is looking to develop a system where data are received via text messages or voice calls from designated individuals at all levels in the country. "This will later serve as an early-warning system that will give information on past disaster occurrences, impacts, high-risk zones and predictions on future occurrences," reads a press release.

    In addition, the recipients of the equipment will also receive training in how to act, with the aid of the phones, in case of disasters.

    Good communication and information are indeed vital when it comes to reacting to disasters, which seems to be increasing, especially those related to erratic weather. For instance, according to Midimar in the past two months, unpredictably heavy rains have claimed 17 people and caused fatal landslides, damaged roads and washed-away fields. Districts hit hardest are Musanze, Nyabihu, Rubavu, Rulindo, Ngororero, Muhanga, Nyamagabe and Karongi. Nyagatare, Bugesera and Kayonza have also not been spared.

    Yet according to the national weather station based in Kigali, some of the areas that were devastated by the floods are actually known to be vulnerable and weather reports just before the destructive floods had predicted them, according to an official with the Metrological Centre, and had been broadcast through the media.

    The new equipment, one might hope, will ensure better communication of such vital information.

  • Rwanda's Ministry of Disaster and Refugee Management (Midimar) last week launched an ambitious campaign of distributing internet-equipped cell phones to all sector leaders with the aim to enhance communication on disasters.

    A total of 832 handsets, 32 smart phones and 32 laptops have already been purchased for distribution. "The cost of the entire project amounts to US$ 164,000," said Darla Rudakubana, the ministry's communications specialist.

    She added that the program to distribute phones at sector level and smart phones at district level will help ensure fast reporting and response from the authorities. The move comes in the wake of massive floods that devastated three districts including Ruhango and Musanze leaving at least five people dead.

    It was a major incident which got seven Ministers who constitute the government's Disaster Management Steering Committee led by Premier Damien Habumuremye to rush to the affected districts to inspect the level of damage. The Ministers who included James Kabarebe (Defense), Marcel Gatsinzi (Disaster Preparedness and Refugees affairs), Stanislas Kamanzi of Natural Resources, Agnes Binagwaho (Health), Musa Fazil Harerimana of Internal Security and Dr Alvera Mukabaramba (State Minister for Social Affairs) were presented reports indicating that 265 houses had been annihilated, 504 others damaged while 876 hectares of crops and plantations were destroyed.

    The leaders were told that the flood had been caused after water from Karisimbi Mountain changed course and flooded the water channels causing an over-flow.

    According to Midimar, with support from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Agency for Refugees (UNCHR) the Ministry is looking to develop a system where data are received via text messages or voice calls from designated individuals at all levels in the country. "This will later serve as an early-warning system that will give information on past disaster occurrences, impacts, high-risk zones and predictions on future occurrences," reads a press release.

    In addition, the recipients of the equipment will also receive training in how to act, with the aid of the phones, in case of disasters.

    Good communication and information are indeed vital when it comes to reacting to disasters, which seems to be increasing, especially those related to erratic weather. For instance, according to Midimar in the past two months, unpredictably heavy rains have claimed 17 people and caused fatal landslides, damaged roads and washed-away fields. Districts hit hardest are Musanze, Nyabihu, Rubavu, Rulindo, Ngororero, Muhanga, Nyamagabe and Karongi. Nyagatare, Bugesera and Kayonza have also not been spared.

    Yet according to the national weather station based in Kigali, some of the areas that were devastated by the floods are actually known to be vulnerable and weather reports just before the destructive floods had predicted them, according to an official with the Metrological Centre, and had been broadcast through the media.

    The new equipment, one might hope, will ensure better communication of such vital information.

More

  • The Director General of the Telecommunication Agency of Côte d'Ivoire (ATCI), Arthur Alloco, has been dismissed. The decision was taken by the Board at its meeting on "transitional measures for the implementation of new management of the telecom sector / Tic". A statement released by the board gave the following reason for the decision: "The serious failures in the performance of his duties," says the statement. Arthur Alloco held the position since April 19, 2011. He was replaced by Bile Diéméléou, telecommunications engineer, as acting General Manager.

Issue no 604 11th May 2012

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Top story

  • The hype about cloud computing and data centres can often seem overblown when you visit some of Africa’s smaller markets but in many of the larger markets, data centres and the services they enable are now becoming an established part of enabling both consumer and corporate services. A recent conference in South Africa provided the opportunity to look at the challenges and floated the idea that the challenging circumstances of Africa may offer it the opportunity to become a pioneer in green, energy efficient solutions.

    What is not often recognized is that data centres in Africa are managed by IT staff who are not necessarily trained in data centre optimization and in  best cooling techniques but are more focused on the latest software and networking equipment.

    One of the objectives of this forum was to highlight how to cut down the cost of data center through improved facilities design and management. The forum showcased the implementation of successful data center virtualization methods and looked at outsourcing strategies that focus in particular on developing a foolproof disaster recovery plan for maximum security and protection.

    Sylvain Beletre, Senior Research Analyst at Balancing Act opened the first day session and provided a presentation of recent market research carried out in Africa. Data centre facilities are limited on the continent but due to grow by 10% per year over the next 3 years.

    In its 2011 report, Balancing Act counted 120 commercial data centers and projects in Africa with about 10 to 20 more commercial centers to be built over the next 5 years. In-house data centers are estimated to be 10 times this number across Africa with South Africa leading the pack. Examples provided by APC by Schneider highlighted that data centers can reduce energy costs by 20-30%. Beletre showed where the new data centers are being built across Africa's most developed cities and gave pointers to growth drivers and investment opportunities across the region. Balancing Act plans on releasing an update to its 'Data Centres in Africa' report in the autumn of this year.

    Lee Smith, director at Dee Smith & Associates in South Africa is a design, implementation and integration expert in South Africa.  For Smith, deciding on the right data centre location is key: not only it is important to make sure that expert staff will feel comfortable about working in its environment, it is also key to ensure sufficient local enterprise needs, power and bandwidth availability.

    Lee Smith examined energy cost reduction measures and made a point that for a data centre to improving energy performance it needs to be designed in before the centre gets built. Vendors need to train management and operating teams to make sure they know how to use each technology. Smith also explored ways and means of improving data center management by involving all technical teams and getting them to talk in a common language from the start.
       
    Working with your procurement contract partners at an earlier stage of project development will improve outcomes. Continuous performance controls ensure that your facility is cost effective. Smith also stressed that the modern data centre is scalable and flexible. Modernising the rules, tools and methods of your procurement is also key to setting up a long term scalable facility.

    Smith gave some simple practical tricks such as having racks and servers painted in bright colours rather than in black which can reduce temperature and light consumption by up to 30%. Unfortunately today, most legacy equipment is painted in black. A facility's diesel tank needs to be stored far from the main sever facility with a shower type pipe which allows it to empty its tank fast in case of fire or leakage. BCX and a few other data center owners work with Lee Smith because he supplies training for their facility managers and supplies some customized consulting.

    Marilyn Howard, Director of BMH Technology Solutions in South Africa provided a better understanding of the data centre definitions and challenged current opinions. For some, data centers mean faster and safer access to data. For others, it is a way to back up critical data. Overall, it is a crucial piece of the nascent African ICT infrastructure. "It is an enterprise tool made of software and hardware components that meets specific requirements" Ms. Howard concluded.

    Howard illustrated the idea of a successful data center virtualization method and explained that today we can do much more with less investment. Many efficient best practices require minimal costs and don’t require expensive purchases to help data centers reduce CO2 emissions and lower their energy costs. BMH claims to be able to set up data centre containers at a quarter of the price of a standard facility - from USD 250,000 for 100 servers instead of the usual USD 1 m.

    Paul de Klerk, Regional Manager at BT Cape (EOH owned) explored new data centers' cooling systems solutions and designs that enable organisations to attain best practice standards and compliance requirements. BT Cape specializes in rolling out cable in data center facilities. De Klerk explored ways to reduce energy consumption while maximizing cooling systems. He emphasized that "a data centre is not a simple office building", and he also pointed to global data centre accreditation standards. "There is no such thing as an off the shelves package for African data centres, these have to be customized to fit the environment and clients' requirements" he noted, adding that it often comes back to budget limitations.

    Over lunch break, an attendee in charge of the data centre at Cape Town's University confirmed de Klerk point on customizing data centre designs across Africa: "In Cape Town one of the issues we have is salt in the air coming from the sea. In Joburg, temperatures are higher and local staff have to focus on reducing summer heat; The other issue comes down to power and the region could use alternative sources such as the sun or powerful water and air currents available on the coast".

    Microsoft South Africa's Stephen Cakebread, Private Cloud and Azure Product Manager provided a review of cloud, virtualisation and efficiency methods that can easily be implemented. Cakebread explored new data centres services and applications delivered by the IT giant. Cakebread gave a short analysis of the emerging technologies for data centers and assessed what the next generation of cloud computing and data centers apps look like. To date Microsoft does not yet have any of its own data centres in Africa but they are using local commercial facilities.

    For Sakkie Burger, Managing Executive for Data Centre Services, Business Connexion (BCX), optimizing data centre environments and how to further enhance value for clients were the reasons that attracted him to the forum. "I am also attending because green aspects are top priorities and Africa represents a serious opportunity for BCX facilities' expansion" Burger said, adding that "BCX had about 27% of the data centre services market share in South Africa as of Nov. 2011 according to Frost and Sullivan. BCX is also the only service provider in the country that has Tier 4 accreditation provided by the 'Uptime Institute' and delivered back on 15 May 2009". The South African data centre market is heating with major players like T-Systems (which manages some local data centers) and Teraco (one of the main carrier neutral data centers' owner) taking shares in what could become a leading outsourcing destination.

    In its November 2011 report entitled ‘An overview of the South African Data Centre Market’, Frost & Sullivan put annual data centre revenues at R2.3 billion in 2010, while it expects a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 9.6% through to 2016, when revenues are anticipated to R4.0 billion. It notes that the top four data centre providers have a combined market share of 68% with the remaining 32% contested by more than ten companies. The nearest competitors to Business Connexion are IBM with 16% of the market and Dimension Data with 15%.

    Among the comments made during the first session, it was mentioned that cooling air is a major cost for data centre facilities. But there is an opportunity to re-sell that hot air to local community buildings. There have been examples of hot air being re-used to heat hotel or private outdoor swimming pools and offices.

    One of the attendees mentioned that there have had recent requests for audio-streaming storage and this seems to be a future market across Africa. Audiovisual content such as video-streaming will certainly pick up in the years to come.

    Nils Gerstle, director of Collaboretix Enterprise Consulting (Pty) Ltd - a South African based business consulting, technology and management company focused on strategic alignment and data centres - observed that technology and data centre managers often rely too much on vendors to educate them on available solutions. Technology choices are overwhelming and too little time is spent on analysing strategic needs, before making technology decisions. Gerstle pointed out: "You often have a situation where technology buyers go for the Rolls-Royce of technology solutions where the BMW would have been more than sufficient". Collaboretix works with clients to bed down their enterprise and management strategies and align them with their actual business and technological requirements. This establishes a base for clients to make more informed decisions relating to their technology solutions and ensures alignment. “Managing expectations is one of the most important aspects in business”, says Gerstle.

     

    According to delegates, it seems that Africa has the potential to lead a new generation of greener data centers and set up its own accreditation standard relevant to its innovations, varied environment and its limited electric capacity.

    To find out more about the event, click here.

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

    New on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Bosun Tijani, Cocreation Hub in Lagos talks about innovation and social entrepreneurs


    Jesse Oguns, blogger at oTeKbits talks about ICT innovation in Nigeria

    From the previous week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Samantha Fleming, Afrosocialmedia on NGOs using social media

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Liberia’s Cellcom will be launching an HSPA+ network in the country in an effort to improve the internet browsing experience for mobile internet users. The implementation will be the fastest and only HSPA+ network in the country.

    Avishai Marziano, the CEO of Cellcom, said that the technology will give mobile users the best possible experience and allow for mobile phones to perform better. “We are stepping up our technology a notch to give our consumers the best for their money. We are redefining cellular technology in Liberia and will provide the fastest and best quality in surfing as part of what is the vision of the mobile Internet which is the key component and central service for our client.”

    The launch of the HSPA+ network will give mobile users the chance to experience internet at a much faster speed than many home office internet connections in Liberia. The technology will have a capacity of 21Mbs browsing.

    “With the new technology, the current browsing speed cellular network will exceed by 100 times that of our competitors and 10 times of 3G network,” Marziano continued.

    “We have seen an increase in customers consuming cellphones since we broke the monopoly. Now with new technology like smartphones and l-phones we are in the process of upgrading our networks to make our customers happy and stay ahead of the competition.”

  • Leading mobile network operator Safaricom has moved to court seeking to recover close to half a billion shillings from its rivals for non-payment of termination fees since October together with penalties.

    Safaricom is demanding close to half a billion shillings from Airtel and about Sh150 million from Essar for non-payment of termination fees — the amount of money an operator pays rivals if its subscribers call another network — since October.

    It’s also seeking that the operators pay it interests and collection fees for delayed payment, arguing that the dues are hurting its cash flow. The interest is pegged on the average base rate that currently stands at 20.34 per cent and Safaricom hopes the penalty will act as a deterrent for delayed payments. 

    “What Safaricom is telling its rivals is that they can hold on to its debt as long they wish, but at a cost and the cost are the penalties,” said a lawyer who is familiar with the suit and wished not to be named.

    For a start, Safaricom is demanding Sh4 million from Airtel for the late payment of termination charges covering July and August, which stood at Sh173 million.

    Safaricom through Havi and Company Advocates is accusing Airtel of breaching the July 2002 interconnection agreement for the provision of telecommunications services to their respective customers. Airtel has not responded to the suit.

    The agreement states that operators must prepare a billing statement and tax invoice for interconnection charges and forward the same to the other party within two weeks of every month.

    The termination rate—which currently stands at Sh2.21 a minute—is emerging as a big issue in Kenya’s mobile telephony market and has split the board of the telecommunication regulator on whether it should be reduced or not.

    Francis Wangusi, the acting CCK director, said last Wednesday that the termination rate will drop to Sh1.44 per minute in July from the current Sh2.21, but Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo, also a director, is opposed to it.

  • Telecom Namibia has over the past seven years lost more than N$100 million (US$12.4 m) through their investment in Mundo Startel (MST) in Angola, of which it holds 44 per cent shares.

    The company has now decided to exit the joint venture, which has been described by those close to the deal as a “difficult” partnership. An urgent meeting between the two companies is expected to take place to finalise Telecom’s exit in this joint venture which is no longer viable.

    “Mundo has struggled to achieve its business plan over the past few years and as a result there is an indication that carrying value of this investment in the company accounts may be impaired. “By impairment it means a reduction in the value of an asset because the asset no longer generates the benefits expected earlier as determined by the company through periodic assessments,” Telecom Namibia’s Senior Manager Corporate Communications and Public Relations, Oiva Angula, told The Namibian.

    He further explained that in the light of the current difficult situation of this venture “Telecom management and Board have impaired the carrying value of this investment in the company’s financial statements by an amount of N$18 million in 2011 to bring the accumulated impairment [loss] of the investment to N$79 million”.

    In 2005 when Telecom Namibia entered into a business partnership with the Angolan investors, it made an initial investment of N$29.8 million for the 44 per cent shareholding in MST.  However over the years Telecom invested N$162 million in the  unprofitable company. Due to Angola’s challenging geography the new company would have concentrated on installing next generation networks, VSAT and wireless digital technology instead of digging trenches and setting up telephone poles.

    However, by May last year Telecom saw the writing on the wall and decided to jump ship and exit the partnership. Now a year later a final meeting is planned in Luanda to try and finalise the controversial issue, which cost Telecom Namibia a loss of more than N$23.7 million. “This is a follow-up meeting of the one that was held in March this year during which certain proposals were made after the Angolan partners agreed to buy Telecom Namibia’s shares. We have to ensure that we recover our investment,” said Angula.

    Telecom provided start-up capital as well as loans to MST to the tune of N$146.3 million to get the business off the ground and build the initial network in Luanda.
    It is understood that MST now wants to offer Telecom a cash payment of about N$15 million over a 60 day period from the date of sale and that the issuance of about N$94 million preferred shares be paid with a premium once MST becomes profitable.

  • Tanzanian fixed line operator Six Telecoms Company (6Telecom) has launched a new Metro Network in the country, targeting the corporate user segment. 6Telecom is looking to offer business users improved internet connectivity in the region with CEO Nick Odero noting: ‘As companies grow and expand in Tanzania it is important that they have a dedicated network that will allow for them to connect all of their branches in a redundant and secure manner that is robust and cost effective. Metro Network is aligned to act as a business development partner for our clients as reliable and secure networks are a vital component to growth within East Africa.’

    The unit’s 6Telecom Data arm aims to match customer requirements to the desired level of connectivity they need. For example, some customers will require more than fibre-optic provisioning and here, Metro Network can offer licensed microwave links it says. 6 Telecoms’ new Metro Network covers a number of areas in Tanzania such as Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Dodoma, Morogoro, Iringa, Mbeya, and Mtwara.

  • The company behind the planned 40Tbit/s Wasace cable says the African leg of the submarine system will be ready for service in early 2014. And it's coming to SA.
    The African leg of a new submarine telecommunications system that will serve markets in the North and South Atlantic will be ready for service in the first quarter of 2014. The cable will offer high-speed global connectivity to SA, Angola and Nigeria.

    That’s the word from the Wasace Cable Company, which is building the multibillion-dollar Wasace system. The company said on Wednesday that it had begun the procurement process to select a system supplier for the cable’s construction.

    An invitation to tender has been sent to four potential suppliers and Wasace expects to select the successful bidder in July 2012. The company has retained two financial services companies, including Aterios Capital, as financial advisors to source funding for the project.

    International telecoms constulting firm, the David Ross Group, is administering the procurement process and leading the development of the project.

    The 40Tbit/s cable will connect SA, Angola and Nigeria to the US, as well as to markets in South America and Europe, using the latest “100G” fibre-optic technology. The system will consist of three parts:

    Wasace Americas, connecting Brazil (Santos, Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza) to the US via a landing station in Florida, with “optional, on-demand connectivity to Colombia, Panama and the US state of South Carolina.

    Wasace Africa, connecting SA and Nigeria to the US with optional and on-demand connectivity to the Niger Delta at Bonny Island and to Angola.
    Wasace Europe, connecting Florida to Virginia Beach and across the North Atlantic to San Sebastian in Spain.

    The Wasace Cable Company plans to develop the network in phases, beginning with the Americas and Africa segments, which are scheduled to be in service by early 2014 — if that deadline is met, it will be ahead of the newly announced Brics Cable, which will follow some of the same route at Wasace.

internet

  • The TEAMS cable company has sued the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and a shipping firm for the recent cable cut at Mombasa that caused disruption in Internet services.

    “We will sue it (KPA) again as soon as we establish the cause of the cut, we have already sued it for $15 million in the earlier case of which they have deposited $2.5 million with the court,” said Bitange Ndemo, PS in the Ministry of Information and Communication as he spoke to the Business Daily.

    This incident had happened before causing Internet disruptions for close to a month in February and it led to companies moving in on Satellite Internet services that are much costly and offer slower voice and data services as compared to fiber optic services just to be safer when fiber cable cuts happen.

    Ken Munyi, GM at iWay Africa, commented that, “Operators are increasingly appreciating the importance of back-up solutions, which has seen increased demand for satellite services.” He added, “Since the EASSY cable was cut on February 25, we have witnessed increased enquiries and interest.”

    Ndemo acknowledged the need to find out the activities that were happening there and whether KPA was using geo-maps to direct ships considering it is an “off-limit” landing zone.

  • The Niger Telecommunications Company announced the reinstatement of its broadband Internet services, after three months of load shedding due to a failure on a separate line of fiber optics in neighboring Benin. This a breakdown that reinforces the need for countries to have multiple fibre connections for redundancy purposes.

    "We have restored the high-speed Internet (....) on the optical fiber, after the failure recorded since January this year in Benin from where we are served," said Amoumoune Adam, head of sales and marketing. Niger experienced disturbances on its Internet following a breakdown at the line called "Sat3" which supplies the country since the maritime source in neighboring Benin.

    This situation, the official said, has forced the company to "consider a supply via satellite, but it is insufficient." Niger has a low penetration of Information Technology and Communication (ICT), especially because of the costs of ICT equipment very high in this country.

  • The National Liberation Front Party (FLN) announced on Thursday that its Secretary General Abdellaziz Belkhadem would reply on Sunday to the Internet users' questions and queries on Facebook as part of the ongoing campaign for the May 10th legislative polls in Algeria.

    The announcement was made on the FLN party's Website indicating that Mr Abdellaziz Belkhadem would provide answers to the questions between 19h and 20h local time or 18h and 19h GMT.

    The FLN Party which held the majority of seats in the outgoing National Popular Assembly is hoping to retain its leading role by garnering a maximum of seats in the future Assembly at a time when the party is beset by an internecine power struggle which could shatter its unity and cohesion.

    Algeria with a population of over 36 million inhabitants, counted in late 2010 around 5 million-Internet users.

  • Sam Bikassam, CEO of Togo Telecom has given details of the arrival, as expected by users, of high speed bandwidth delivered by the new WACS cable. It will be for the month of June, said Bikassam. The fiber optic cable that will provide unparalleled data rates will be commissioned in South Africa on May 10.

    The cable WACS (West Africa Cable System) is a consortium of several African operators including Togo Telecom, Angola Telecom, Broadband Ifraco, Cable & Wireless, MTN, Portugal Telecom, Sotelco, Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia, Telkom and Vodacom. It connects

    South Africa to Britain with connection points in Togo, Namibia, DRC, Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. This is the first direct link of this kind. Cost of investment: 600 million, including $ 27 million for the only operator in Togo.

    14,000 km along the WACS must route communications standard and high-speed Internet (3.8 terabits / s) at costs far lower than they are today. This will also pave the way for new technologies such as triple play (telephone, television, internet), Togo Telecom which plans to create very quickly.

    On the business offer, the details will be provided in the coming weeks, but the rates should be particularly attractive. "The connection to the WACS will give us the enormous advantage of not being dependent on foreign operators and the inherent risks," says Sam Bikassam.

  • The landing of the fiber optic submarine cable to Seychelles from Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam was launched on Saturday afternoon with a laying of the first inch of the long cable to the Seychelles capital of Victoria.

    A brief ceremony to lay the first inch of the almost 2,000-kilometer-long cable that will run underwater to connect the two countries was organized in Dar es Salaam in the presence of the Seychelles Minister for Natural Resources and Industry, Peter Sinon, and the Island’s Honorary Consul to Tanzania Ms. Maryvonne Pool.

    Along with Minister Sinon, Seychellois journalists and other dignitaries witnessed the event, which signified the launching of the first fiber optic submarine cable to their country and which will connect the people of Seychelles to the rest of the world through this modern telecommunication technology.

    The Alcatel Submarine Ship (ASN) docked in Dar es Salaam last Friday for the submarine optic fiber system project under the coordination and management of the Seychelles East Africa System (SEAS) linked to the EASSy fiber optic cable already on the coast of the African continent.

    SEAS has been built by Seychelles Cable Systems Limited through funding from Seychelles government, Cable and Wireless (Seychelles), and the mobile phone company, Airtel.

    Ms. Maryvonne Pool who is also the island’s Tourism Ambassador to Tanzania said SEAS is also the very first fiber optic submarine cable to link Seychelles to the rest of the world and is very much a historic and development milestone for this island state.

    SEAS project is a good example of regional integration and private sector partnership as it involves entities from East African countries and also involves the use of regionally-deployed telecom infrastructure and EASSy, which is a regional African project.

    The project will as well be vital in cementing Tanzania and Seychelles relations through various areas of business, social and economic sectors, mostly travel and tourism.

    Both Tanzania and Seychelles are members of the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern African (RETOSA) and is in need of a quick and effective communication that will speed up connection among tourists and other travelers between these friendly nations, while attracting more business stakeholders from each country through high-tech communication.

  • AfriNIC-16, the African Network Information Centre’s (AfriNIC) 16th bi-annual meeting together with AfNOG (The African Network Operators Group) will take place in Serekunda, The Gambia from the 6th – 18th May 2012. This year our Public Policy Meeting will host among others the first African Internet Summit and the sixth meeting of the African Government Working Group (AfGWG).

    This Annual African Internet Summit will be a platform where all key development issues faced by Africa will be discussed and provide a more business-oriented structure to better meet the Operators' needs in Africa. As the future growth of Internet in Africa will be through mobile operators, AfriNIC through the uniqueness of its mandate will reaffirm its support to all African Network Operators.

    Adiel Akplogan, CEO of AfriNIC comments, “The uniqueness of this first AfriNIC event is the essence of our mission to go beyond the simple core of IP engineering capacity building and be an active player in the African Internet community. Our entire stakeholder spectrum has shown an increasing interest in playing an even more active role in understanding the Internet infrastructure. It’s vital that all key stakeholders are brought together in ways such as this event allows us to. It’s only through working together that we can guarantee continued growth of an Internet economy in Africa.”

    AfriNIC 16 is taking place at the Kairaba Hotel, Serekunda, The Gambia. For further information about the event, please visit www.afrinic.net/afrinic 16. Non attendees can also participate remotely.

    The event will also include the sixth meeting of the African Government Working Group (AfGWG), with the intention of strengthening the collaboration between AfriNIC, African Governments and regulators.

  • The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, gave further clarification on its roadmap for broadband delivery for Nigeria as Dr Eugene Juwah, the Commission's Executive Vice-Chairman said in Lagos that to enable service delivery at affordable prices for the end-user, where it may not be economically viable to do so, the Commission will offer financial incentives to the infrastructure providers to enable them operate reasonably profitably.

     ‘In addition, the Government through the Commission will facilitate agreements and engage in dispute resolution among the various stakeholders.” He spoke at the West African ICT Congress which took off in Lagos Tuesday.

    President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Chris Uwaje, said at the same event that the West African sub region has become a major consumer of technology, without offering anything to the technology world. He urged governments in the sub-region to declare ‘state of emergency’ in ICT. ‘The world is changing and the sub-region must be involved in the change’ Uwaje said.

  • Starting from May this year, Institutions of higher learning, vocational training centres, state schools as well as health centres will enjoy free Internet access. This information was made available by the The Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MITC), Joël Kaapanda. He revealed that government has spent US$37.5 million, which equals approximately N$300 million, to make the service available.

    The telephone line and the and the wireless technology for the project has been made available by the Telecom Namibia.

    However, Electricity still remains a very serious challenge at all schools, lack of computer equipments in schools is also another concern, according to Kaapanda.
    He added that MITC and the Ministry of Education would avail a computer for every Namibian child. “We are gradually implementing this programme,” he stated.

    “Internet usage will be free unless blocked by the institution for destructive websites,” he explained. Internet access will be free on state-owned premises as well as individuals on the premises.In addition, the cost of Internet will be reduced drastically for business people and private individuals.

    He went on to explain that the broadband connection would come from Portugal and travel through West Africa, connecting a number of African countries along the coast until it lands in Swakopmund.

    Internet access in the country is still slow, epileptic and expensive, and this has resulted to huge financial losses for businesses over the years.

computing

  • In april 2012 Viafrica's pilot 'KIDSworks' began in Tanzania and Kenya. The project Kidsworks will provide ICT support to some social organisations that visit schools with life skills programmes. These organisations are Macheo Children's Centre and Watoto in Kenya and White Orange Youth in Tanzania.

    At the heart of the project is intention to improve the knowledge of the children’s life-skills. The skills focused on in the pilot are HIV\AIDS, drug abuse and adolescence. Our aim has been to augment the already existing social programmes of our local partners with ICT based learning. This involves a dynamic relationship between learning from interactive E-learning content contained on the laptops supplied for the programme as well as the classical approach given by partner organization’s social workers.

    Behind the concept of the programme is its technical implementation as the development of the KIDSworks platform on which the E-content is deployed by Oscar Buse, the platform is operated by one of Viafrica’s technicians travels with the programme. The platform itself is operating as mobile and wireless in a powerless environment.

     The pilot programme reaches ten primary schools in Tanzania and twenty primary schools in Kenya. In each country and social context, we are testing different aspects of the programme to evaluate its effectiveness in improving the skills and knowledge of the children. With a successful implementation the possibility is opened to make it part of a diverse range of learning activities.

  • As part of an effort to bridge the ‘digital divide’, the Intel Learning Series Alliance in partnership with Jasco, Custom Technologies and the Xavier Group, have delivered a completely solar powered ‘Classroom on Wheels’ to Victorious Primary School in Uganda.

    The ‘Classroom on Wheels’ includes a laptop trolley, a teacher laptop and 35 Intel powered Classmate PCs along with a WiFi access point, with content and administration delivered by the Critical Links Education Appliance. To address the unique needs of the school in Uganda a complete solar charging solution forms part of the system. This solar solution operates as an autonomous system without ever requiring mains power.

    “Solar power is a vital component to the solution, since many schools in Uganda, including Victorious Primary School, are off the national grid. Even those that receive state power are prone to surges and outages, which makes running any sort of computer centre or computer classroom difficult,” says Paul Fick, divisional MD of Jasco Enterprise. “This project was commissioned by Intel as part of a global mission to advance technology in education.”

    The solar powered classroom solution is a fully sustainable solution, as it runs entirely off a renewable energy source. The charging system incorporates three solar panels, two battery connections and a charge management system, which is fed into a charging unit housed within the laptop cart that facilitates the charging of the laptops and the server. The system has also been designed to run off a simple battery - even a car battery - to ensure that a cost effective option can be found for any region it is shipped to. Fully charged, the solution can last for up to three days before the battery is drained. The entire solution is designed to continue functioning should a single component break, and individual components can be quickly replaced to restore the system to full capacity.

    “Computers are the future, and if our students do not have access to computers they are put at a disadvantage. This project showcases the opportunities that ICT provides. The project has been very successful and has attracted a lot of interest both locally and across Africa. The Inspector of Schools and the Minister of Energy have both paid the site a visit, and the Victorious Primary School computer classroom also appeared in a Kenyan newspaper. The students also enjoy being able to learn on computers and being connected to the world using the Internet, and they and their parents have embraced the new computer classroom” says David Raymond Magezi, CEO of Xavier Group.

    “This innovative solar solution, combined with the purpose-built ruggedness of the Classmate PCs which have been designed to withstand even the roughest handling, and the powerful teaching capabilities presented by the Critical Links Education Appliance, offers an exciting new teaching concept that brings ICT within reach of children in developing countries like Uganda. It gives these learners the opportunity to embrace technology from an early age and engage with their educators in new ways, as well as to stay up to speed with developments all over the world, giving them a chance to become competitive in the modern world,” Fick concludes.

    The Ugandan Government is currently on a drive to introduce solar powered computer and technology solutions into schools. Victorious Primary School will act as a pilot project and proof of concept to illustrate the power of technology in schools and, hopefully, to attract further investment in this type of technology in future.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has teamed up with Orient Bank and Warid Telecom to come up with an efficient tax payment method where taxpayers can have the comfort of clearing their taxes through the mobile money platform.

    Allen Kagina the Commissioner General at URA said the innovation’s strategy is aimed at cutting costs involved for small tax payers and the innovation is open to all banks and telecoms that can match up to the set standards. “We are targeting the smaller tax payers to help them cut cost. We won’t be required to move from the Banks to the different URA offices and vice versa.”

    Moses Kajubi the Commissioner Domestic Taxes said that it would enable tax payers have the comfort of paying taxes through SMS and at their convenience. “We appreciate that you are busy attending to other businesses as well. So we want to make it easy and instant through the SMS.”

    Sriram Yarlagadda , CEO at Warid Telecom said that the deal would bring about customer convenience for Ugandan’s.

    Maxwell Ibeanous, Managing director at Orient Bank added, “The innovation would reduce on congestion at the banks and would help those far from banks to receive the same service as those in urban centers.”

  • MCash's mobile financial service has launched in Uganda in partnership with Housing Finance Bank (HFB).

    M-Cash is under the Bank’s umbrella in Uganda to bring new service delivery channels to all Ugandan citizen. MCash’s inherent independence from mobile network operators offers an attractive business model that offer to Housing Finance Bank various alternative channels to bank the unbanked and service efficiently the under-served.

    The excitement on this new delivery channel is due to the promise to bring about a breakthrough of major importance into the mobile payment ecosystem. It offers the possibility of massive outreach to people in locations that remain underserved, especially those in hard-to-reach rural areas. Some channels, including microfinance institutions, churches, retail agents such as supermarkets or drug stores that act as banking agents, may bring the industry closer to significantly serving more Ugandan with or without a mobile phone.

    M-Cash is a universal payment solution that allows customers to open and access virtual bank accounts on which they can save their money, send or transfer money to someone else or make payments to participating Merchants. MCash solution offers a refreshing approach to mobile payment that overcomes the challenges of cashless payment by using multi-factor authentication mechanisms (NSDT, fingerprint, NFC and Voice biometric) technology. Customers access their accounts through proximity Agents where they can register to open up accounts, deposit, withdraw and transfer money.

    “Unlike many other mobile payment products on the market, M-Cash allows anyone to open a bank account without restrictions to Mobile Network, software downloads, phone types or one method of authenticating account ownership. As a completely revolutionary product, M-Cash is a simple to use, completely secure solution that lets customers access and use their accounts 24/7 regardless of their mobile network with transactions that happen in real time,” said Mme Edith Gasana Kutesa, the CEO of MCash Uganda Ltd about the product.

    According to Paul Musoke, Housing Finance bank's Deputy Managing director, with the M-cash account, a client will have a 24-hour access to their account. The product has multi-security features, like fingerprint identification, pin codes, NSDT and NFC card, all designed to protect a customer's funds.

    The Head of Marketing and Product Development Judith Owembabazi Muyinda, further explained that through this product, traders will be able to pay their tax, a student will pay his or her school fees, while a driver could pay for fuel at selected points, all of which can be done without the hassle of lining up somewhere

    “It is the expectation that HFB and M-Cash will bring financial services closer to the customer and allow a massive outreach to Ugandans everywhere to have accounts and make better use of the financial services that are readily available to them.  It is also expected that the market will quickly adopt the product as it is simple to use, convenient and completely secure”, says Mr Patrick Gordon Ngabonziza, MobiCash Group CEO.

  • MTN Mobile Money subscribers who use Starbow can now purchase their air tickets through MTN Mobile Money. MTN announced the new addition during an interaction with News Editors and senior journalists in the Volta Region.

    The forum was to brief journalists on new trends in telecommunications, the drive towards convergence, MTN’s CSR initiatives, as well as the company’s network coverage expansion projects currently underway in the region.

    Corporate Services Executive of MTN Ghana, Cynthia Lumor told journalists the purchase of Starbow ticket was a new addition to the Mobile Money portfolio, adding that the process involved customers calling Starbow on 18181 or 0245000000 for booking.

    “An invoice is then sent to the customer for payment through MTN Mobile Money wallet or any MTN Service Center," she said.

    The Commercial Manager for MTN’s South East Business District, Sam Adjei-Sah told journalists 56% of 3G data capacity available in the commercial towns of Volta region was not being utilized, an indication of low data usage in the region.He therefore encouraged the media to take advantage of the facility to enhance their work.

    Adjei-Sah also highlighted the convenience of the MTN Mobile Money Service, particularly during the raining season, stating that: ”during the rainy season it will be difficult to go out to purchase airtime, pay electricity and DSTV bills or transfer money to business partners; but with Mobile Money all these transactions can be done within a few minutes from the comfort of your home or office.”
    Payment of Domestic Airline tickets made easy by MTN Mobile Money

    The Field Services Manager for the South East Business District of MTN, Nicholas Frimpong, demonstrated some of the services available on MTN’s network, including video calling.

    He also highlighted some of the key investments MTN has made in the network to improve quality of service.

    They included the relocation of fiber between Agbozume and Ho Junction and the addition of protective mechanisms on the fiber route to minimize voice and data outages; another investment was the introduction of new, high capacity Huawei equipment to replace the existing old ones.

    He also emphasized that the investments in the network was being done across the country.

    The Volta Regional President of the Ghana Journalists Association, Mr. Victor Kwawukume, expressed appreciation to MTN for the importance it placed on the media, especially those in the region, and urged MTN to organise more capacity building sessions on the telecoms industry to keep the journalists updated of emerging trends.

    The program was also attended by members of the MTN Corporate Communications team and MTN’s key distributr in the region. The MTN Corporate Communications team also visited various stakeholders as part of their regional engagements

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has revealed that it has no plans to issue new fixed line or mobile telephony licences, despite interest from a number of foreign firms,

Digital Content

  • The World Bank is in the process of developing the next Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) FY13-FY16 for Ethiopia. As part of the CPS preparation process and in order to gain a better understanding of the development context and the needs of the ultimate beneficiaries of World Bank support, the Bank is conducting consultations with a wide range of stakeholders throughout the country and abroad.

    The process of gathering input from stakeholders was launched with a client survey conducted in December 2011, and will include a series of meetings with different development partners scheduled to be held in May 2012.

    The consultations will be done through face-to-face meetings as well as through an online platform, which will serve as a clearinghouse for the CPS consultation process. The Bank will post input received as well as minutes of the face-to-face meetings. It will also serve as a tool for direct communication with members of the Bank's CPS Ethiopia Team.

    The basis for discussion during the consultations will be documents and power point presentations outlining the proposed Bank interventions in Ethiopia. In order to better guide the discussions and help identify priority areas of assistance, a series of questions will be provided.

    The CPS document will be presented to the Bank's Board of Directors in September 2012, so it is important that the Bank's Ethiopia team receive inputs by May 28, 2012.

  • Mobile operator Vodacom, South African budget airline Mango and Internet service provider Wireless-G teamed up last week to bring the country and the Southern Hemisphere one step further to in-flight wifi.

    Over a hundred guests boarded the maiden Wi-Fi flight in Lanseria, just outside Johannesburg, to take to the skies while staying in contact with friends and family on the internet. But the excitement was only limited to a few passengers, as 70% of the eager surfers were unable to connect to the network.

    WirelessG CEO Carel van der Merwe said most of the passengers couldn’t connect to the Wi-Fi network due to budgetary constraints when it came to the allocation of IP addresses. He explained that the system at the moment is designed to provide each passenger with one IP address, and if there are more devices on board connecting to the network than passengers, some won’t be able to use the service.

    “The system is configured to allocate 128 IPs for passengers. Yesterday, while there were 115 passengers on board, many of them had multiple devices and we saw three times the allowed connections, with hundreds of IP addresses constantly requesting access. This was not a technical or hardware problem, but rather a case of tech-hungry individuals with a desire to test the service to its limits,” he said.

    But users should be aware that not all devices will connect successfully, with Apple and Samsung devices leading the pack for the most successful connections. Van der Merwe added that BlackBerry products had the least amount of successful connections, as some users still make use of version 5 BlackBerry’s operating system.

    “According to our information, 50% of South Africans still have these old devices. As the system goes on and people begin to learn how it works, they will become more compatible with it. We cannot budget for all devices,” he concluded.

    There are three different options available for passengers who wish to make use of the service, and start at as little as R50 for a single flight. Passengers will be able to buy a one-day pass for R90, or a per-minute option, billed through G-Connect’s online account.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has released their May 2012 Bulletin chronicling many such innovations in global health, under the theme of "eHealth".

    While there is celebration in order for the many eHealth initiatives designed and deployed everyday across the globe, this WHO Bulletin prompts one to wonder as well: just because impressive technologies exist, are they making a difference? Do they immediately lead to improved care quality, cost savings, or lives saved?

    There is no doubt that new technologies, and the hardware and infrastructure required to make them run, are proliferating across the developing world. Just two weeks ago I attended the eHealth Africa Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, a country in which 75 percent of people who access the Internet do so through their mobile phones. Representatives from the Ghana Health Service spoke of how their national Information Technology (IT) agency has helped not only in crafting a national eHealth strategy, but also in retaining Ghana's top IT talent. And farther south in Angola -- a country in which 72% of citizens live on less than $2 a day -- a high-speed 4G network is currently being constructed.

    Yet the eHealth Conference attendees -- an array of African policymakers, health practitioners, and technology developers -- collectively acknowledged that simply having technology in hand was not sufficient for producing tangible health benefits. Policy makers in particular explained their challenge in adopting new technologies: if a health system is fractured, then technology may only exacerbate existing weaknesses, or if patients cannot easily and inexpensively access technology, then its potential to promote change cannot be realized. There was not yet enough evidence, from their perspective, to suggest which kinds of eHealth interventions were wise investments.

    One particular report in the WHO Bulletin would be of great interest to the concerns of these decision-makers, namely an analysis by Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI), who documented and summarized main findings to date from eHealth programs in low- and middle-income countries. They aimed to answer the questions that policy makers have by showing evidence of programs that are already working.

    As the most comprehensive, global survey in peer-reviewed literature of eHealth initiatives, the report documents 176 technology-enabled programs that aim to improve quality, affordability, and accessibility of health care in developing countries. "By identifying emerging global trends in eHealth, the study provides guidance about how ICT can help solve common health systems challenges in developing countries," said Gina Lagomarsino, a managing director at the Results for Development Institute, of which CHMI is a unit.

    CHMI authors identified six primary ways in which most eHealth programs are already functioning: extending geographical access to overcome distance between physicians and patients, facilitating patient communications between health workers and patients, improving diagnosis and treatment for health workers, improving data management, streamlining financial transactions, and mitigating fraud and abuse.

    But an interesting and important finding in the CHMI report is that only 16 of the 176 programs documented responded to CHMI's request for self-reported, clear, and quantifiable impacts. The report further reveals that almost no programs had independent evaluations conducted, the quality of available evaluations was low, and the generalizability of available evaluations was not sufficiently broad to make a case for scale. In some cases this may mean that programs have simply not existed for long enough to be able to show any impact. Yet for those who have, it also hints at the challenge of evaluating new technologies -- and reveals that not enough innovators are rising to this challenge.

    The challenge of measuring a moving target is a conundrum -- with such rapid changes in hardware, software, and networks on which they operate, it is understandable that measuring impact is an intimidating task. Yet it is one that we must attempt to solve. If innovators cannot rigorously prove that a technology will save costs or save lives, then policy makers cannot be expected to commit effort and resources to applying it to strengthen health systems.

    Closing a panel on Health Information Systems at the eHealth Africa Conference, moderator Dr. Khama Rogo lamented to the audience,"I think more Africans die from misinformation than lack of medicines."

    Thankfully we now have a wide array of eHealth initiatives that can increase the availability of data for patients, providers, and policymakers alike -- what we need now is fresh, honest thinking on data management and greater effort towards evaluation if we want to see the benefits of eHealth interventions be brought to scale.

  • I had the honor of attending on Saturday 21-April 2012; a meeting organized by some Sudanese academicians and youth aiming at establishing an organization for promoting a Knowledge-based Society in Sudan.

    The initiative aims at establishing a non-governmental society or organization with branches all over Sudan and the goals have been defined to raise awareness and education about KM (Knowledge Management) through the provision of training courses on electronic learning using the Internet sharing experiences ,organizing competitions and KM system development .

    The SKBSO four additional aims are documentation and assembly of knowledge in all study areas organizing regular scientific workshops .create global knowledge exchange opportunities create knowledge exchange mechanisms between academic and professional and continues improvement and development of KM strategies.
    It was interesting that the Forum was attended by a number of private sector companies and businessmen which indicate that awareness is increasing about the importance of the knowledge society for business in today world.

More

  • Dimension Data CEO to step down

    Technology services group Dimension Data, which operates across a number of key regions including Africa and Middle East, announced that current CEO for Africa and Middle East Allan Cawood will vacate his post at the end of this month.

    Cawood will be replaced by Internet Solutions (IS) Managing Director Derek Wilcocks. Wilcocks’ departure from IS allowed Saki Missaikos, regional sales director at Dimension Data, to take up the reins at Internet Solutions.

  • ITU seeks next generation of social entrepreneurs
    Would-be young innovators can win chance to pitch their ideas to industry leaders at ITU Telecom World 2012

    Geneva, 1 May 2012 – ITU has launched the second edition of its Young Innovators Competition, giving young, talented social entrepreneurs the opportunity to attend its key global networking and knowledge sharing event, ITU Telecom World 2012, and the chance to win funding, mentorship and ongoing support.

    Open to 18-25 year olds worldwide, the Young Innovators Competition calls for projects/concepts which engage the power of ICTs to meet real-world developmental challenges relevant to one of eight core areas under the theme “Youth Innovation for Development”:

         Cybersecurity
         Education
         Empowerment of Women
         Environmental Sustainability
         Healthcare
         Human Rights
         Transparency
         Youth Employment

    Submissions consisting of everything from well researched concepts to ongoing operations showing preliminary results are welcome. From these, the twelve most outstanding entries -– judged to have the greatest possible social impact and potential for business success -– will win the chance to attend and participate in ITU Telecom World 2012, which takes place from 14-18 October in Dubai.

    The 12 finalists can benefit from one-on-one mentorship sessions with top level representatives from various sectors, hands-on workshops focused on developing entrepreneurial skills and the chance to showcase concepts and projects at a centrally located stand before the uniquely influential audience of World 2012 delegates. They can also benefit from the rich opportunities for networking with the leading names and key decision makers from industry, government and academia plus visionaries and digital thought leaders present at the event.

    Final winners will also benefit from prize money of up to CHF10,000 to realize entrepreneurial dreams. In addition winners will have access to the network of mentors offering ongoing support for up to one year, be invited to form an active part of the Young Innovators community and update their submission as featured on our website with regular progress report.

    “Participation in this competition offers a great opportunity for the next generation of young visionaries to demonstrate their ideas and innovations on a truly global stage at our event, and show how their fresh digital thinking can change the world for the better,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. “Crucially, the reach of the Young Innovators Programme will also extend way beyond the event, building a cohesive international community of highly talented social entrepreneurs working on ICT-based initiatives in areas that are vital to developmental issues facing the world today.”

    The deadline for initial submissions is 1st July 2012. For further details and the application procedure, please visit here. 

    For more information on the event, please see world2012.itu.int or contact:

    Sanjay Acharya

    tel     +41 22 730 5046
    tel     +41 79 249 4861
    tel     sanjay.acharya@itu.int

Issue no 604 11th May 2012

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Top story

  • The hype about cloud computing and data centres can often seem overblown when you visit some of Africa’s smaller markets but in many of the larger markets, data centres and the services they enable are now becoming an established part of enabling both consumer and corporate services. A recent conference in South Africa provided the opportunity to look at the challenges and floated the idea that the challenging circumstances of Africa may offer it the opportunity to become a pioneer in green, energy efficient solutions.

    What is not often recognized is that data centres in Africa are managed by IT staff who are not necessarily trained in data centre optimization and in  best cooling techniques but are more focused on the latest software and networking equipment.

    One of the objectives of this forum was to highlight how to cut down the cost of data center through improved facilities design and management. The forum showcased the implementation of successful data center virtualization methods and looked at outsourcing strategies that focus in particular on developing a foolproof disaster recovery plan for maximum security and protection.

    Sylvain Beletre, Senior Research Analyst at Balancing Act opened the first day session and provided a presentation of recent market research carried out in Africa. Data centre facilities are limited on the continent but due to grow by 10% per year over the next 3 years.

    In its 2011 report, Balancing Act counted 120 commercial data centers and projects in Africa with about 10 to 20 more commercial centers to be built over the next 5 years. In-house data centers are estimated to be 10 times this number across Africa with South Africa leading the pack. Examples provided by APC by Schneider highlighted that data centers can reduce energy costs by 20-30%. Beletre showed where the new data centers are being built across Africa's most developed cities and gave pointers to growth drivers and investment opportunities across the region. Balancing Act plans on releasing an update to its 'Data Centres in Africa' report in the autumn of this year.

    Lee Smith, director at Dee Smith & Associates in South Africa is a design, implementation and integration expert in South Africa.  For Smith, deciding on the right data centre location is key: not only it is important to make sure that expert staff will feel comfortable about working in its environment, it is also key to ensure sufficient local enterprise needs, power and bandwidth availability.

    Lee Smith examined energy cost reduction measures and made a point that for a data centre to improving energy performance it needs to be designed in before the centre gets built. Vendors need to train management and operating teams to make sure they know how to use each technology. Smith also explored ways and means of improving data center management by involving all technical teams and getting them to talk in a common language from the start.
       
    Working with your procurement contract partners at an earlier stage of project development will improve outcomes. Continuous performance controls ensure that your facility is cost effective. Smith also stressed that the modern data centre is scalable and flexible. Modernising the rules, tools and methods of your procurement is also key to setting up a long term scalable facility.

    Smith gave some simple practical tricks such as having racks and servers painted in bright colours rather than in black which can reduce temperature and light consumption by up to 30%. Unfortunately today, most legacy equipment is painted in black. A facility's diesel tank needs to be stored far from the main sever facility with a shower type pipe which allows it to empty its tank fast in case of fire or leakage. BCX and a few other data center owners work with Lee Smith because he supplies training for their facility managers and supplies some customized consulting.

    Marilyn Howard, Director of BMH Technology Solutions in South Africa provided a better understanding of the data centre definitions and challenged current opinions. For some, data centers mean faster and safer access to data. For others, it is a way to back up critical data. Overall, it is a crucial piece of the nascent African ICT infrastructure. "It is an enterprise tool made of software and hardware components that meets specific requirements" Ms. Howard concluded.

    Howard illustrated the idea of a successful data center virtualization method and explained that today we can do much more with less investment. Many efficient best practices require minimal costs and don’t require expensive purchases to help data centers reduce CO2 emissions and lower their energy costs. BMH claims to be able to set up data centre containers at a quarter of the price of a standard facility - from USD 250,000 for 100 servers instead of the usual USD 1 m.

    Paul de Klerk, Regional Manager at BT Cape (EOH owned) explored new data centers' cooling systems solutions and designs that enable organisations to attain best practice standards and compliance requirements. BT Cape specializes in rolling out cable in data center facilities. De Klerk explored ways to reduce energy consumption while maximizing cooling systems. He emphasized that "a data centre is not a simple office building", and he also pointed to global data centre accreditation standards. "There is no such thing as an off the shelves package for African data centres, these have to be customized to fit the environment and clients' requirements" he noted, adding that it often comes back to budget limitations.

    Over lunch break, an attendee in charge of the data centre at Cape Town's University confirmed de Klerk point on customizing data centre designs across Africa: "In Cape Town one of the issues we have is salt in the air coming from the sea. In Joburg, temperatures are higher and local staff have to focus on reducing summer heat; The other issue comes down to power and the region could use alternative sources such as the sun or powerful water and air currents available on the coast".

    Microsoft South Africa's Stephen Cakebread, Private Cloud and Azure Product Manager provided a review of cloud, virtualisation and efficiency methods that can easily be implemented. Cakebread explored new data centres services and applications delivered by the IT giant. Cakebread gave a short analysis of the emerging technologies for data centers and assessed what the next generation of cloud computing and data centers apps look like. To date Microsoft does not yet have any of its own data centres in Africa but they are using local commercial facilities.

    For Sakkie Burger, Managing Executive for Data Centre Services, Business Connexion (BCX), optimizing data centre environments and how to further enhance value for clients were the reasons that attracted him to the forum. "I am also attending because green aspects are top priorities and Africa represents a serious opportunity for BCX facilities' expansion" Burger said, adding that "BCX had about 27% of the data centre services market share in South Africa as of Nov. 2011 according to Frost and Sullivan. BCX is also the only service provider in the country that has Tier 4 accreditation provided by the 'Uptime Institute' and delivered back on 15 May 2009". The South African data centre market is heating with major players like T-Systems (which manages some local data centers) and Teraco (one of the main carrier neutral data centers' owner) taking shares in what could become a leading outsourcing destination.

    In its November 2011 report entitled ‘An overview of the South African Data Centre Market’, Frost & Sullivan put annual data centre revenues at R2.3 billion in 2010, while it expects a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 9.6% through to 2016, when revenues are anticipated to R4.0 billion. It notes that the top four data centre providers have a combined market share of 68% with the remaining 32% contested by more than ten companies. The nearest competitors to Business Connexion are IBM with 16% of the market and Dimension Data with 15%.

    Among the comments made during the first session, it was mentioned that cooling air is a major cost for data centre facilities. But there is an opportunity to re-sell that hot air to local community buildings. There have been examples of hot air being re-used to heat hotel or private outdoor swimming pools and offices.

    One of the attendees mentioned that there have had recent requests for audio-streaming storage and this seems to be a future market across Africa. Audiovisual content such as video-streaming will certainly pick up in the years to come.

    Nils Gerstle, director of Collaboretix Enterprise Consulting (Pty) Ltd - a South African based business consulting, technology and management company focused on strategic alignment and data centres - observed that technology and data centre managers often rely too much on vendors to educate them on available solutions. Technology choices are overwhelming and too little time is spent on analysing strategic needs, before making technology decisions. Gerstle pointed out: "You often have a situation where technology buyers go for the Rolls-Royce of technology solutions where the BMW would have been more than sufficient". Collaboretix works with clients to bed down their enterprise and management strategies and align them with their actual business and technological requirements. This establishes a base for clients to make more informed decisions relating to their technology solutions and ensures alignment. “Managing expectations is one of the most important aspects in business”, says Gerstle.

     

    According to delegates, it seems that Africa has the potential to lead a new generation of greener data centers and set up its own accreditation standard relevant to its innovations, varied environment and its limited electric capacity.

    To find out more about the event, click here.

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

    New on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Bosun Tijani, Cocreation Hub in Lagos talks about innovation and social entrepreneurs


    Jesse Oguns, blogger at oTeKbits talks about ICT innovation in Nigeria

    From the previous week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Samantha Fleming, Afrosocialmedia on NGOs using social media

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Liberia’s Cellcom will be launching an HSPA+ network in the country in an effort to improve the internet browsing experience for mobile internet users. The implementation will be the fastest and only HSPA+ network in the country.

    Avishai Marziano, the CEO of Cellcom, said that the technology will give mobile users the best possible experience and allow for mobile phones to perform better. “We are stepping up our technology a notch to give our consumers the best for their money. We are redefining cellular technology in Liberia and will provide the fastest and best quality in surfing as part of what is the vision of the mobile Internet which is the key component and central service for our client.”

    The launch of the HSPA+ network will give mobile users the chance to experience internet at a much faster speed than many home office internet connections in Liberia. The technology will have a capacity of 21Mbs browsing.

    “With the new technology, the current browsing speed cellular network will exceed by 100 times that of our competitors and 10 times of 3G network,” Marziano continued.

    “We have seen an increase in customers consuming cellphones since we broke the monopoly. Now with new technology like smartphones and l-phones we are in the process of upgrading our networks to make our customers happy and stay ahead of the competition.”

  • Leading mobile network operator Safaricom has moved to court seeking to recover close to half a billion shillings from its rivals for non-payment of termination fees since October together with penalties.

    Safaricom is demanding close to half a billion shillings from Airtel and about Sh150 million from Essar for non-payment of termination fees — the amount of money an operator pays rivals if its subscribers call another network — since October.

    It’s also seeking that the operators pay it interests and collection fees for delayed payment, arguing that the dues are hurting its cash flow. The interest is pegged on the average base rate that currently stands at 20.34 per cent and Safaricom hopes the penalty will act as a deterrent for delayed payments. 

    “What Safaricom is telling its rivals is that they can hold on to its debt as long they wish, but at a cost and the cost are the penalties,” said a lawyer who is familiar with the suit and wished not to be named.

    For a start, Safaricom is demanding Sh4 million from Airtel for the late payment of termination charges covering July and August, which stood at Sh173 million.

    Safaricom through Havi and Company Advocates is accusing Airtel of breaching the July 2002 interconnection agreement for the provision of telecommunications services to their respective customers. Airtel has not responded to the suit.

    The agreement states that operators must prepare a billing statement and tax invoice for interconnection charges and forward the same to the other party within two weeks of every month.

    The termination rate—which currently stands at Sh2.21 a minute—is emerging as a big issue in Kenya’s mobile telephony market and has split the board of the telecommunication regulator on whether it should be reduced or not.

    Francis Wangusi, the acting CCK director, said last Wednesday that the termination rate will drop to Sh1.44 per minute in July from the current Sh2.21, but Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo, also a director, is opposed to it.

  • Telecom Namibia has over the past seven years lost more than N$100 million (US$12.4 m) through their investment in Mundo Startel (MST) in Angola, of which it holds 44 per cent shares.

    The company has now decided to exit the joint venture, which has been described by those close to the deal as a “difficult” partnership. An urgent meeting between the two companies is expected to take place to finalise Telecom’s exit in this joint venture which is no longer viable.

    “Mundo has struggled to achieve its business plan over the past few years and as a result there is an indication that carrying value of this investment in the company accounts may be impaired. “By impairment it means a reduction in the value of an asset because the asset no longer generates the benefits expected earlier as determined by the company through periodic assessments,” Telecom Namibia’s Senior Manager Corporate Communications and Public Relations, Oiva Angula, told The Namibian.

    He further explained that in the light of the current difficult situation of this venture “Telecom management and Board have impaired the carrying value of this investment in the company’s financial statements by an amount of N$18 million in 2011 to bring the accumulated impairment [loss] of the investment to N$79 million”.

    In 2005 when Telecom Namibia entered into a business partnership with the Angolan investors, it made an initial investment of N$29.8 million for the 44 per cent shareholding in MST.  However over the years Telecom invested N$162 million in the  unprofitable company. Due to Angola’s challenging geography the new company would have concentrated on installing next generation networks, VSAT and wireless digital technology instead of digging trenches and setting up telephone poles.

    However, by May last year Telecom saw the writing on the wall and decided to jump ship and exit the partnership. Now a year later a final meeting is planned in Luanda to try and finalise the controversial issue, which cost Telecom Namibia a loss of more than N$23.7 million. “This is a follow-up meeting of the one that was held in March this year during which certain proposals were made after the Angolan partners agreed to buy Telecom Namibia’s shares. We have to ensure that we recover our investment,” said Angula.

    Telecom provided start-up capital as well as loans to MST to the tune of N$146.3 million to get the business off the ground and build the initial network in Luanda.
    It is understood that MST now wants to offer Telecom a cash payment of about N$15 million over a 60 day period from the date of sale and that the issuance of about N$94 million preferred shares be paid with a premium once MST becomes profitable.

  • Tanzanian fixed line operator Six Telecoms Company (6Telecom) has launched a new Metro Network in the country, targeting the corporate user segment. 6Telecom is looking to offer business users improved internet connectivity in the region with CEO Nick Odero noting: ‘As companies grow and expand in Tanzania it is important that they have a dedicated network that will allow for them to connect all of their branches in a redundant and secure manner that is robust and cost effective. Metro Network is aligned to act as a business development partner for our clients as reliable and secure networks are a vital component to growth within East Africa.’

    The unit’s 6Telecom Data arm aims to match customer requirements to the desired level of connectivity they need. For example, some customers will require more than fibre-optic provisioning and here, Metro Network can offer licensed microwave links it says. 6 Telecoms’ new Metro Network covers a number of areas in Tanzania such as Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Dodoma, Morogoro, Iringa, Mbeya, and Mtwara.

  • The company behind the planned 40Tbit/s Wasace cable says the African leg of the submarine system will be ready for service in early 2014. And it's coming to SA.
    The African leg of a new submarine telecommunications system that will serve markets in the North and South Atlantic will be ready for service in the first quarter of 2014. The cable will offer high-speed global connectivity to SA, Angola and Nigeria.

    That’s the word from the Wasace Cable Company, which is building the multibillion-dollar Wasace system. The company said on Wednesday that it had begun the procurement process to select a system supplier for the cable’s construction.

    An invitation to tender has been sent to four potential suppliers and Wasace expects to select the successful bidder in July 2012. The company has retained two financial services companies, including Aterios Capital, as financial advisors to source funding for the project.

    International telecoms constulting firm, the David Ross Group, is administering the procurement process and leading the development of the project.

    The 40Tbit/s cable will connect SA, Angola and Nigeria to the US, as well as to markets in South America and Europe, using the latest “100G” fibre-optic technology. The system will consist of three parts:

    Wasace Americas, connecting Brazil (Santos, Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza) to the US via a landing station in Florida, with “optional, on-demand connectivity to Colombia, Panama and the US state of South Carolina.

    Wasace Africa, connecting SA and Nigeria to the US with optional and on-demand connectivity to the Niger Delta at Bonny Island and to Angola.
    Wasace Europe, connecting Florida to Virginia Beach and across the North Atlantic to San Sebastian in Spain.

    The Wasace Cable Company plans to develop the network in phases, beginning with the Americas and Africa segments, which are scheduled to be in service by early 2014 — if that deadline is met, it will be ahead of the newly announced Brics Cable, which will follow some of the same route at Wasace.

internet

  • The TEAMS cable company has sued the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and a shipping firm for the recent cable cut at Mombasa that caused disruption in Internet services.

    “We will sue it (KPA) again as soon as we establish the cause of the cut, we have already sued it for $15 million in the earlier case of which they have deposited $2.5 million with the court,” said Bitange Ndemo, PS in the Ministry of Information and Communication as he spoke to the Business Daily.

    This incident had happened before causing Internet disruptions for close to a month in February and it led to companies moving in on Satellite Internet services that are much costly and offer slower voice and data services as compared to fiber optic services just to be safer when fiber cable cuts happen.

    Ken Munyi, GM at iWay Africa, commented that, “Operators are increasingly appreciating the importance of back-up solutions, which has seen increased demand for satellite services.” He added, “Since the EASSY cable was cut on February 25, we have witnessed increased enquiries and interest.”

    Ndemo acknowledged the need to find out the activities that were happening there and whether KPA was using geo-maps to direct ships considering it is an “off-limit” landing zone.

  • The Niger Telecommunications Company announced the reinstatement of its broadband Internet services, after three months of load shedding due to a failure on a separate line of fiber optics in neighboring Benin. This a breakdown that reinforces the need for countries to have multiple fibre connections for redundancy purposes.

    "We have restored the high-speed Internet (....) on the optical fiber, after the failure recorded since January this year in Benin from where we are served," said Amoumoune Adam, head of sales and marketing. Niger experienced disturbances on its Internet following a breakdown at the line called "Sat3" which supplies the country since the maritime source in neighboring Benin.

    This situation, the official said, has forced the company to "consider a supply via satellite, but it is insufficient." Niger has a low penetration of Information Technology and Communication (ICT), especially because of the costs of ICT equipment very high in this country.

  • The National Liberation Front Party (FLN) announced on Thursday that its Secretary General Abdellaziz Belkhadem would reply on Sunday to the Internet users' questions and queries on Facebook as part of the ongoing campaign for the May 10th legislative polls in Algeria.

    The announcement was made on the FLN party's Website indicating that Mr Abdellaziz Belkhadem would provide answers to the questions between 19h and 20h local time or 18h and 19h GMT.

    The FLN Party which held the majority of seats in the outgoing National Popular Assembly is hoping to retain its leading role by garnering a maximum of seats in the future Assembly at a time when the party is beset by an internecine power struggle which could shatter its unity and cohesion.

    Algeria with a population of over 36 million inhabitants, counted in late 2010 around 5 million-Internet users.

  • Sam Bikassam, CEO of Togo Telecom has given details of the arrival, as expected by users, of high speed bandwidth delivered by the new WACS cable. It will be for the month of June, said Bikassam. The fiber optic cable that will provide unparalleled data rates will be commissioned in South Africa on May 10.

    The cable WACS (West Africa Cable System) is a consortium of several African operators including Togo Telecom, Angola Telecom, Broadband Ifraco, Cable & Wireless, MTN, Portugal Telecom, Sotelco, Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia, Telkom and Vodacom. It connects

    South Africa to Britain with connection points in Togo, Namibia, DRC, Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. This is the first direct link of this kind. Cost of investment: 600 million, including $ 27 million for the only operator in Togo.

    14,000 km along the WACS must route communications standard and high-speed Internet (3.8 terabits / s) at costs far lower than they are today. This will also pave the way for new technologies such as triple play (telephone, television, internet), Togo Telecom which plans to create very quickly.

    On the business offer, the details will be provided in the coming weeks, but the rates should be particularly attractive. "The connection to the WACS will give us the enormous advantage of not being dependent on foreign operators and the inherent risks," says Sam Bikassam.

  • The landing of the fiber optic submarine cable to Seychelles from Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam was launched on Saturday afternoon with a laying of the first inch of the long cable to the Seychelles capital of Victoria.

    A brief ceremony to lay the first inch of the almost 2,000-kilometer-long cable that will run underwater to connect the two countries was organized in Dar es Salaam in the presence of the Seychelles Minister for Natural Resources and Industry, Peter Sinon, and the Island’s Honorary Consul to Tanzania Ms. Maryvonne Pool.

    Along with Minister Sinon, Seychellois journalists and other dignitaries witnessed the event, which signified the launching of the first fiber optic submarine cable to their country and which will connect the people of Seychelles to the rest of the world through this modern telecommunication technology.

    The Alcatel Submarine Ship (ASN) docked in Dar es Salaam last Friday for the submarine optic fiber system project under the coordination and management of the Seychelles East Africa System (SEAS) linked to the EASSy fiber optic cable already on the coast of the African continent.

    SEAS has been built by Seychelles Cable Systems Limited through funding from Seychelles government, Cable and Wireless (Seychelles), and the mobile phone company, Airtel.

    Ms. Maryvonne Pool who is also the island’s Tourism Ambassador to Tanzania said SEAS is also the very first fiber optic submarine cable to link Seychelles to the rest of the world and is very much a historic and development milestone for this island state.

    SEAS project is a good example of regional integration and private sector partnership as it involves entities from East African countries and also involves the use of regionally-deployed telecom infrastructure and EASSy, which is a regional African project.

    The project will as well be vital in cementing Tanzania and Seychelles relations through various areas of business, social and economic sectors, mostly travel and tourism.

    Both Tanzania and Seychelles are members of the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern African (RETOSA) and is in need of a quick and effective communication that will speed up connection among tourists and other travelers between these friendly nations, while attracting more business stakeholders from each country through high-tech communication.

  • AfriNIC-16, the African Network Information Centre’s (AfriNIC) 16th bi-annual meeting together with AfNOG (The African Network Operators Group) will take place in Serekunda, The Gambia from the 6th – 18th May 2012. This year our Public Policy Meeting will host among others the first African Internet Summit and the sixth meeting of the African Government Working Group (AfGWG).

    This Annual African Internet Summit will be a platform where all key development issues faced by Africa will be discussed and provide a more business-oriented structure to better meet the Operators' needs in Africa. As the future growth of Internet in Africa will be through mobile operators, AfriNIC through the uniqueness of its mandate will reaffirm its support to all African Network Operators.

    Adiel Akplogan, CEO of AfriNIC comments, “The uniqueness of this first AfriNIC event is the essence of our mission to go beyond the simple core of IP engineering capacity building and be an active player in the African Internet community. Our entire stakeholder spectrum has shown an increasing interest in playing an even more active role in understanding the Internet infrastructure. It’s vital that all key stakeholders are brought together in ways such as this event allows us to. It’s only through working together that we can guarantee continued growth of an Internet economy in Africa.”

    AfriNIC 16 is taking place at the Kairaba Hotel, Serekunda, The Gambia. For further information about the event, please visit www.afrinic.net/afrinic 16. Non attendees can also participate remotely.

    The event will also include the sixth meeting of the African Government Working Group (AfGWG), with the intention of strengthening the collaboration between AfriNIC, African Governments and regulators.

  • The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, gave further clarification on its roadmap for broadband delivery for Nigeria as Dr Eugene Juwah, the Commission's Executive Vice-Chairman said in Lagos that to enable service delivery at affordable prices for the end-user, where it may not be economically viable to do so, the Commission will offer financial incentives to the infrastructure providers to enable them operate reasonably profitably.

     ‘In addition, the Government through the Commission will facilitate agreements and engage in dispute resolution among the various stakeholders.” He spoke at the West African ICT Congress which took off in Lagos Tuesday.

    President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Chris Uwaje, said at the same event that the West African sub region has become a major consumer of technology, without offering anything to the technology world. He urged governments in the sub-region to declare ‘state of emergency’ in ICT. ‘The world is changing and the sub-region must be involved in the change’ Uwaje said.

  • Starting from May this year, Institutions of higher learning, vocational training centres, state schools as well as health centres will enjoy free Internet access. This information was made available by the The Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MITC), Joël Kaapanda. He revealed that government has spent US$37.5 million, which equals approximately N$300 million, to make the service available.

    The telephone line and the and the wireless technology for the project has been made available by the Telecom Namibia.

    However, Electricity still remains a very serious challenge at all schools, lack of computer equipments in schools is also another concern, according to Kaapanda.
    He added that MITC and the Ministry of Education would avail a computer for every Namibian child. “We are gradually implementing this programme,” he stated.

    “Internet usage will be free unless blocked by the institution for destructive websites,” he explained. Internet access will be free on state-owned premises as well as individuals on the premises.In addition, the cost of Internet will be reduced drastically for business people and private individuals.

    He went on to explain that the broadband connection would come from Portugal and travel through West Africa, connecting a number of African countries along the coast until it lands in Swakopmund.

    Internet access in the country is still slow, epileptic and expensive, and this has resulted to huge financial losses for businesses over the years.

computing

  • In april 2012 Viafrica's pilot 'KIDSworks' began in Tanzania and Kenya. The project Kidsworks will provide ICT support to some social organisations that visit schools with life skills programmes. These organisations are Macheo Children's Centre and Watoto in Kenya and White Orange Youth in Tanzania.

    At the heart of the project is intention to improve the knowledge of the children’s life-skills. The skills focused on in the pilot are HIV\AIDS, drug abuse and adolescence. Our aim has been to augment the already existing social programmes of our local partners with ICT based learning. This involves a dynamic relationship between learning from interactive E-learning content contained on the laptops supplied for the programme as well as the classical approach given by partner organization’s social workers.

    Behind the concept of the programme is its technical implementation as the development of the KIDSworks platform on which the E-content is deployed by Oscar Buse, the platform is operated by one of Viafrica’s technicians travels with the programme. The platform itself is operating as mobile and wireless in a powerless environment.

     The pilot programme reaches ten primary schools in Tanzania and twenty primary schools in Kenya. In each country and social context, we are testing different aspects of the programme to evaluate its effectiveness in improving the skills and knowledge of the children. With a successful implementation the possibility is opened to make it part of a diverse range of learning activities.

  • As part of an effort to bridge the ‘digital divide’, the Intel Learning Series Alliance in partnership with Jasco, Custom Technologies and the Xavier Group, have delivered a completely solar powered ‘Classroom on Wheels’ to Victorious Primary School in Uganda.

    The ‘Classroom on Wheels’ includes a laptop trolley, a teacher laptop and 35 Intel powered Classmate PCs along with a WiFi access point, with content and administration delivered by the Critical Links Education Appliance. To address the unique needs of the school in Uganda a complete solar charging solution forms part of the system. This solar solution operates as an autonomous system without ever requiring mains power.

    “Solar power is a vital component to the solution, since many schools in Uganda, including Victorious Primary School, are off the national grid. Even those that receive state power are prone to surges and outages, which makes running any sort of computer centre or computer classroom difficult,” says Paul Fick, divisional MD of Jasco Enterprise. “This project was commissioned by Intel as part of a global mission to advance technology in education.”

    The solar powered classroom solution is a fully sustainable solution, as it runs entirely off a renewable energy source. The charging system incorporates three solar panels, two battery connections and a charge management system, which is fed into a charging unit housed within the laptop cart that facilitates the charging of the laptops and the server. The system has also been designed to run off a simple battery - even a car battery - to ensure that a cost effective option can be found for any region it is shipped to. Fully charged, the solution can last for up to three days before the battery is drained. The entire solution is designed to continue functioning should a single component break, and individual components can be quickly replaced to restore the system to full capacity.

    “Computers are the future, and if our students do not have access to computers they are put at a disadvantage. This project showcases the opportunities that ICT provides. The project has been very successful and has attracted a lot of interest both locally and across Africa. The Inspector of Schools and the Minister of Energy have both paid the site a visit, and the Victorious Primary School computer classroom also appeared in a Kenyan newspaper. The students also enjoy being able to learn on computers and being connected to the world using the Internet, and they and their parents have embraced the new computer classroom” says David Raymond Magezi, CEO of Xavier Group.

    “This innovative solar solution, combined with the purpose-built ruggedness of the Classmate PCs which have been designed to withstand even the roughest handling, and the powerful teaching capabilities presented by the Critical Links Education Appliance, offers an exciting new teaching concept that brings ICT within reach of children in developing countries like Uganda. It gives these learners the opportunity to embrace technology from an early age and engage with their educators in new ways, as well as to stay up to speed with developments all over the world, giving them a chance to become competitive in the modern world,” Fick concludes.

    The Ugandan Government is currently on a drive to introduce solar powered computer and technology solutions into schools. Victorious Primary School will act as a pilot project and proof of concept to illustrate the power of technology in schools and, hopefully, to attract further investment in this type of technology in future.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has teamed up with Orient Bank and Warid Telecom to come up with an efficient tax payment method where taxpayers can have the comfort of clearing their taxes through the mobile money platform.

    Allen Kagina the Commissioner General at URA said the innovation’s strategy is aimed at cutting costs involved for small tax payers and the innovation is open to all banks and telecoms that can match up to the set standards. “We are targeting the smaller tax payers to help them cut cost. We won’t be required to move from the Banks to the different URA offices and vice versa.”

    Moses Kajubi the Commissioner Domestic Taxes said that it would enable tax payers have the comfort of paying taxes through SMS and at their convenience. “We appreciate that you are busy attending to other businesses as well. So we want to make it easy and instant through the SMS.”

    Sriram Yarlagadda , CEO at Warid Telecom said that the deal would bring about customer convenience for Ugandan’s.

    Maxwell Ibeanous, Managing director at Orient Bank added, “The innovation would reduce on congestion at the banks and would help those far from banks to receive the same service as those in urban centers.”

  • MCash's mobile financial service has launched in Uganda in partnership with Housing Finance Bank (HFB).

    M-Cash is under the Bank’s umbrella in Uganda to bring new service delivery channels to all Ugandan citizen. MCash’s inherent independence from mobile network operators offers an attractive business model that offer to Housing Finance Bank various alternative channels to bank the unbanked and service efficiently the under-served.

    The excitement on this new delivery channel is due to the promise to bring about a breakthrough of major importance into the mobile payment ecosystem. It offers the possibility of massive outreach to people in locations that remain underserved, especially those in hard-to-reach rural areas. Some channels, including microfinance institutions, churches, retail agents such as supermarkets or drug stores that act as banking agents, may bring the industry closer to significantly serving more Ugandan with or without a mobile phone.

    M-Cash is a universal payment solution that allows customers to open and access virtual bank accounts on which they can save their money, send or transfer money to someone else or make payments to participating Merchants. MCash solution offers a refreshing approach to mobile payment that overcomes the challenges of cashless payment by using multi-factor authentication mechanisms (NSDT, fingerprint, NFC and Voice biometric) technology. Customers access their accounts through proximity Agents where they can register to open up accounts, deposit, withdraw and transfer money.

    “Unlike many other mobile payment products on the market, M-Cash allows anyone to open a bank account without restrictions to Mobile Network, software downloads, phone types or one method of authenticating account ownership. As a completely revolutionary product, M-Cash is a simple to use, completely secure solution that lets customers access and use their accounts 24/7 regardless of their mobile network with transactions that happen in real time,” said Mme Edith Gasana Kutesa, the CEO of MCash Uganda Ltd about the product.

    According to Paul Musoke, Housing Finance bank's Deputy Managing director, with the M-cash account, a client will have a 24-hour access to their account. The product has multi-security features, like fingerprint identification, pin codes, NSDT and NFC card, all designed to protect a customer's funds.

    The Head of Marketing and Product Development Judith Owembabazi Muyinda, further explained that through this product, traders will be able to pay their tax, a student will pay his or her school fees, while a driver could pay for fuel at selected points, all of which can be done without the hassle of lining up somewhere

    “It is the expectation that HFB and M-Cash will bring financial services closer to the customer and allow a massive outreach to Ugandans everywhere to have accounts and make better use of the financial services that are readily available to them.  It is also expected that the market will quickly adopt the product as it is simple to use, convenient and completely secure”, says Mr Patrick Gordon Ngabonziza, MobiCash Group CEO.

  • MTN Mobile Money subscribers who use Starbow can now purchase their air tickets through MTN Mobile Money. MTN announced the new addition during an interaction with News Editors and senior journalists in the Volta Region.

    The forum was to brief journalists on new trends in telecommunications, the drive towards convergence, MTN’s CSR initiatives, as well as the company’s network coverage expansion projects currently underway in the region.

    Corporate Services Executive of MTN Ghana, Cynthia Lumor told journalists the purchase of Starbow ticket was a new addition to the Mobile Money portfolio, adding that the process involved customers calling Starbow on 18181 or 0245000000 for booking.

    “An invoice is then sent to the customer for payment through MTN Mobile Money wallet or any MTN Service Center," she said.

    The Commercial Manager for MTN’s South East Business District, Sam Adjei-Sah told journalists 56% of 3G data capacity available in the commercial towns of Volta region was not being utilized, an indication of low data usage in the region.He therefore encouraged the media to take advantage of the facility to enhance their work.

    Adjei-Sah also highlighted the convenience of the MTN Mobile Money Service, particularly during the raining season, stating that: ”during the rainy season it will be difficult to go out to purchase airtime, pay electricity and DSTV bills or transfer money to business partners; but with Mobile Money all these transactions can be done within a few minutes from the comfort of your home or office.”
    Payment of Domestic Airline tickets made easy by MTN Mobile Money

    The Field Services Manager for the South East Business District of MTN, Nicholas Frimpong, demonstrated some of the services available on MTN’s network, including video calling.

    He also highlighted some of the key investments MTN has made in the network to improve quality of service.

    They included the relocation of fiber between Agbozume and Ho Junction and the addition of protective mechanisms on the fiber route to minimize voice and data outages; another investment was the introduction of new, high capacity Huawei equipment to replace the existing old ones.

    He also emphasized that the investments in the network was being done across the country.

    The Volta Regional President of the Ghana Journalists Association, Mr. Victor Kwawukume, expressed appreciation to MTN for the importance it placed on the media, especially those in the region, and urged MTN to organise more capacity building sessions on the telecoms industry to keep the journalists updated of emerging trends.

    The program was also attended by members of the MTN Corporate Communications team and MTN’s key distributr in the region. The MTN Corporate Communications team also visited various stakeholders as part of their regional engagements

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has revealed that it has no plans to issue new fixed line or mobile telephony licences, despite interest from a number of foreign firms,

Digital Content

  • The World Bank is in the process of developing the next Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) FY13-FY16 for Ethiopia. As part of the CPS preparation process and in order to gain a better understanding of the development context and the needs of the ultimate beneficiaries of World Bank support, the Bank is conducting consultations with a wide range of stakeholders throughout the country and abroad.

    The process of gathering input from stakeholders was launched with a client survey conducted in December 2011, and will include a series of meetings with different development partners scheduled to be held in May 2012.

    The consultations will be done through face-to-face meetings as well as through an online platform, which will serve as a clearinghouse for the CPS consultation process. The Bank will post input received as well as minutes of the face-to-face meetings. It will also serve as a tool for direct communication with members of the Bank's CPS Ethiopia Team.

    The basis for discussion during the consultations will be documents and power point presentations outlining the proposed Bank interventions in Ethiopia. In order to better guide the discussions and help identify priority areas of assistance, a series of questions will be provided.

    The CPS document will be presented to the Bank's Board of Directors in September 2012, so it is important that the Bank's Ethiopia team receive inputs by May 28, 2012.

  • Mobile operator Vodacom, South African budget airline Mango and Internet service provider Wireless-G teamed up last week to bring the country and the Southern Hemisphere one step further to in-flight wifi.

    Over a hundred guests boarded the maiden Wi-Fi flight in Lanseria, just outside Johannesburg, to take to the skies while staying in contact with friends and family on the internet. But the excitement was only limited to a few passengers, as 70% of the eager surfers were unable to connect to the network.

    WirelessG CEO Carel van der Merwe said most of the passengers couldn’t connect to the Wi-Fi network due to budgetary constraints when it came to the allocation of IP addresses. He explained that the system at the moment is designed to provide each passenger with one IP address, and if there are more devices on board connecting to the network than passengers, some won’t be able to use the service.

    “The system is configured to allocate 128 IPs for passengers. Yesterday, while there were 115 passengers on board, many of them had multiple devices and we saw three times the allowed connections, with hundreds of IP addresses constantly requesting access. This was not a technical or hardware problem, but rather a case of tech-hungry individuals with a desire to test the service to its limits,” he said.

    But users should be aware that not all devices will connect successfully, with Apple and Samsung devices leading the pack for the most successful connections. Van der Merwe added that BlackBerry products had the least amount of successful connections, as some users still make use of version 5 BlackBerry’s operating system.

    “According to our information, 50% of South Africans still have these old devices. As the system goes on and people begin to learn how it works, they will become more compatible with it. We cannot budget for all devices,” he concluded.

    There are three different options available for passengers who wish to make use of the service, and start at as little as R50 for a single flight. Passengers will be able to buy a one-day pass for R90, or a per-minute option, billed through G-Connect’s online account.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has released their May 2012 Bulletin chronicling many such innovations in global health, under the theme of "eHealth".

    While there is celebration in order for the many eHealth initiatives designed and deployed everyday across the globe, this WHO Bulletin prompts one to wonder as well: just because impressive technologies exist, are they making a difference? Do they immediately lead to improved care quality, cost savings, or lives saved?

    There is no doubt that new technologies, and the hardware and infrastructure required to make them run, are proliferating across the developing world. Just two weeks ago I attended the eHealth Africa Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, a country in which 75 percent of people who access the Internet do so through their mobile phones. Representatives from the Ghana Health Service spoke of how their national Information Technology (IT) agency has helped not only in crafting a national eHealth strategy, but also in retaining Ghana's top IT talent. And farther south in Angola -- a country in which 72% of citizens live on less than $2 a day -- a high-speed 4G network is currently being constructed.

    Yet the eHealth Conference attendees -- an array of African policymakers, health practitioners, and technology developers -- collectively acknowledged that simply having technology in hand was not sufficient for producing tangible health benefits. Policy makers in particular explained their challenge in adopting new technologies: if a health system is fractured, then technology may only exacerbate existing weaknesses, or if patients cannot easily and inexpensively access technology, then its potential to promote change cannot be realized. There was not yet enough evidence, from their perspective, to suggest which kinds of eHealth interventions were wise investments.

    One particular report in the WHO Bulletin would be of great interest to the concerns of these decision-makers, namely an analysis by Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI), who documented and summarized main findings to date from eHealth programs in low- and middle-income countries. They aimed to answer the questions that policy makers have by showing evidence of programs that are already working.

    As the most comprehensive, global survey in peer-reviewed literature of eHealth initiatives, the report documents 176 technology-enabled programs that aim to improve quality, affordability, and accessibility of health care in developing countries. "By identifying emerging global trends in eHealth, the study provides guidance about how ICT can help solve common health systems challenges in developing countries," said Gina Lagomarsino, a managing director at the Results for Development Institute, of which CHMI is a unit.

    CHMI authors identified six primary ways in which most eHealth programs are already functioning: extending geographical access to overcome distance between physicians and patients, facilitating patient communications between health workers and patients, improving diagnosis and treatment for health workers, improving data management, streamlining financial transactions, and mitigating fraud and abuse.

    But an interesting and important finding in the CHMI report is that only 16 of the 176 programs documented responded to CHMI's request for self-reported, clear, and quantifiable impacts. The report further reveals that almost no programs had independent evaluations conducted, the quality of available evaluations was low, and the generalizability of available evaluations was not sufficiently broad to make a case for scale. In some cases this may mean that programs have simply not existed for long enough to be able to show any impact. Yet for those who have, it also hints at the challenge of evaluating new technologies -- and reveals that not enough innovators are rising to this challenge.

    The challenge of measuring a moving target is a conundrum -- with such rapid changes in hardware, software, and networks on which they operate, it is understandable that measuring impact is an intimidating task. Yet it is one that we must attempt to solve. If innovators cannot rigorously prove that a technology will save costs or save lives, then policy makers cannot be expected to commit effort and resources to applying it to strengthen health systems.

    Closing a panel on Health Information Systems at the eHealth Africa Conference, moderator Dr. Khama Rogo lamented to the audience,"I think more Africans die from misinformation than lack of medicines."

    Thankfully we now have a wide array of eHealth initiatives that can increase the availability of data for patients, providers, and policymakers alike -- what we need now is fresh, honest thinking on data management and greater effort towards evaluation if we want to see the benefits of eHealth interventions be brought to scale.

  • I had the honor of attending on Saturday 21-April 2012; a meeting organized by some Sudanese academicians and youth aiming at establishing an organization for promoting a Knowledge-based Society in Sudan.

    The initiative aims at establishing a non-governmental society or organization with branches all over Sudan and the goals have been defined to raise awareness and education about KM (Knowledge Management) through the provision of training courses on electronic learning using the Internet sharing experiences ,organizing competitions and KM system development .

    The SKBSO four additional aims are documentation and assembly of knowledge in all study areas organizing regular scientific workshops .create global knowledge exchange opportunities create knowledge exchange mechanisms between academic and professional and continues improvement and development of KM strategies.
    It was interesting that the Forum was attended by a number of private sector companies and businessmen which indicate that awareness is increasing about the importance of the knowledge society for business in today world.

More

  • Dimension Data CEO to step down

    Technology services group Dimension Data, which operates across a number of key regions including Africa and Middle East, announced that current CEO for Africa and Middle East Allan Cawood will vacate his post at the end of this month.

    Cawood will be replaced by Internet Solutions (IS) Managing Director Derek Wilcocks. Wilcocks’ departure from IS allowed Saki Missaikos, regional sales director at Dimension Data, to take up the reins at Internet Solutions.

  • ITU seeks next generation of social entrepreneurs
    Would-be young innovators can win chance to pitch their ideas to industry leaders at ITU Telecom World 2012

    Geneva, 1 May 2012 – ITU has launched the second edition of its Young Innovators Competition, giving young, talented social entrepreneurs the opportunity to attend its key global networking and knowledge sharing event, ITU Telecom World 2012, and the chance to win funding, mentorship and ongoing support.

    Open to 18-25 year olds worldwide, the Young Innovators Competition calls for projects/concepts which engage the power of ICTs to meet real-world developmental challenges relevant to one of eight core areas under the theme “Youth Innovation for Development”:

         Cybersecurity
         Education
         Empowerment of Women
         Environmental Sustainability
         Healthcare
         Human Rights
         Transparency
         Youth Employment

    Submissions consisting of everything from well researched concepts to ongoing operations showing preliminary results are welcome. From these, the twelve most outstanding entries -– judged to have the greatest possible social impact and potential for business success -– will win the chance to attend and participate in ITU Telecom World 2012, which takes place from 14-18 October in Dubai.

    The 12 finalists can benefit from one-on-one mentorship sessions with top level representatives from various sectors, hands-on workshops focused on developing entrepreneurial skills and the chance to showcase concepts and projects at a centrally located stand before the uniquely influential audience of World 2012 delegates. They can also benefit from the rich opportunities for networking with the leading names and key decision makers from industry, government and academia plus visionaries and digital thought leaders present at the event.

    Final winners will also benefit from prize money of up to CHF10,000 to realize entrepreneurial dreams. In addition winners will have access to the network of mentors offering ongoing support for up to one year, be invited to form an active part of the Young Innovators community and update their submission as featured on our website with regular progress report.

    “Participation in this competition offers a great opportunity for the next generation of young visionaries to demonstrate their ideas and innovations on a truly global stage at our event, and show how their fresh digital thinking can change the world for the better,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. “Crucially, the reach of the Young Innovators Programme will also extend way beyond the event, building a cohesive international community of highly talented social entrepreneurs working on ICT-based initiatives in areas that are vital to developmental issues facing the world today.”

    The deadline for initial submissions is 1st July 2012. For further details and the application procedure, please visit here. 

    For more information on the event, please see world2012.itu.int or contact:

    Sanjay Acharya

    tel     +41 22 730 5046
    tel     +41 79 249 4861
    tel     sanjay.acharya@itu.int

Issue no 604 11th May 2012

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Top story

  • The hype about cloud computing and data centres can often seem overblown when you visit some of Africa’s smaller markets but in many of the larger markets, data centres and the services they enable are now becoming an established part of enabling both consumer and corporate services. A recent conference in South Africa provided the opportunity to look at the challenges and floated the idea that the challenging circumstances of Africa may offer it the opportunity to become a pioneer in green, energy efficient solutions.

    What is not often recognized is that data centres in Africa are managed by IT staff who are not necessarily trained in data centre optimization and in  best cooling techniques but are more focused on the latest software and networking equipment.

    One of the objectives of this forum was to highlight how to cut down the cost of data center through improved facilities design and management. The forum showcased the implementation of successful data center virtualization methods and looked at outsourcing strategies that focus in particular on developing a foolproof disaster recovery plan for maximum security and protection.

    Sylvain Beletre, Senior Research Analyst at Balancing Act opened the first day session and provided a presentation of recent market research carried out in Africa. Data centre facilities are limited on the continent but due to grow by 10% per year over the next 3 years.

    In its 2011 report, Balancing Act counted 120 commercial data centers and projects in Africa with about 10 to 20 more commercial centers to be built over the next 5 years. In-house data centers are estimated to be 10 times this number across Africa with South Africa leading the pack. Examples provided by APC by Schneider highlighted that data centers can reduce energy costs by 20-30%. Beletre showed where the new data centers are being built across Africa's most developed cities and gave pointers to growth drivers and investment opportunities across the region. Balancing Act plans on releasing an update to its 'Data Centres in Africa' report in the autumn of this year.

    Lee Smith, director at Dee Smith & Associates in South Africa is a design, implementation and integration expert in South Africa.  For Smith, deciding on the right data centre location is key: not only it is important to make sure that expert staff will feel comfortable about working in its environment, it is also key to ensure sufficient local enterprise needs, power and bandwidth availability.

    Lee Smith examined energy cost reduction measures and made a point that for a data centre to improving energy performance it needs to be designed in before the centre gets built. Vendors need to train management and operating teams to make sure they know how to use each technology. Smith also explored ways and means of improving data center management by involving all technical teams and getting them to talk in a common language from the start.
       
    Working with your procurement contract partners at an earlier stage of project development will improve outcomes. Continuous performance controls ensure that your facility is cost effective. Smith also stressed that the modern data centre is scalable and flexible. Modernising the rules, tools and methods of your procurement is also key to setting up a long term scalable facility.

    Smith gave some simple practical tricks such as having racks and servers painted in bright colours rather than in black which can reduce temperature and light consumption by up to 30%. Unfortunately today, most legacy equipment is painted in black. A facility's diesel tank needs to be stored far from the main sever facility with a shower type pipe which allows it to empty its tank fast in case of fire or leakage. BCX and a few other data center owners work with Lee Smith because he supplies training for their facility managers and supplies some customized consulting.

    Marilyn Howard, Director of BMH Technology Solutions in South Africa provided a better understanding of the data centre definitions and challenged current opinions. For some, data centers mean faster and safer access to data. For others, it is a way to back up critical data. Overall, it is a crucial piece of the nascent African ICT infrastructure. "It is an enterprise tool made of software and hardware components that meets specific requirements" Ms. Howard concluded.

    Howard illustrated the idea of a successful data center virtualization method and explained that today we can do much more with less investment. Many efficient best practices require minimal costs and don’t require expensive purchases to help data centers reduce CO2 emissions and lower their energy costs. BMH claims to be able to set up data centre containers at a quarter of the price of a standard facility - from USD 250,000 for 100 servers instead of the usual USD 1 m.

    Paul de Klerk, Regional Manager at BT Cape (EOH owned) explored new data centers' cooling systems solutions and designs that enable organisations to attain best practice standards and compliance requirements. BT Cape specializes in rolling out cable in data center facilities. De Klerk explored ways to reduce energy consumption while maximizing cooling systems. He emphasized that "a data centre is not a simple office building", and he also pointed to global data centre accreditation standards. "There is no such thing as an off the shelves package for African data centres, these have to be customized to fit the environment and clients' requirements" he noted, adding that it often comes back to budget limitations.

    Over lunch break, an attendee in charge of the data centre at Cape Town's University confirmed de Klerk point on customizing data centre designs across Africa: "In Cape Town one of the issues we have is salt in the air coming from the sea. In Joburg, temperatures are higher and local staff have to focus on reducing summer heat; The other issue comes down to power and the region could use alternative sources such as the sun or powerful water and air currents available on the coast".

    Microsoft South Africa's Stephen Cakebread, Private Cloud and Azure Product Manager provided a review of cloud, virtualisation and efficiency methods that can easily be implemented. Cakebread explored new data centres services and applications delivered by the IT giant. Cakebread gave a short analysis of the emerging technologies for data centers and assessed what the next generation of cloud computing and data centers apps look like. To date Microsoft does not yet have any of its own data centres in Africa but they are using local commercial facilities.

    For Sakkie Burger, Managing Executive for Data Centre Services, Business Connexion (BCX), optimizing data centre environments and how to further enhance value for clients were the reasons that attracted him to the forum. "I am also attending because green aspects are top priorities and Africa represents a serious opportunity for BCX facilities' expansion" Burger said, adding that "BCX had about 27% of the data centre services market share in South Africa as of Nov. 2011 according to Frost and Sullivan. BCX is also the only service provider in the country that has Tier 4 accreditation provided by the 'Uptime Institute' and delivered back on 15 May 2009". The South African data centre market is heating with major players like T-Systems (which manages some local data centers) and Teraco (one of the main carrier neutral data centers' owner) taking shares in what could become a leading outsourcing destination.

    In its November 2011 report entitled ‘An overview of the South African Data Centre Market’, Frost & Sullivan put annual data centre revenues at R2.3 billion in 2010, while it expects a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 9.6% through to 2016, when revenues are anticipated to R4.0 billion. It notes that the top four data centre providers have a combined market share of 68% with the remaining 32% contested by more than ten companies. The nearest competitors to Business Connexion are IBM with 16% of the market and Dimension Data with 15%.

    Among the comments made during the first session, it was mentioned that cooling air is a major cost for data centre facilities. But there is an opportunity to re-sell that hot air to local community buildings. There have been examples of hot air being re-used to heat hotel or private outdoor swimming pools and offices.

    One of the attendees mentioned that there have had recent requests for audio-streaming storage and this seems to be a future market across Africa. Audiovisual content such as video-streaming will certainly pick up in the years to come.

    Nils Gerstle, director of Collaboretix Enterprise Consulting (Pty) Ltd - a South African based business consulting, technology and management company focused on strategic alignment and data centres - observed that technology and data centre managers often rely too much on vendors to educate them on available solutions. Technology choices are overwhelming and too little time is spent on analysing strategic needs, before making technology decisions. Gerstle pointed out: "You often have a situation where technology buyers go for the Rolls-Royce of technology solutions where the BMW would have been more than sufficient". Collaboretix works with clients to bed down their enterprise and management strategies and align them with their actual business and technological requirements. This establishes a base for clients to make more informed decisions relating to their technology solutions and ensures alignment. “Managing expectations is one of the most important aspects in business”, says Gerstle.

     

    According to delegates, it seems that Africa has the potential to lead a new generation of greener data centers and set up its own accreditation standard relevant to its innovations, varied environment and its limited electric capacity.

    To find out more about the event, click here.

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

    New on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Bosun Tijani, Cocreation Hub in Lagos talks about innovation and social entrepreneurs


    Jesse Oguns, blogger at oTeKbits talks about ICT innovation in Nigeria

    From the previous week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Samantha Fleming, Afrosocialmedia on NGOs using social media

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Liberia’s Cellcom will be launching an HSPA+ network in the country in an effort to improve the internet browsing experience for mobile internet users. The implementation will be the fastest and only HSPA+ network in the country.

    Avishai Marziano, the CEO of Cellcom, said that the technology will give mobile users the best possible experience and allow for mobile phones to perform better. “We are stepping up our technology a notch to give our consumers the best for their money. We are redefining cellular technology in Liberia and will provide the fastest and best quality in surfing as part of what is the vision of the mobile Internet which is the key component and central service for our client.”

    The launch of the HSPA+ network will give mobile users the chance to experience internet at a much faster speed than many home office internet connections in Liberia. The technology will have a capacity of 21Mbs browsing.

    “With the new technology, the current browsing speed cellular network will exceed by 100 times that of our competitors and 10 times of 3G network,” Marziano continued.

    “We have seen an increase in customers consuming cellphones since we broke the monopoly. Now with new technology like smartphones and l-phones we are in the process of upgrading our networks to make our customers happy and stay ahead of the competition.”

  • Leading mobile network operator Safaricom has moved to court seeking to recover close to half a billion shillings from its rivals for non-payment of termination fees since October together with penalties.

    Safaricom is demanding close to half a billion shillings from Airtel and about Sh150 million from Essar for non-payment of termination fees — the amount of money an operator pays rivals if its subscribers call another network — since October.

    It’s also seeking that the operators pay it interests and collection fees for delayed payment, arguing that the dues are hurting its cash flow. The interest is pegged on the average base rate that currently stands at 20.34 per cent and Safaricom hopes the penalty will act as a deterrent for delayed payments. 

    “What Safaricom is telling its rivals is that they can hold on to its debt as long they wish, but at a cost and the cost are the penalties,” said a lawyer who is familiar with the suit and wished not to be named.

    For a start, Safaricom is demanding Sh4 million from Airtel for the late payment of termination charges covering July and August, which stood at Sh173 million.

    Safaricom through Havi and Company Advocates is accusing Airtel of breaching the July 2002 interconnection agreement for the provision of telecommunications services to their respective customers. Airtel has not responded to the suit.

    The agreement states that operators must prepare a billing statement and tax invoice for interconnection charges and forward the same to the other party within two weeks of every month.

    The termination rate—which currently stands at Sh2.21 a minute—is emerging as a big issue in Kenya’s mobile telephony market and has split the board of the telecommunication regulator on whether it should be reduced or not.

    Francis Wangusi, the acting CCK director, said last Wednesday that the termination rate will drop to Sh1.44 per minute in July from the current Sh2.21, but Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo, also a director, is opposed to it.

  • Telecom Namibia has over the past seven years lost more than N$100 million (US$12.4 m) through their investment in Mundo Startel (MST) in Angola, of which it holds 44 per cent shares.

    The company has now decided to exit the joint venture, which has been described by those close to the deal as a “difficult” partnership. An urgent meeting between the two companies is expected to take place to finalise Telecom’s exit in this joint venture which is no longer viable.

    “Mundo has struggled to achieve its business plan over the past few years and as a result there is an indication that carrying value of this investment in the company accounts may be impaired. “By impairment it means a reduction in the value of an asset because the asset no longer generates the benefits expected earlier as determined by the company through periodic assessments,” Telecom Namibia’s Senior Manager Corporate Communications and Public Relations, Oiva Angula, told The Namibian.

    He further explained that in the light of the current difficult situation of this venture “Telecom management and Board have impaired the carrying value of this investment in the company’s financial statements by an amount of N$18 million in 2011 to bring the accumulated impairment [loss] of the investment to N$79 million”.

    In 2005 when Telecom Namibia entered into a business partnership with the Angolan investors, it made an initial investment of N$29.8 million for the 44 per cent shareholding in MST.  However over the years Telecom invested N$162 million in the  unprofitable company. Due to Angola’s challenging geography the new company would have concentrated on installing next generation networks, VSAT and wireless digital technology instead of digging trenches and setting up telephone poles.

    However, by May last year Telecom saw the writing on the wall and decided to jump ship and exit the partnership. Now a year later a final meeting is planned in Luanda to try and finalise the controversial issue, which cost Telecom Namibia a loss of more than N$23.7 million. “This is a follow-up meeting of the one that was held in March this year during which certain proposals were made after the Angolan partners agreed to buy Telecom Namibia’s shares. We have to ensure that we recover our investment,” said Angula.

    Telecom provided start-up capital as well as loans to MST to the tune of N$146.3 million to get the business off the ground and build the initial network in Luanda.
    It is understood that MST now wants to offer Telecom a cash payment of about N$15 million over a 60 day period from the date of sale and that the issuance of about N$94 million preferred shares be paid with a premium once MST becomes profitable.

  • Tanzanian fixed line operator Six Telecoms Company (6Telecom) has launched a new Metro Network in the country, targeting the corporate user segment. 6Telecom is looking to offer business users improved internet connectivity in the region with CEO Nick Odero noting: ‘As companies grow and expand in Tanzania it is important that they have a dedicated network that will allow for them to connect all of their branches in a redundant and secure manner that is robust and cost effective. Metro Network is aligned to act as a business development partner for our clients as reliable and secure networks are a vital component to growth within East Africa.’

    The unit’s 6Telecom Data arm aims to match customer requirements to the desired level of connectivity they need. For example, some customers will require more than fibre-optic provisioning and here, Metro Network can offer licensed microwave links it says. 6 Telecoms’ new Metro Network covers a number of areas in Tanzania such as Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Dodoma, Morogoro, Iringa, Mbeya, and Mtwara.

  • The company behind the planned 40Tbit/s Wasace cable says the African leg of the submarine system will be ready for service in early 2014. And it's coming to SA.
    The African leg of a new submarine telecommunications system that will serve markets in the North and South Atlantic will be ready for service in the first quarter of 2014. The cable will offer high-speed global connectivity to SA, Angola and Nigeria.

    That’s the word from the Wasace Cable Company, which is building the multibillion-dollar Wasace system. The company said on Wednesday that it had begun the procurement process to select a system supplier for the cable’s construction.

    An invitation to tender has been sent to four potential suppliers and Wasace expects to select the successful bidder in July 2012. The company has retained two financial services companies, including Aterios Capital, as financial advisors to source funding for the project.

    International telecoms constulting firm, the David Ross Group, is administering the procurement process and leading the development of the project.

    The 40Tbit/s cable will connect SA, Angola and Nigeria to the US, as well as to markets in South America and Europe, using the latest “100G” fibre-optic technology. The system will consist of three parts:

    Wasace Americas, connecting Brazil (Santos, Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza) to the US via a landing station in Florida, with “optional, on-demand connectivity to Colombia, Panama and the US state of South Carolina.

    Wasace Africa, connecting SA and Nigeria to the US with optional and on-demand connectivity to the Niger Delta at Bonny Island and to Angola.
    Wasace Europe, connecting Florida to Virginia Beach and across the North Atlantic to San Sebastian in Spain.

    The Wasace Cable Company plans to develop the network in phases, beginning with the Americas and Africa segments, which are scheduled to be in service by early 2014 — if that deadline is met, it will be ahead of the newly announced Brics Cable, which will follow some of the same route at Wasace.

internet

  • The TEAMS cable company has sued the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and a shipping firm for the recent cable cut at Mombasa that caused disruption in Internet services.

    “We will sue it (KPA) again as soon as we establish the cause of the cut, we have already sued it for $15 million in the earlier case of which they have deposited $2.5 million with the court,” said Bitange Ndemo, PS in the Ministry of Information and Communication as he spoke to the Business Daily.

    This incident had happened before causing Internet disruptions for close to a month in February and it led to companies moving in on Satellite Internet services that are much costly and offer slower voice and data services as compared to fiber optic services just to be safer when fiber cable cuts happen.

    Ken Munyi, GM at iWay Africa, commented that, “Operators are increasingly appreciating the importance of back-up solutions, which has seen increased demand for satellite services.” He added, “Since the EASSY cable was cut on February 25, we have witnessed increased enquiries and interest.”

    Ndemo acknowledged the need to find out the activities that were happening there and whether KPA was using geo-maps to direct ships considering it is an “off-limit” landing zone.

  • The Niger Telecommunications Company announced the reinstatement of its broadband Internet services, after three months of load shedding due to a failure on a separate line of fiber optics in neighboring Benin. This a breakdown that reinforces the need for countries to have multiple fibre connections for redundancy purposes.

    "We have restored the high-speed Internet (....) on the optical fiber, after the failure recorded since January this year in Benin from where we are served," said Amoumoune Adam, head of sales and marketing. Niger experienced disturbances on its Internet following a breakdown at the line called "Sat3" which supplies the country since the maritime source in neighboring Benin.

    This situation, the official said, has forced the company to "consider a supply via satellite, but it is insufficient." Niger has a low penetration of Information Technology and Communication (ICT), especially because of the costs of ICT equipment very high in this country.

  • The National Liberation Front Party (FLN) announced on Thursday that its Secretary General Abdellaziz Belkhadem would reply on Sunday to the Internet users' questions and queries on Facebook as part of the ongoing campaign for the May 10th legislative polls in Algeria.

    The announcement was made on the FLN party's Website indicating that Mr Abdellaziz Belkhadem would provide answers to the questions between 19h and 20h local time or 18h and 19h GMT.

    The FLN Party which held the majority of seats in the outgoing National Popular Assembly is hoping to retain its leading role by garnering a maximum of seats in the future Assembly at a time when the party is beset by an internecine power struggle which could shatter its unity and cohesion.

    Algeria with a population of over 36 million inhabitants, counted in late 2010 around 5 million-Internet users.

  • Sam Bikassam, CEO of Togo Telecom has given details of the arrival, as expected by users, of high speed bandwidth delivered by the new WACS cable. It will be for the month of June, said Bikassam. The fiber optic cable that will provide unparalleled data rates will be commissioned in South Africa on May 10.

    The cable WACS (West Africa Cable System) is a consortium of several African operators including Togo Telecom, Angola Telecom, Broadband Ifraco, Cable & Wireless, MTN, Portugal Telecom, Sotelco, Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia, Telkom and Vodacom. It connects

    South Africa to Britain with connection points in Togo, Namibia, DRC, Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. This is the first direct link of this kind. Cost of investment: 600 million, including $ 27 million for the only operator in Togo.

    14,000 km along the WACS must route communications standard and high-speed Internet (3.8 terabits / s) at costs far lower than they are today. This will also pave the way for new technologies such as triple play (telephone, television, internet), Togo Telecom which plans to create very quickly.

    On the business offer, the details will be provided in the coming weeks, but the rates should be particularly attractive. "The connection to the WACS will give us the enormous advantage of not being dependent on foreign operators and the inherent risks," says Sam Bikassam.

  • The landing of the fiber optic submarine cable to Seychelles from Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam was launched on Saturday afternoon with a laying of the first inch of the long cable to the Seychelles capital of Victoria.

    A brief ceremony to lay the first inch of the almost 2,000-kilometer-long cable that will run underwater to connect the two countries was organized in Dar es Salaam in the presence of the Seychelles Minister for Natural Resources and Industry, Peter Sinon, and the Island’s Honorary Consul to Tanzania Ms. Maryvonne Pool.

    Along with Minister Sinon, Seychellois journalists and other dignitaries witnessed the event, which signified the launching of the first fiber optic submarine cable to their country and which will connect the people of Seychelles to the rest of the world through this modern telecommunication technology.

    The Alcatel Submarine Ship (ASN) docked in Dar es Salaam last Friday for the submarine optic fiber system project under the coordination and management of the Seychelles East Africa System (SEAS) linked to the EASSy fiber optic cable already on the coast of the African continent.

    SEAS has been built by Seychelles Cable Systems Limited through funding from Seychelles government, Cable and Wireless (Seychelles), and the mobile phone company, Airtel.

    Ms. Maryvonne Pool who is also the island’s Tourism Ambassador to Tanzania said SEAS is also the very first fiber optic submarine cable to link Seychelles to the rest of the world and is very much a historic and development milestone for this island state.

    SEAS project is a good example of regional integration and private sector partnership as it involves entities from East African countries and also involves the use of regionally-deployed telecom infrastructure and EASSy, which is a regional African project.

    The project will as well be vital in cementing Tanzania and Seychelles relations through various areas of business, social and economic sectors, mostly travel and tourism.

    Both Tanzania and Seychelles are members of the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern African (RETOSA) and is in need of a quick and effective communication that will speed up connection among tourists and other travelers between these friendly nations, while attracting more business stakeholders from each country through high-tech communication.

  • AfriNIC-16, the African Network Information Centre’s (AfriNIC) 16th bi-annual meeting together with AfNOG (The African Network Operators Group) will take place in Serekunda, The Gambia from the 6th – 18th May 2012. This year our Public Policy Meeting will host among others the first African Internet Summit and the sixth meeting of the African Government Working Group (AfGWG).

    This Annual African Internet Summit will be a platform where all key development issues faced by Africa will be discussed and provide a more business-oriented structure to better meet the Operators' needs in Africa. As the future growth of Internet in Africa will be through mobile operators, AfriNIC through the uniqueness of its mandate will reaffirm its support to all African Network Operators.

    Adiel Akplogan, CEO of AfriNIC comments, “The uniqueness of this first AfriNIC event is the essence of our mission to go beyond the simple core of IP engineering capacity building and be an active player in the African Internet community. Our entire stakeholder spectrum has shown an increasing interest in playing an even more active role in understanding the Internet infrastructure. It’s vital that all key stakeholders are brought together in ways such as this event allows us to. It’s only through working together that we can guarantee continued growth of an Internet economy in Africa.”

    AfriNIC 16 is taking place at the Kairaba Hotel, Serekunda, The Gambia. For further information about the event, please visit www.afrinic.net/afrinic 16. Non attendees can also participate remotely.

    The event will also include the sixth meeting of the African Government Working Group (AfGWG), with the intention of strengthening the collaboration between AfriNIC, African Governments and regulators.

  • The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, gave further clarification on its roadmap for broadband delivery for Nigeria as Dr Eugene Juwah, the Commission's Executive Vice-Chairman said in Lagos that to enable service delivery at affordable prices for the end-user, where it may not be economically viable to do so, the Commission will offer financial incentives to the infrastructure providers to enable them operate reasonably profitably.

     ‘In addition, the Government through the Commission will facilitate agreements and engage in dispute resolution among the various stakeholders.” He spoke at the West African ICT Congress which took off in Lagos Tuesday.

    President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Chris Uwaje, said at the same event that the West African sub region has become a major consumer of technology, without offering anything to the technology world. He urged governments in the sub-region to declare ‘state of emergency’ in ICT. ‘The world is changing and the sub-region must be involved in the change’ Uwaje said.

  • Starting from May this year, Institutions of higher learning, vocational training centres, state schools as well as health centres will enjoy free Internet access. This information was made available by the The Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MITC), Joël Kaapanda. He revealed that government has spent US$37.5 million, which equals approximately N$300 million, to make the service available.

    The telephone line and the and the wireless technology for the project has been made available by the Telecom Namibia.

    However, Electricity still remains a very serious challenge at all schools, lack of computer equipments in schools is also another concern, according to Kaapanda.
    He added that MITC and the Ministry of Education would avail a computer for every Namibian child. “We are gradually implementing this programme,” he stated.

    “Internet usage will be free unless blocked by the institution for destructive websites,” he explained. Internet access will be free on state-owned premises as well as individuals on the premises.In addition, the cost of Internet will be reduced drastically for business people and private individuals.

    He went on to explain that the broadband connection would come from Portugal and travel through West Africa, connecting a number of African countries along the coast until it lands in Swakopmund.

    Internet access in the country is still slow, epileptic and expensive, and this has resulted to huge financial losses for businesses over the years.

computing

  • In april 2012 Viafrica's pilot 'KIDSworks' began in Tanzania and Kenya. The project Kidsworks will provide ICT support to some social organisations that visit schools with life skills programmes. These organisations are Macheo Children's Centre and Watoto in Kenya and White Orange Youth in Tanzania.

    At the heart of the project is intention to improve the knowledge of the children’s life-skills. The skills focused on in the pilot are HIV\AIDS, drug abuse and adolescence. Our aim has been to augment the already existing social programmes of our local partners with ICT based learning. This involves a dynamic relationship between learning from interactive E-learning content contained on the laptops supplied for the programme as well as the classical approach given by partner organization’s social workers.

    Behind the concept of the programme is its technical implementation as the development of the KIDSworks platform on which the E-content is deployed by Oscar Buse, the platform is operated by one of Viafrica’s technicians travels with the programme. The platform itself is operating as mobile and wireless in a powerless environment.

     The pilot programme reaches ten primary schools in Tanzania and twenty primary schools in Kenya. In each country and social context, we are testing different aspects of the programme to evaluate its effectiveness in improving the skills and knowledge of the children. With a successful implementation the possibility is opened to make it part of a diverse range of learning activities.

  • As part of an effort to bridge the ‘digital divide’, the Intel Learning Series Alliance in partnership with Jasco, Custom Technologies and the Xavier Group, have delivered a completely solar powered ‘Classroom on Wheels’ to Victorious Primary School in Uganda.

    The ‘Classroom on Wheels’ includes a laptop trolley, a teacher laptop and 35 Intel powered Classmate PCs along with a WiFi access point, with content and administration delivered by the Critical Links Education Appliance. To address the unique needs of the school in Uganda a complete solar charging solution forms part of the system. This solar solution operates as an autonomous system without ever requiring mains power.

    “Solar power is a vital component to the solution, since many schools in Uganda, including Victorious Primary School, are off the national grid. Even those that receive state power are prone to surges and outages, which makes running any sort of computer centre or computer classroom difficult,” says Paul Fick, divisional MD of Jasco Enterprise. “This project was commissioned by Intel as part of a global mission to advance technology in education.”

    The solar powered classroom solution is a fully sustainable solution, as it runs entirely off a renewable energy source. The charging system incorporates three solar panels, two battery connections and a charge management system, which is fed into a charging unit housed within the laptop cart that facilitates the charging of the laptops and the server. The system has also been designed to run off a simple battery - even a car battery - to ensure that a cost effective option can be found for any region it is shipped to. Fully charged, the solution can last for up to three days before the battery is drained. The entire solution is designed to continue functioning should a single component break, and individual components can be quickly replaced to restore the system to full capacity.

    “Computers are the future, and if our students do not have access to computers they are put at a disadvantage. This project showcases the opportunities that ICT provides. The project has been very successful and has attracted a lot of interest both locally and across Africa. The Inspector of Schools and the Minister of Energy have both paid the site a visit, and the Victorious Primary School computer classroom also appeared in a Kenyan newspaper. The students also enjoy being able to learn on computers and being connected to the world using the Internet, and they and their parents have embraced the new computer classroom” says David Raymond Magezi, CEO of Xavier Group.

    “This innovative solar solution, combined with the purpose-built ruggedness of the Classmate PCs which have been designed to withstand even the roughest handling, and the powerful teaching capabilities presented by the Critical Links Education Appliance, offers an exciting new teaching concept that brings ICT within reach of children in developing countries like Uganda. It gives these learners the opportunity to embrace technology from an early age and engage with their educators in new ways, as well as to stay up to speed with developments all over the world, giving them a chance to become competitive in the modern world,” Fick concludes.

    The Ugandan Government is currently on a drive to introduce solar powered computer and technology solutions into schools. Victorious Primary School will act as a pilot project and proof of concept to illustrate the power of technology in schools and, hopefully, to attract further investment in this type of technology in future.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has teamed up with Orient Bank and Warid Telecom to come up with an efficient tax payment method where taxpayers can have the comfort of clearing their taxes through the mobile money platform.

    Allen Kagina the Commissioner General at URA said the innovation’s strategy is aimed at cutting costs involved for small tax payers and the innovation is open to all banks and telecoms that can match up to the set standards. “We are targeting the smaller tax payers to help them cut cost. We won’t be required to move from the Banks to the different URA offices and vice versa.”

    Moses Kajubi the Commissioner Domestic Taxes said that it would enable tax payers have the comfort of paying taxes through SMS and at their convenience. “We appreciate that you are busy attending to other businesses as well. So we want to make it easy and instant through the SMS.”

    Sriram Yarlagadda , CEO at Warid Telecom said that the deal would bring about customer convenience for Ugandan’s.

    Maxwell Ibeanous, Managing director at Orient Bank added, “The innovation would reduce on congestion at the banks and would help those far from banks to receive the same service as those in urban centers.”

  • MCash's mobile financial service has launched in Uganda in partnership with Housing Finance Bank (HFB).

    M-Cash is under the Bank’s umbrella in Uganda to bring new service delivery channels to all Ugandan citizen. MCash’s inherent independence from mobile network operators offers an attractive business model that offer to Housing Finance Bank various alternative channels to bank the unbanked and service efficiently the under-served.

    The excitement on this new delivery channel is due to the promise to bring about a breakthrough of major importance into the mobile payment ecosystem. It offers the possibility of massive outreach to people in locations that remain underserved, especially those in hard-to-reach rural areas. Some channels, including microfinance institutions, churches, retail agents such as supermarkets or drug stores that act as banking agents, may bring the industry closer to significantly serving more Ugandan with or without a mobile phone.

    M-Cash is a universal payment solution that allows customers to open and access virtual bank accounts on which they can save their money, send or transfer money to someone else or make payments to participating Merchants. MCash solution offers a refreshing approach to mobile payment that overcomes the challenges of cashless payment by using multi-factor authentication mechanisms (NSDT, fingerprint, NFC and Voice biometric) technology. Customers access their accounts through proximity Agents where they can register to open up accounts, deposit, withdraw and transfer money.

    “Unlike many other mobile payment products on the market, M-Cash allows anyone to open a bank account without restrictions to Mobile Network, software downloads, phone types or one method of authenticating account ownership. As a completely revolutionary product, M-Cash is a simple to use, completely secure solution that lets customers access and use their accounts 24/7 regardless of their mobile network with transactions that happen in real time,” said Mme Edith Gasana Kutesa, the CEO of MCash Uganda Ltd about the product.

    According to Paul Musoke, Housing Finance bank's Deputy Managing director, with the M-cash account, a client will have a 24-hour access to their account. The product has multi-security features, like fingerprint identification, pin codes, NSDT and NFC card, all designed to protect a customer's funds.

    The Head of Marketing and Product Development Judith Owembabazi Muyinda, further explained that through this product, traders will be able to pay their tax, a student will pay his or her school fees, while a driver could pay for fuel at selected points, all of which can be done without the hassle of lining up somewhere

    “It is the expectation that HFB and M-Cash will bring financial services closer to the customer and allow a massive outreach to Ugandans everywhere to have accounts and make better use of the financial services that are readily available to them.  It is also expected that the market will quickly adopt the product as it is simple to use, convenient and completely secure”, says Mr Patrick Gordon Ngabonziza, MobiCash Group CEO.

  • MTN Mobile Money subscribers who use Starbow can now purchase their air tickets through MTN Mobile Money. MTN announced the new addition during an interaction with News Editors and senior journalists in the Volta Region.

    The forum was to brief journalists on new trends in telecommunications, the drive towards convergence, MTN’s CSR initiatives, as well as the company’s network coverage expansion projects currently underway in the region.

    Corporate Services Executive of MTN Ghana, Cynthia Lumor told journalists the purchase of Starbow ticket was a new addition to the Mobile Money portfolio, adding that the process involved customers calling Starbow on 18181 or 0245000000 for booking.

    “An invoice is then sent to the customer for payment through MTN Mobile Money wallet or any MTN Service Center," she said.

    The Commercial Manager for MTN’s South East Business District, Sam Adjei-Sah told journalists 56% of 3G data capacity available in the commercial towns of Volta region was not being utilized, an indication of low data usage in the region.He therefore encouraged the media to take advantage of the facility to enhance their work.

    Adjei-Sah also highlighted the convenience of the MTN Mobile Money Service, particularly during the raining season, stating that: ”during the rainy season it will be difficult to go out to purchase airtime, pay electricity and DSTV bills or transfer money to business partners; but with Mobile Money all these transactions can be done within a few minutes from the comfort of your home or office.”
    Payment of Domestic Airline tickets made easy by MTN Mobile Money

    The Field Services Manager for the South East Business District of MTN, Nicholas Frimpong, demonstrated some of the services available on MTN’s network, including video calling.

    He also highlighted some of the key investments MTN has made in the network to improve quality of service.

    They included the relocation of fiber between Agbozume and Ho Junction and the addition of protective mechanisms on the fiber route to minimize voice and data outages; another investment was the introduction of new, high capacity Huawei equipment to replace the existing old ones.

    He also emphasized that the investments in the network was being done across the country.

    The Volta Regional President of the Ghana Journalists Association, Mr. Victor Kwawukume, expressed appreciation to MTN for the importance it placed on the media, especially those in the region, and urged MTN to organise more capacity building sessions on the telecoms industry to keep the journalists updated of emerging trends.

    The program was also attended by members of the MTN Corporate Communications team and MTN’s key distributr in the region. The MTN Corporate Communications team also visited various stakeholders as part of their regional engagements

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has revealed that it has no plans to issue new fixed line or mobile telephony licences, despite interest from a number of foreign firms,

Digital Content

  • The World Bank is in the process of developing the next Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) FY13-FY16 for Ethiopia. As part of the CPS preparation process and in order to gain a better understanding of the development context and the needs of the ultimate beneficiaries of World Bank support, the Bank is conducting consultations with a wide range of stakeholders throughout the country and abroad.

    The process of gathering input from stakeholders was launched with a client survey conducted in December 2011, and will include a series of meetings with different development partners scheduled to be held in May 2012.

    The consultations will be done through face-to-face meetings as well as through an online platform, which will serve as a clearinghouse for the CPS consultation process. The Bank will post input received as well as minutes of the face-to-face meetings. It will also serve as a tool for direct communication with members of the Bank's CPS Ethiopia Team.

    The basis for discussion during the consultations will be documents and power point presentations outlining the proposed Bank interventions in Ethiopia. In order to better guide the discussions and help identify priority areas of assistance, a series of questions will be provided.

    The CPS document will be presented to the Bank's Board of Directors in September 2012, so it is important that the Bank's Ethiopia team receive inputs by May 28, 2012.

  • Mobile operator Vodacom, South African budget airline Mango and Internet service provider Wireless-G teamed up last week to bring the country and the Southern Hemisphere one step further to in-flight wifi.

    Over a hundred guests boarded the maiden Wi-Fi flight in Lanseria, just outside Johannesburg, to take to the skies while staying in contact with friends and family on the internet. But the excitement was only limited to a few passengers, as 70% of the eager surfers were unable to connect to the network.

    WirelessG CEO Carel van der Merwe said most of the passengers couldn’t connect to the Wi-Fi network due to budgetary constraints when it came to the allocation of IP addresses. He explained that the system at the moment is designed to provide each passenger with one IP address, and if there are more devices on board connecting to the network than passengers, some won’t be able to use the service.

    “The system is configured to allocate 128 IPs for passengers. Yesterday, while there were 115 passengers on board, many of them had multiple devices and we saw three times the allowed connections, with hundreds of IP addresses constantly requesting access. This was not a technical or hardware problem, but rather a case of tech-hungry individuals with a desire to test the service to its limits,” he said.

    But users should be aware that not all devices will connect successfully, with Apple and Samsung devices leading the pack for the most successful connections. Van der Merwe added that BlackBerry products had the least amount of successful connections, as some users still make use of version 5 BlackBerry’s operating system.

    “According to our information, 50% of South Africans still have these old devices. As the system goes on and people begin to learn how it works, they will become more compatible with it. We cannot budget for all devices,” he concluded.

    There are three different options available for passengers who wish to make use of the service, and start at as little as R50 for a single flight. Passengers will be able to buy a one-day pass for R90, or a per-minute option, billed through G-Connect’s online account.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has released their May 2012 Bulletin chronicling many such innovations in global health, under the theme of "eHealth".

    While there is celebration in order for the many eHealth initiatives designed and deployed everyday across the globe, this WHO Bulletin prompts one to wonder as well: just because impressive technologies exist, are they making a difference? Do they immediately lead to improved care quality, cost savings, or lives saved?

    There is no doubt that new technologies, and the hardware and infrastructure required to make them run, are proliferating across the developing world. Just two weeks ago I attended the eHealth Africa Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, a country in which 75 percent of people who access the Internet do so through their mobile phones. Representatives from the Ghana Health Service spoke of how their national Information Technology (IT) agency has helped not only in crafting a national eHealth strategy, but also in retaining Ghana's top IT talent. And farther south in Angola -- a country in which 72% of citizens live on less than $2 a day -- a high-speed 4G network is currently being constructed.

    Yet the eHealth Conference attendees -- an array of African policymakers, health practitioners, and technology developers -- collectively acknowledged that simply having technology in hand was not sufficient for producing tangible health benefits. Policy makers in particular explained their challenge in adopting new technologies: if a health system is fractured, then technology may only exacerbate existing weaknesses, or if patients cannot easily and inexpensively access technology, then its potential to promote change cannot be realized. There was not yet enough evidence, from their perspective, to suggest which kinds of eHealth interventions were wise investments.

    One particular report in the WHO Bulletin would be of great interest to the concerns of these decision-makers, namely an analysis by Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI), who documented and summarized main findings to date from eHealth programs in low- and middle-income countries. They aimed to answer the questions that policy makers have by showing evidence of programs that are already working.

    As the most comprehensive, global survey in peer-reviewed literature of eHealth initiatives, the report documents 176 technology-enabled programs that aim to improve quality, affordability, and accessibility of health care in developing countries. "By identifying emerging global trends in eHealth, the study provides guidance about how ICT can help solve common health systems challenges in developing countries," said Gina Lagomarsino, a managing director at the Results for Development Institute, of which CHMI is a unit.

    CHMI authors identified six primary ways in which most eHealth programs are already functioning: extending geographical access to overcome distance between physicians and patients, facilitating patient communications between health workers and patients, improving diagnosis and treatment for health workers, improving data management, streamlining financial transactions, and mitigating fraud and abuse.

    But an interesting and important finding in the CHMI report is that only 16 of the 176 programs documented responded to CHMI's request for self-reported, clear, and quantifiable impacts. The report further reveals that almost no programs had independent evaluations conducted, the quality of available evaluations was low, and the generalizability of available evaluations was not sufficiently broad to make a case for scale. In some cases this may mean that programs have simply not existed for long enough to be able to show any impact. Yet for those who have, it also hints at the challenge of evaluating new technologies -- and reveals that not enough innovators are rising to this challenge.

    The challenge of measuring a moving target is a conundrum -- with such rapid changes in hardware, software, and networks on which they operate, it is understandable that measuring impact is an intimidating task. Yet it is one that we must attempt to solve. If innovators cannot rigorously prove that a technology will save costs or save lives, then policy makers cannot be expected to commit effort and resources to applying it to strengthen health systems.

    Closing a panel on Health Information Systems at the eHealth Africa Conference, moderator Dr. Khama Rogo lamented to the audience,"I think more Africans die from misinformation than lack of medicines."

    Thankfully we now have a wide array of eHealth initiatives that can increase the availability of data for patients, providers, and policymakers alike -- what we need now is fresh, honest thinking on data management and greater effort towards evaluation if we want to see the benefits of eHealth interventions be brought to scale.

  • I had the honor of attending on Saturday 21-April 2012; a meeting organized by some Sudanese academicians and youth aiming at establishing an organization for promoting a Knowledge-based Society in Sudan.

    The initiative aims at establishing a non-governmental society or organization with branches all over Sudan and the goals have been defined to raise awareness and education about KM (Knowledge Management) through the provision of training courses on electronic learning using the Internet sharing experiences ,organizing competitions and KM system development .

    The SKBSO four additional aims are documentation and assembly of knowledge in all study areas organizing regular scientific workshops .create global knowledge exchange opportunities create knowledge exchange mechanisms between academic and professional and continues improvement and development of KM strategies.
    It was interesting that the Forum was attended by a number of private sector companies and businessmen which indicate that awareness is increasing about the importance of the knowledge society for business in today world.

More

  • Dimension Data CEO to step down

    Technology services group Dimension Data, which operates across a number of key regions including Africa and Middle East, announced that current CEO for Africa and Middle East Allan Cawood will vacate his post at the end of this month.

    Cawood will be replaced by Internet Solutions (IS) Managing Director Derek Wilcocks. Wilcocks’ departure from IS allowed Saki Missaikos, regional sales director at Dimension Data, to take up the reins at Internet Solutions.

  • ITU seeks next generation of social entrepreneurs
    Would-be young innovators can win chance to pitch their ideas to industry leaders at ITU Telecom World 2012

    Geneva, 1 May 2012 – ITU has launched the second edition of its Young Innovators Competition, giving young, talented social entrepreneurs the opportunity to attend its key global networking and knowledge sharing event, ITU Telecom World 2012, and the chance to win funding, mentorship and ongoing support.

    Open to 18-25 year olds worldwide, the Young Innovators Competition calls for projects/concepts which engage the power of ICTs to meet real-world developmental challenges relevant to one of eight core areas under the theme “Youth Innovation for Development”:

         Cybersecurity
         Education
         Empowerment of Women
         Environmental Sustainability
         Healthcare
         Human Rights
         Transparency
         Youth Employment

    Submissions consisting of everything from well researched concepts to ongoing operations showing preliminary results are welcome. From these, the twelve most outstanding entries -– judged to have the greatest possible social impact and potential for business success -– will win the chance to attend and participate in ITU Telecom World 2012, which takes place from 14-18 October in Dubai.

    The 12 finalists can benefit from one-on-one mentorship sessions with top level representatives from various sectors, hands-on workshops focused on developing entrepreneurial skills and the chance to showcase concepts and projects at a centrally located stand before the uniquely influential audience of World 2012 delegates. They can also benefit from the rich opportunities for networking with the leading names and key decision makers from industry, government and academia plus visionaries and digital thought leaders present at the event.

    Final winners will also benefit from prize money of up to CHF10,000 to realize entrepreneurial dreams. In addition winners will have access to the network of mentors offering ongoing support for up to one year, be invited to form an active part of the Young Innovators community and update their submission as featured on our website with regular progress report.

    “Participation in this competition offers a great opportunity for the next generation of young visionaries to demonstrate their ideas and innovations on a truly global stage at our event, and show how their fresh digital thinking can change the world for the better,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. “Crucially, the reach of the Young Innovators Programme will also extend way beyond the event, building a cohesive international community of highly talented social entrepreneurs working on ICT-based initiatives in areas that are vital to developmental issues facing the world today.”

    The deadline for initial submissions is 1st July 2012. For further details and the application procedure, please visit here. 

    For more information on the event, please see world2012.itu.int or contact:

    Sanjay Acharya

    tel     +41 22 730 5046
    tel     +41 79 249 4861
    tel     sanjay.acharya@itu.int

Issue no 603 4th May 2012

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Top story

  • Access to reliable and transparent information helps markets work effectively. There is plenty of mobile subscriber data for Africa, whether from company reporting requirements or from the continent’s better regulators. However, with honourable exceptions, most regulators have not believed the Internet was sufficiently important to warrant tracking its subscribers. Now as Africa’s Internet steps into the limelight, it becomes important to know more. Russell Southwood talks this week to JulienCoulon of Cedexis who have just launched a tool that might contribute to solving this problem and be useful for optimising content delivery for telcos and media companies.

    Cedexis’ product was launched by ex-Akami veterans and it polls a wide range of websites by putting a piece of Java script on the site. This enables Cedexis to do two things: firstly, as a free service called Radar, to be able to identify the origin of traffic to the site and secondly, as a pay-for service called Open Mix, to look at the performance of the infrastructure delivering the content, to allow load balancing.

    As Coulon told us:”It’s a way for content site owners to see how their ISPs and cloud providers are performing and using this information, to optimise delivery for their users. In this way, you can load balance between 2-3 data centres to give users a much better experience. It answers which are the providers that respond in the fastest time.”

    The service has 250 international content providers whose websites provide 25,000 data points per second:”This allows us to offer our clients real-time routing changes. We are able to improve by 17 times the speed with which a page loads for the user. Packet loss can be as high as 21% and this increases time to download. It shows the content provider how they perform and how to accelerate their website for users.”

    There is not a complete selection of African countries but those that are monitored provide fascinating insights:”It relies on getting a sufficiently large amount of data to get accurate information. For example, in Ethiopia, there are not enough people looking at the websites where the tags are deployed.”

    The question the tags seek to answer is: Where are my end-users (most likely to be) coming from within this country? For example for Ghana, it shows that Vodafone Ghana was getting 75% of the traffic based on just under half a million data point measurements, followed by Airtel at 10% and MTN at a surprisingly low 5%. None of the non-mobile provider ISPs score above 2% and almost all are 1% or below.

    By contrast, in Mali Sonatel-owned Ikatel was getting 66% of the traffic with ex-incumbent Sotelma getting 20%. The most surprising but heartening achievement is that Mali’s independent ISP Afribone still gets 15% of the traffic.

    In case any other proof was needed, the data from Senegal conclusively shows that Sonatel is completely dominant as the Internet provider. Based on just over 300,000 data measurements, 100% of the traffic comes from Sonatel. Where is competition and what is the regulator doing to break this de-facto monopoly?

    However, when it comes to large markets, there is another layer of complexity. For example, in South Africa, 22% of traffic originated from SAIX, the local IXP and this inevitably doesn’t tell you the provider but does give an indication of local traffic flowing locally. Sometimes providers have different marketing descriptions but one you add these separate totals together, the Top 5 in South Africa are: Vodacom (17%); IS (16%); MTN (13%); Netactive (9%) and TENET (7%).

    Again with Kenya, the picture is more complex. There appears to be no traffic for the local IXP, KIXP. Safaricom traffic seems to come to 41%, adding together Communications Solutions Ltd and Onecom followed by Orange Kenya at 23%. These are then followed by KENET at 10% and KDN at 8%. There are then plentiful independent ISPs, most of whom attract 2%.

    By contrast, Nigeria shows no provider with more than 15% and for some reason, MTN does not seem to feature. Obviously, the names need to be interpreted to get at the results and there needs to be some fine-tuning to make sure everyone is included but as the base of data points gets wider, the easier it will be to get a clear sense of active market share.

    The link for those who are curious is here:

    So who is Cedexis targeting in Africa? “It’s very relevant for telcos seeking to measure their performance; for media companies; and for anybody who feels their website or mobile app is strategic for them.” But it’s not just about speed of upload:”Hermes are not getting huge amounts of traffic but have improved their sales, their number of page views and their ad views.”

     

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

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Telecom operator Tunisiana’s bid for the 3G and fixed licence has been declined by Tunisia’s ICT Ministry, according to a report by Biztech Africa.

    As per the report the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, MongiMarzouk, said Tunisiana had offered to purchase the landline license for $ 23.38 million and the 3G license for $ 81.2 million. The Ministry earlier accepted the company’s proposed terms for network quality.

    The report reveals that while the Ministry declined to specify what bid it would accept, it pointed out that Orange Tunisia had paid $ 179 million in June 2009 for a similar package with the option of an exclusive 3G licence for one year.

    Tunisie Telecom acquired its 3G licence in 2010, for $ 75.3 million. Tunisiana has indicated that it may revise its bid.

  • Vodacom stands accused of using political and diplomatic pressure in its battle with a fixer who recently won a case against it in a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) court, which ordered the company to pay him $21-million.

    A lawyer representing Moto Mabanga, the South African-based fixer, has sent a letter to the general inspectorate of judicial council services in Kinshasa and the United Kingdom's ambassador in the DRC stating that Vodacom is trying to place itself above the laws of the country.

    His letter followed one sent by Vodacom to the inspectorate that was copied to the South African and British ambassadors in the Congo.

    One of Mabanga's lawyers, José IlungaKapanda, wrote to the inspectorate on April 4 this year stating that the body did not have the jurisdiction to prevent the execution of the judgment. Kapanda stated that he did not understand why Vodacom International copied its request for the suspension of the execution of the judgment to the British ambassador.

    Diplomatic pressure?
    Kapanda said everybody was equal before the law, including foreigners. He accused Vodacom of trying to use diplomatic pressure to put itself above the law.

    Another of Mabanga's lawyers, Emery MukendiWafwana, stated in another letter to the British ambassador that the latter should not interfere in the matter. He said the UK was a partner with the DRC in establishing an investment climate in the country and it should not interfere, unless it believed the DRC could interfere in legal disputes in the UK.

    "To act other­wise would be to lead the United Kingdom into a great conflict in the engagements it has reached with the Democratic Republic of Congo," Wafwana stated.

    The Mail & Guardian reported on the dispute between Mabanga's company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who acted as a consultant in the Congo for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The amount was allegedly for work done between May 6 and July 31 2007 and between September 12 2007 and August 31 2008. The case was withdrawn and filed in Kinshasa.

    Vodacom's spokesperson, Richard Boorman, said it was ironic, given the string of extraordinary legal activity in the Congo, that Vodacom was being accused of using underhanded tactics to defend its business.

    "There is zero legal justification for Mr Mabanga's contractual claim and we challenge him to provide one shred of evidence to support it. We keep in regular touch with officials and embassies in all of the countries in which we operate.

    "Both South African and the UK companies are major investors in the DRC and it's a common-sense step to keep officials apprised of a situation that is already tarnishing the reputation of the DRC and has the potential to jeopardise further investment from both countries," said Boorman.

    "I would like to say very clearly that Vodacom honours its commitments. If Mr Mabanga could in any way justify his claim, why is he not doing so in South Africa, where the agreements were made and which he explicitly agreed would have contractual jurisdiction?

    "The act of sending letters to diplomats in the DRC instructing them how to behave demonstrates a concern that Vodacom's position is valid and that common sense will prevail."

  • Glo Mobile Ghana has extended the period for which people could activate their specially-reserved numbers indefinitely.This was to allow the claimed 1.5 million Ghanaians who reserved special Glo numbers to activate their lines at their own convenience.

    Glo originally gave Ghanaians up to seven days to activate their reserved lines, but Chief Operating Officer for Glo Ghana, George Andah told Adom News the crowds at their Glo World Shops had compelled them to extend the period indefinitely.

    “We want our teaming customers to relax and activate their numbers at their own convenience so we have removed the deadline completely,” he said.

    George Andah noted that several people visiting Glo World Shops went there to either activate reserved numbers and or buy additional or new SIMs and that was encouraging so the company had decided to reciprocate the gesture.

    “We have also received a few porting requests and we are working on them,” he said.

    But George Andah stopped short of saying how many people have activated their reserved lines, bought new SIMs or made porting requests to Glo.

    It took Glo three years to launch after getting license as Ghana's sixth mobile operator in 2008, and the Glo Ghana COO said for everyday Ghanaians waited, Glo prepared special packages worth the while of Ghanaians.

    At their launch on Sunday, April 29, 2012 Glo announced some juicy offers such as 20Gp free everyday for 100 days, 100% bonus on every recharge, 2Gp per minute call to one special number, one minute bonus for every three minutes of call received on Glo, five hours free night calls, as well as news, sports, entertainment and weather updates on Glo’s 128Kb SIM.

    George Andah said the company wanted to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the offers on their specially-reserved numbers at their own convenience and that was why they lifted the seven-day deadline.

    Glo started commercial operations in Ghana at 85% coverage, supported by $750 million worth of world class infrastructure, including the popular Glo One submarine fibre optic cable, and some 1,400 BTS across country, to provide service to 974 cities and 10,000 villages.

    Ahead of commercial launch, the company supported Ghana soccer at the top level, branding the Premier League to the tune of $3.5million and also being headline sponsor of the national senior soccer team, The Black Stars, in the amount of another $1.5 million.

  • The Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) has issued a decision approving Telecom Namibia’s proposed takeover of cellular operator Powercom (trading as Leo) provided the buyer meets certain conditions aimed at ensuring fair competition in the market. The NaCC stipulated that the shareholding structure of Telecom Namibia and the country’s mobile market leader Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) must be ‘separate and independent’ within two years (by 24 April 2014).

    The state investment holding company Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) currently owns 100% of Telecom Namibia and a 66% stake in MTC, which is part-owned by Portugal Telecom; if the takeover of Leo goes ahead with existing ownership structures, the government will effectively control the entire mobile sector, in which Telecom is currently the third, and smallest, player.

    In addition, the NaCC said that no director or employee of Telecom Namibia may serve as a director of NPTH, and that the same applies in the case of MTC, ‘in the interest of preventing any collusive or coordinated behaviour that would undermine the free and spirited competition for all entities in that sector.’

  • An agreement on the financing of the regional broadband telecommunications network in Central Africa was signed by the representative of the World Bank in Chad, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Chadian Minister of Planning, the Economy and international Cooperation, BedoumraKordjé.

    The agreement covers the implementation of a regional project between Chad and the Central African Republic, to improve access and service utilization of fiber optic network and reduce costs.

    Overall estimated at 15 billion CFA francs (30 million), the project aims to build a network of 1202 km between N'Djamena and Sudan and 334 km from Doba, and the Central Bennal.

    Financial participation of Chad is $ 4 billion CFA francs (8,000,000 dollars).Speaking few days after the inauguration, Chadian President IdrissDeby, said the agreement will help the landlocked Chad, out of its unfavorable geographical situation.

internet

  • Ethiopian netizens are outraged and expressing their concern on different social media platforms as the Ethiopian government increasingly engages in blocking and surveillance of selected websites, blogs and Facebook pages. The report about Ethiopia’s authorities engaging in online censorship came about after all previously blocked websites and blogs became available for three successive days during Ethiopia’s Easter celebration in early April.

    Reporters Without Borders reported on 26 April, 2012, that:Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Zelalem Malcolm Kibret, a blogger residing in Addis Ababa, reacted strongly on his Facebook page:

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty.

    First EPRDF [the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] going to be MAD, then gone WILD & now gone WILDER.In an effort to smash dissenting opinion in Ethiopia, EPRDF block 100 + websites and bloggers that puts Ethiopia as blocker-in-chief of Ideas in Africa.* . The recent wild act is blocking mediocre blogs like Abe Tokichaw's blog. Abe’s new blog is launched today for the fourth time with a new name. This can be the best instance that fits formerly mad and now turned wild government mad action.

    Abe on his latest interview to a monthly Ethiopian Amharic Magazine called Addis Times via e-mail says:

    My only task here in a country where I am residing is only to blog and to contemplate. One more task is to produce different blogs on daily bases.

    * In Africa, Only Sudan & Ethiopia block websites in a 'substantial manner' and Ethiopia is the only country that blocks Political websites.

    Markos Lemma, a blogger and Global Voice author, warns Internet censorship agents in the country that other people will be inspired to start blogging if blogs are blocked:

    To whom it may concern: It might be possible to block 100s of blogs but not 10,000s or millions. I bet the second one blog is blocked in Ethiopia, 10 new blogs created. Thanks who ever writes, shares and communicates

    Another blogger, debirhan, reported about his blog being banned in Ethiopia:

    The Web address of De Birhan has been blocked since Saturday night (21 April 2012) in Ethiopia. According to readers from Addis Abeba and the Website internal Audience Data Report, De Birhan was not accessible in Ethiopia for two days now. The regime in Addis Abeba has mastered the blocking of Websites, News and Information media since the 2005 election. Most Diaspora based Ethiopia focused News and Information Websites are blocked in Ethiopia.

    De Birhan advises its readers to follow its Facebook updates at De BirhanBlogspot and use mobile phones or proxy servers to access it.

    IginioGagliardone, a research fellow at University of Oxford highlights how Ethiopia’s government is being helped by the Chinese government in online censorship technologies and expertise.

    Gagliardone writes:China's EXIM bank provided a $1.5 billion loan to overhaul the country's telecommunication system, free media are struggling. Opposition blogs are blocked and the Prime Minister (MeleseZenawi) argued that Ethiopia has a right to jam the international broadcaster Voice of America because of its “destabilizing propaganda.”

    Gagliardone further notes that Chinese companies are replacing Western companies such as Cisco Systems:

    China has been accused of providing the technology and expertise to make these forms of censorship possible. A few years earlier, however, it was the expertise provided by Cisco Systems and Hughes Networks, two companies based in the U.S., that allowed the Ethiopian government to develop WoredaNet, one of Africa's most ambitious and problematic e-government projects.

    A recent document [am] said to be shared by sources close to The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), an opposition movement based in the US, has made stronger claims that China supports Ethiopia’s online surveillance capacity in name of building Ethiopia’s national security.

    The document [am] further states that Ethiopia’s only and government-owned Telecom Corporation and all of its network facility is appended to Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a government agency established to safeguard key government and public information systems from any security threat.

    The document claims that with a huge technical and monetary aid of the Chinese technology companies, INSA has developed a competence to use ordinary cell phones as spy devices by tracking citizens’ movements and listening to people’s private conversations even when the cell phones are turned off.

    This document further highlights that private conversations and movements of select members of the diplomatic community, civic society, opposition party leaders, journalists and individuals are closely monitored.

  • The cost of internet and data services is set drop drastically as the West Africa Cable System, a $650 million undersea cable goes live on May 11 in Nigeria and several African countries where it has landing points.

    WACS brought to Nigeria by MTN Nigeria spans the entire West African coast and terminating in the United Kingdom will complement SAT3, Glo1 and Main One Cable systems that are already commercial in West Africa.

    WACS is a 14, 000 kilometres fibre optic submarine cable with a capacity of 5.12 terabits per second (tbps), which berthed in the country last year. The WACS consortium include MTN, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom.;SociétéCongolaise des Postes et Télécommunications ("SCPT"); PT Communicacoes; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.

    Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria said "The WACS cable is here. It landed some time in the middle of last year. The landing station is ready and we expect that it should be carrying live traffic by the end of April. The capacity is bigger than any submarine cable that has landed in Nigeria and we expect that it would provide greater bandwidth, greater redundancy and for more latency for data services."

    The Africa-Europe undersea system will be the first direct connection to international submarine cable networks for Namibia, Togo, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The new fibre-optic route will also link South Africa, Angola, Cameroun, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal and the UK with a design capacity of 5.12Tbps. Other countries are able to access bandwidth on the system, including landlocked Botswana, which partnered Namibia in each raising USD37.5 million to invest in a 9.2 per cent stake in the cable consortium. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) will co-locate services within the landing station operated by Telecom Namibia, under the WACS open access policy.

computing

  • In a historical and trend setting education delivery development in Africa, consumer electronics firm Samsung Electronics East Africa has sealed a joint partnership with Strathmore University to rollout a digital learning solution.

    For the first time in Kenya, students enrolling at the Strathmore University to pursue their Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program will receive their course content and related materials digitally through the Samsung Learning Management Solution [Samsung LMS].The rollout will begin with the May Semester.

    Speaking at the Strathmore University, Samsung Electronics Business Leader Robert Ngeru disclosed that the Samsung E-learning solution has been custom designed to raise Strathmore's academic delivery efficiencies.

    As part of the development, Ngeru said, Samsung has deployed its end-to-end Learning Management Solution which leverages the use of Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablets linked to a Samsung Electronic board allowing for an interactive in and out of classroom learning experience.

    "As part of our enterprise solutions development capacity, we are proud to be unveiling this one of a kind solution in Kenya's premier Business School which we trust will help raise coursework delivery efficiencies," he said.

    Speaking during the ceremony, the Strathmore Business School Dean Dr Edward Mungai noted that adopting E - learning is a positive move towards enhancing leaders' capacity to deal with not only local challenges, but also focus on the global level.

    "The current globalised environment, demands that the leaders are not only aware of their local challenges, but are also prepared to fight it out in an international arena, both in the East African region and beyond," Mungai explained.

    And added: "The new Samsung Learning Management Solution will facilitate efficient learning both in and out of the lecture halls thus supporting our endeavours to transform leadership in Africa, through a world class learning environment."

    The solution, which will connect the e-board and Galaxy Tab 10.1 via a Wi-Fi connection, allows for multiple functionalities such as study resources, sharing via a learning management application (app) pre-installed on the tablets.

    Further, with the Classroom Management (CRM) functionality, Strathmore Lecturers will now be in a position to send what's on the board to the students' GALAXY Tabs and monitor their devices. The Mobile Learning Management System (m-LMS) provides multiple learning features such as resource sharing and assignment management.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • CEO of money transfer service speak exclusively to African Business Review on why his company means more to him than just making money.The story behind international money transfer Dahabshiil truly is one of rags to riches.

    The company, now one of the largest money transfer businesses in the Horn of Africa, was started by African entrepreneur Mohamed Duale. In the 1970s, he fled Somalia with his family when civil war broke out in 1988 to England. With very limited resources, Duale set about rebuilding his business in his mission to serve African communities.

    With an ever-increasing Somali population, Dahabshiil flourished in London and has gone from strength to strength. In 2009, Dahabshiil made banking history and launched the first ever debit card in Somaliland and the following year opened an Islamic bank in Djibouti. Then in 2010, a telecommunications provider, Somtel, was launched. The organisation is largely owned by Dahabshiil, and provides telecommunications services in the Somaliland region.

    More than 40 years on and Dahabshiil still ensures the values it was built on are adhered to – trust and responsibility. The business has zero debt, remains entirely family-owned and is committed to its fair commission fee policy.

    CEO AbdirashidDuale spoke to African Business Review exclusively to discuss how the company means much more to him than just making profit, demonstrated by its recent $100,000 investment in helping the Somalian health and education service in the wake of the devastating drought, working with many NGOs.

    “We target migrant communities wherever they are. I am a migrant and my father who founded the company was a migrant – so we understand completely the service required. People need to be able to send money back to home to help their families in a way that is easy and safe,” he said.

    “In the high street you will see internet cafés, food stores, aimed at the migrant community – if they are buying or selling from these places then we offer our services.”

    Dahabshiil employs nearly 5,000 people in over 150 countries. With offices in London and Dubai, Dahabshiil provides services to some of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations, Oxfam, the Department for International Development, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) and Save the Children.

    Taking its corporate social responsibility seriously, it continues to support the Somali community both in Africa and abroad, investing 5 percent of its profits into community regeneration projects involving the development of schools, hospitals, agriculture and sanitation.

    Running a business involving operations in Somalia certainly poses its problems, as Duale explains. “It is of course a challenging environment, but we are a trusted organisation there. We are impartial and not involved in any politics, all our staff are from different regions and parts of different communities.

    “The African economy is really getting stronger, with diversifying trade making it less prone to the economic downturn. Many African economies have had too much reliance on commerce but now there are real investment opportunities in management, public finance and an increasing private sector, with an abundance of natural resources, it is set for organic growth.”

    “I believe the African disapora community sent home around $40 billion last year. Of course it is going to be in many different forms, with some investments etc. However I think it will only increase, because although the economical downturn in 2008 affected people’s finances things are on the up.

    “To many people, remittance payments are a lifeline. It is very, very important and provides a lot of income to the national economy which boosts the private sector growth. People wish to invest in Africa because it is the future in many ways – and we are very proud to be part of that.”

    So what tips does Duale have for African entrepreneurs trying to get businesses up and running today?

    “It is not easy, you have to believe in yourself and have an attitude that anything is possible and work hard. You must find the right people you can trust and believe in and rely on.

    “I also think that if you don’t take risks you will never make money. The business operation should look at local companies to help, giving people opportunities. But it’s a lot about looking at the long-term picture and investing in that, then the day-to-day survival will be more manageable with customer service being key.

    “The biggest challenge for Africa is providing jobs for the next generation – it is up to the businesses to do this and reap the benefits later on.

    “The environment in Africa is changing, nowadays the Chinese invest so much and in a way I wish they would work alongside African companies instead of competing with them to help boost trade further. But the interest is good – it brings about opportunities and optimism. People talk about doom and gloom but there are a lot of positive stories to be found in Africa.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom last night discontinued sale of its unlimited data bundles as it seeks to optimise the sharing of its 3G network by users.The company has recently blamed some users for hogging bandwidth through massive downloading of content to the detriment of its other users.Safaricom now says the unlimited data model is suited for a fixed line network where users get dedicated pipes as opposed to a wireless network which has to be shared by the number of users connected.

Digital Content

  • Would you publicly come clean you paid a bribe to get a service? Probably not. But an app customized for Kenya is making it easier for citizens to report bribery incidences across the country, anonymously.

    I Paid a Bribe (IPaB) is a desktop, mobile web and SMS app that gives Kenyans a platform to share their experiences with bribery. Through a user-friendly interface, a user can post an incident where they had to pay a bribe because a public officer expressly asked for it or a situation where the officer asked for it but they refused to pay the bribe.

    The app also allows users to report an incidence where no bribe was asked, and the service was delivered on time.

    Since the launch of the website in December 2011, 630 bribery incidences worth Ksh 20 million have been posted on the website.

    The Police, municipal services, immigration and registration of persons and lands departments are the leading bribery hotspots as reported by citizens.

    Interestingly, there are quite a high number of witness reports showing high bribery prevalence in the private sector, according to IPaB.

    "Once a user files a bribe report on the site, the system takes it up automatically and edits out any names. IPaB does not target individuals but seeks to expose weaknesses in the system and advocate for them to be rectified," says Anthony Ragui, developer of IPaB.

    After users send their experience, either through the IPaB website, mobile site or SMS, the story is published on the website after a 10 minute lag. Specific data from the story (county, amount paid and department) is logged in and added to the analytics.

    "I paid a Bribe Kenya as a platform aims to get Kenyans to report and talk about the problem of corruption," says Ragui, who came up with idea after seeing a similar initiative in India.

    A Transparency International (TI) report on East African Bribery Index revealed while a vast majority of Kenyans perceived Kenya as a corrupt county, only 7 per cent reported corruption incidences, probably for fear of victimization.

  • Radio astronomers in Africa and across the globe will benefit from faster collaboration through a dedicated, high speed 15,000 km network link between the pan-European GÉANT and African UbuntuNet Alliance education networks announced last week.

    The 2Gbps point-to-point circuit will enable astronomers at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in South Africa to stream observational data to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands for processing and correlation, and is the first point-to-point circuit between GÉANT and UbuntuNet. 

    HartRAO, located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of Johannesburg, is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa. Through the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), it collaborates with radio telescopes on other continents to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth.

    Combining observations from multiple telescopes using VLBI allows more detailed observations of distant astronomical objects than with any other technique. Information is sent in real-time from radio telescopes around the world to JIVE, where these enormous volumes of simultaneous observation data are correlated to form high resolution images of cosmic radio sources.

    The establishment of the point-to-point circuit is part of the European VLBI Network’s (EVN) e-EVN development programme for electronic VLBI (e-VLBI). This uses high speed research networks to transfer data for processing in real-time is an alternative to the traditional VLBI method of recording and shipping data on disk. e-VLBI enables observations of transient phenomena such as supernovae, using the highest resolution astronomical technique possible.

    “This is collaborative research and education networking at its best,” said Dr F F (Tusu) Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance. “Providing a point-to-point link between Hartebeesthoek and JIVE in the Netherlands benefits the entire global radio astronomy community, as it enables faster, more detailed observations to be shared in real-time and consequently dramatically increases our knowledge of the universe.”

    The point-to-point circuit will seamlessly add the 26m telescope at Hartebeesthoek into the e-EVN array at the highest possible data rate. It will be used for a series of 10 observing sessions annually to observe targets that would benefit from the rapid turnaround that analysing the data in real time provides. The fast turnaround of results through the e-EVN enables decisions on further observations to be made whilst the astronomical event is still in progress, thereby enabling the study of more rapid transients, such as supernovae.

    “This new link between Africa and Europe is the perfect example of close co-operation between research networks across the globe, working together to provide astronomers and scientists with the infrastructure they need to advance their work,” said CathrinStöver, Chief International Relations Officer, DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) has built and operates the GÉANT network. “As the first point-to-point link between Europe and Africa, it shows the truly global nature of research and should encourage even greater collaboration between the two continents moving forward.”

    For the global radio astronomy community, adding HartRAO into the e-EVN array will improve the North/South resolving power, thereby allowing more detailed source structure to be seen, especially in the southern sky.

    Research data gathered at HartRAO, a member institution of the South African national research and education network (NREN), TENET, flows in succession across the networks of TENET, UbuntuNet, GÉANT and Dutch NREN SURFnet.

  • The ‘Kony 2012’ YouTube video was a phenomenon previously unseen in new media. Attracting over one hundred million views, it has been described as the most viral online campaign in history.

    It made Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony a household name, and pushed discussion about his Lord’s Resistance Army, who have been terrorising East and Central Africa for 26 years, to the top of the agenda.

    It also attracted a lot of criticism from across the world, and in particular, from some of Uganda’s online community, many of whom said the film ignored Ugandan voices.

    A group of Ugandan bloggers responded by launching an online project called UgandaSpeaks, they say to “..recapture the narrative about Joseph Kony and Northern Uganda from Invisible Children”.

    The bloggers have now released their own Youtube video on Friday.The backlash to Kony 2012 from online critics in Uganda was in part due to its incredible viral success. Invisible Children itself said the video was meant for an American audience – not a Ugandan one – suggesting they had not initially expected it to be seen in Uganda.

    And had the video been released, and gone viral, just a few years earlier it might have barely been noticed here.

    When Invisible Children started working in Uganda in 2005, internet users had to rely on slow, expensive satellite connections. A personal, home internet connection was the exclusive luxury of a tiny elite, with most users going online at internet cafes.

    East Africa was first connected to the global network of undersea broadband fibre cable in 2009, via the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Now, faster internet speeds, alongside an influx of affordable USB-modems sold by mobile phone companies, have opened up broadband internet access to everyone who can afford it – typically the urban, middle class.

    It is still a minority of the population, but for hundreds of thousands it has become possible to watch a Youtube video or make a Skype call.

    The number of Facebook and Twitter accounts has exploded, and Uganda’s middle class has become visible to the rest of the online world.

    Putting the particular controversies of Kony 2012 aside, everyone from 19th-century European explorers, through to 21st-century charities and international news-media, have all taken advantage of Africa’s lack of means to tell its own stories – exaggerating and fictionalising, only too often telling tales of horrors worse than the realties on the ground, to raise money or just to sell drama, and with no voice to hold them to account back home.

    But times are changing.

    While the majority-rural population in Africa are still stuck in much the same place – not connected, many even illiterate – the online community is growing fast.

    And the increasing connectivity means not only can people see what’s being said about them, but they can now also respond and be seen and heard by the rest of the world.

    So maybe, finally, it is becoming a little harder for foreign storytellers who visit Africa – be they novelists, charities or journalists – to tell stories that are a far cry from perspectives on the ground.

More

  • Maghreb Startup Initiative Seeks Out Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

    Yesterday, the Education for Employment (EFE) foundation and its partners announced the inauguration of the Maghreb Startup Initiative (MSI) – a regional competition to spur innovative entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

     Starting this month, teams of young entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will have the chance to submit proposals of innovative ideas to MSI.

    In Tunisia alone, around 300 applicants are expected to submit group proposals. Only 25 teams will be shortlisted to advance through the second round, which involves pitching the concept of their enterprise to a jury of experts.

     Each proposal will be judged on its innovative character, profitability, and social impact as well as the team’s managerial competence.

     The 25 teams will then participate in a six-day “boot camp,” which will consist of intensive training in management, project implementation, and marketing.

     Ultimately, by December, three to five teams per country will be selected to win a cash prize. Currently, the total prize money to be divided among the winning teams is at $70,000. However, this amount could increase as EFE attracts additional sponsors for the MSI.

    Regardless of the final outcome, all teams that make it to the “boot camp” phase will enjoy a continuing rapport with mentors, or established figures in the entrepreneurial field, with whom they were paired during the competition.

     “This initiative is meant to give hope to the youth of the Maghreb,” said SaïdAïda, president of EFE-Tunisia’s board of directors, during his public address at yesterday’s press conference.

     “This competition reflects the need to identify projects. You have many such projects that are unexploited in Tunisia,” said MondherKhanfir, managing director of Wiki Start Ups – one of MSI’s local sponsors.

     When asked by Tunisia Live how MSI stands apart from other similar regional initiatives, Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, vice president of EFE’s global team, stressed MSI’s aim to provide “end-to-end support” to its participants. Contestants don’t just receive training only to later find themselves on their own, wading the choppy waters of the labor market. Even after the cash prize has been awarded to the winning teams, all participants that make it to the “boot camp” will be aided by their mentors to broaden their network and get the first interview.

    The innovative focus of the projects must be in the fields of biotechnology, green energy, media, or information and communication technologies (ICT). “These sectors don’t require too much initial capital from start ups,” explained Khanfir, who was recently at the National College of Engineers in Sfax to spread word of the regional competition.
    “Tunisia already has the technology and laboratories in its universities, where young participants can test their innovative ideas,” he said.

     ICT and renewable energy sectors are markets that have not yet been saturated in Tunisia, and could be drivers of the economy. “The local potential in these sectors is critical for the country’s development,” added Khanfir.
    Source: Tunisia Live

Issue no 603 4th May 2012

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Top story

  • Access to reliable and transparent information helps markets work effectively. There is plenty of mobile subscriber data for Africa, whether from company reporting requirements or from the continent’s better regulators. However, with honourable exceptions, most regulators have not believed the Internet was sufficiently important to warrant tracking its subscribers. Now as Africa’s Internet steps into the limelight, it becomes important to know more. Russell Southwood talks this week to JulienCoulon of Cedexis who have just launched a tool that might contribute to solving this problem and be useful for optimising content delivery for telcos and media companies.

    Cedexis’ product was launched by ex-Akami veterans and it polls a wide range of websites by putting a piece of Java script on the site. This enables Cedexis to do two things: firstly, as a free service called Radar, to be able to identify the origin of traffic to the site and secondly, as a pay-for service called Open Mix, to look at the performance of the infrastructure delivering the content, to allow load balancing.

    As Coulon told us:”It’s a way for content site owners to see how their ISPs and cloud providers are performing and using this information, to optimise delivery for their users. In this way, you can load balance between 2-3 data centres to give users a much better experience. It answers which are the providers that respond in the fastest time.”

    The service has 250 international content providers whose websites provide 25,000 data points per second:”This allows us to offer our clients real-time routing changes. We are able to improve by 17 times the speed with which a page loads for the user. Packet loss can be as high as 21% and this increases time to download. It shows the content provider how they perform and how to accelerate their website for users.”

    There is not a complete selection of African countries but those that are monitored provide fascinating insights:”It relies on getting a sufficiently large amount of data to get accurate information. For example, in Ethiopia, there are not enough people looking at the websites where the tags are deployed.”

    The question the tags seek to answer is: Where are my end-users (most likely to be) coming from within this country? For example for Ghana, it shows that Vodafone Ghana was getting 75% of the traffic based on just under half a million data point measurements, followed by Airtel at 10% and MTN at a surprisingly low 5%. None of the non-mobile provider ISPs score above 2% and almost all are 1% or below.

    By contrast, in Mali Sonatel-owned Ikatel was getting 66% of the traffic with ex-incumbent Sotelma getting 20%. The most surprising but heartening achievement is that Mali’s independent ISP Afribone still gets 15% of the traffic.

    In case any other proof was needed, the data from Senegal conclusively shows that Sonatel is completely dominant as the Internet provider. Based on just over 300,000 data measurements, 100% of the traffic comes from Sonatel. Where is competition and what is the regulator doing to break this de-facto monopoly?

    However, when it comes to large markets, there is another layer of complexity. For example, in South Africa, 22% of traffic originated from SAIX, the local IXP and this inevitably doesn’t tell you the provider but does give an indication of local traffic flowing locally. Sometimes providers have different marketing descriptions but one you add these separate totals together, the Top 5 in South Africa are: Vodacom (17%); IS (16%); MTN (13%); Netactive (9%) and TENET (7%).

    Again with Kenya, the picture is more complex. There appears to be no traffic for the local IXP, KIXP. Safaricom traffic seems to come to 41%, adding together Communications Solutions Ltd and Onecom followed by Orange Kenya at 23%. These are then followed by KENET at 10% and KDN at 8%. There are then plentiful independent ISPs, most of whom attract 2%.

    By contrast, Nigeria shows no provider with more than 15% and for some reason, MTN does not seem to feature. Obviously, the names need to be interpreted to get at the results and there needs to be some fine-tuning to make sure everyone is included but as the base of data points gets wider, the easier it will be to get a clear sense of active market share.

    The link for those who are curious is here:

    So who is Cedexis targeting in Africa? “It’s very relevant for telcos seeking to measure their performance; for media companies; and for anybody who feels their website or mobile app is strategic for them.” But it’s not just about speed of upload:”Hermes are not getting huge amounts of traffic but have improved their sales, their number of page views and their ad views.”

     

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

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Telecom operator Tunisiana’s bid for the 3G and fixed licence has been declined by Tunisia’s ICT Ministry, according to a report by Biztech Africa.

    As per the report the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, MongiMarzouk, said Tunisiana had offered to purchase the landline license for $ 23.38 million and the 3G license for $ 81.2 million. The Ministry earlier accepted the company’s proposed terms for network quality.

    The report reveals that while the Ministry declined to specify what bid it would accept, it pointed out that Orange Tunisia had paid $ 179 million in June 2009 for a similar package with the option of an exclusive 3G licence for one year.

    Tunisie Telecom acquired its 3G licence in 2010, for $ 75.3 million. Tunisiana has indicated that it may revise its bid.

  • Vodacom stands accused of using political and diplomatic pressure in its battle with a fixer who recently won a case against it in a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) court, which ordered the company to pay him $21-million.

    A lawyer representing Moto Mabanga, the South African-based fixer, has sent a letter to the general inspectorate of judicial council services in Kinshasa and the United Kingdom's ambassador in the DRC stating that Vodacom is trying to place itself above the laws of the country.

    His letter followed one sent by Vodacom to the inspectorate that was copied to the South African and British ambassadors in the Congo.

    One of Mabanga's lawyers, José IlungaKapanda, wrote to the inspectorate on April 4 this year stating that the body did not have the jurisdiction to prevent the execution of the judgment. Kapanda stated that he did not understand why Vodacom International copied its request for the suspension of the execution of the judgment to the British ambassador.

    Diplomatic pressure?
    Kapanda said everybody was equal before the law, including foreigners. He accused Vodacom of trying to use diplomatic pressure to put itself above the law.

    Another of Mabanga's lawyers, Emery MukendiWafwana, stated in another letter to the British ambassador that the latter should not interfere in the matter. He said the UK was a partner with the DRC in establishing an investment climate in the country and it should not interfere, unless it believed the DRC could interfere in legal disputes in the UK.

    "To act other­wise would be to lead the United Kingdom into a great conflict in the engagements it has reached with the Democratic Republic of Congo," Wafwana stated.

    The Mail & Guardian reported on the dispute between Mabanga's company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who acted as a consultant in the Congo for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The amount was allegedly for work done between May 6 and July 31 2007 and between September 12 2007 and August 31 2008. The case was withdrawn and filed in Kinshasa.

    Vodacom's spokesperson, Richard Boorman, said it was ironic, given the string of extraordinary legal activity in the Congo, that Vodacom was being accused of using underhanded tactics to defend its business.

    "There is zero legal justification for Mr Mabanga's contractual claim and we challenge him to provide one shred of evidence to support it. We keep in regular touch with officials and embassies in all of the countries in which we operate.

    "Both South African and the UK companies are major investors in the DRC and it's a common-sense step to keep officials apprised of a situation that is already tarnishing the reputation of the DRC and has the potential to jeopardise further investment from both countries," said Boorman.

    "I would like to say very clearly that Vodacom honours its commitments. If Mr Mabanga could in any way justify his claim, why is he not doing so in South Africa, where the agreements were made and which he explicitly agreed would have contractual jurisdiction?

    "The act of sending letters to diplomats in the DRC instructing them how to behave demonstrates a concern that Vodacom's position is valid and that common sense will prevail."

  • Glo Mobile Ghana has extended the period for which people could activate their specially-reserved numbers indefinitely.This was to allow the claimed 1.5 million Ghanaians who reserved special Glo numbers to activate their lines at their own convenience.

    Glo originally gave Ghanaians up to seven days to activate their reserved lines, but Chief Operating Officer for Glo Ghana, George Andah told Adom News the crowds at their Glo World Shops had compelled them to extend the period indefinitely.

    “We want our teaming customers to relax and activate their numbers at their own convenience so we have removed the deadline completely,” he said.

    George Andah noted that several people visiting Glo World Shops went there to either activate reserved numbers and or buy additional or new SIMs and that was encouraging so the company had decided to reciprocate the gesture.

    “We have also received a few porting requests and we are working on them,” he said.

    But George Andah stopped short of saying how many people have activated their reserved lines, bought new SIMs or made porting requests to Glo.

    It took Glo three years to launch after getting license as Ghana's sixth mobile operator in 2008, and the Glo Ghana COO said for everyday Ghanaians waited, Glo prepared special packages worth the while of Ghanaians.

    At their launch on Sunday, April 29, 2012 Glo announced some juicy offers such as 20Gp free everyday for 100 days, 100% bonus on every recharge, 2Gp per minute call to one special number, one minute bonus for every three minutes of call received on Glo, five hours free night calls, as well as news, sports, entertainment and weather updates on Glo’s 128Kb SIM.

    George Andah said the company wanted to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the offers on their specially-reserved numbers at their own convenience and that was why they lifted the seven-day deadline.

    Glo started commercial operations in Ghana at 85% coverage, supported by $750 million worth of world class infrastructure, including the popular Glo One submarine fibre optic cable, and some 1,400 BTS across country, to provide service to 974 cities and 10,000 villages.

    Ahead of commercial launch, the company supported Ghana soccer at the top level, branding the Premier League to the tune of $3.5million and also being headline sponsor of the national senior soccer team, The Black Stars, in the amount of another $1.5 million.

  • The Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) has issued a decision approving Telecom Namibia’s proposed takeover of cellular operator Powercom (trading as Leo) provided the buyer meets certain conditions aimed at ensuring fair competition in the market. The NaCC stipulated that the shareholding structure of Telecom Namibia and the country’s mobile market leader Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) must be ‘separate and independent’ within two years (by 24 April 2014).

    The state investment holding company Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) currently owns 100% of Telecom Namibia and a 66% stake in MTC, which is part-owned by Portugal Telecom; if the takeover of Leo goes ahead with existing ownership structures, the government will effectively control the entire mobile sector, in which Telecom is currently the third, and smallest, player.

    In addition, the NaCC said that no director or employee of Telecom Namibia may serve as a director of NPTH, and that the same applies in the case of MTC, ‘in the interest of preventing any collusive or coordinated behaviour that would undermine the free and spirited competition for all entities in that sector.’

  • An agreement on the financing of the regional broadband telecommunications network in Central Africa was signed by the representative of the World Bank in Chad, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Chadian Minister of Planning, the Economy and international Cooperation, BedoumraKordjé.

    The agreement covers the implementation of a regional project between Chad and the Central African Republic, to improve access and service utilization of fiber optic network and reduce costs.

    Overall estimated at 15 billion CFA francs (30 million), the project aims to build a network of 1202 km between N'Djamena and Sudan and 334 km from Doba, and the Central Bennal.

    Financial participation of Chad is $ 4 billion CFA francs (8,000,000 dollars).Speaking few days after the inauguration, Chadian President IdrissDeby, said the agreement will help the landlocked Chad, out of its unfavorable geographical situation.

internet

  • Ethiopian netizens are outraged and expressing their concern on different social media platforms as the Ethiopian government increasingly engages in blocking and surveillance of selected websites, blogs and Facebook pages. The report about Ethiopia’s authorities engaging in online censorship came about after all previously blocked websites and blogs became available for three successive days during Ethiopia’s Easter celebration in early April.

    Reporters Without Borders reported on 26 April, 2012, that:Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Zelalem Malcolm Kibret, a blogger residing in Addis Ababa, reacted strongly on his Facebook page:

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty.

    First EPRDF [the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] going to be MAD, then gone WILD & now gone WILDER.In an effort to smash dissenting opinion in Ethiopia, EPRDF block 100 + websites and bloggers that puts Ethiopia as blocker-in-chief of Ideas in Africa.* . The recent wild act is blocking mediocre blogs like Abe Tokichaw's blog. Abe’s new blog is launched today for the fourth time with a new name. This can be the best instance that fits formerly mad and now turned wild government mad action.

    Abe on his latest interview to a monthly Ethiopian Amharic Magazine called Addis Times via e-mail says:

    My only task here in a country where I am residing is only to blog and to contemplate. One more task is to produce different blogs on daily bases.

    * In Africa, Only Sudan & Ethiopia block websites in a 'substantial manner' and Ethiopia is the only country that blocks Political websites.

    Markos Lemma, a blogger and Global Voice author, warns Internet censorship agents in the country that other people will be inspired to start blogging if blogs are blocked:

    To whom it may concern: It might be possible to block 100s of blogs but not 10,000s or millions. I bet the second one blog is blocked in Ethiopia, 10 new blogs created. Thanks who ever writes, shares and communicates

    Another blogger, debirhan, reported about his blog being banned in Ethiopia:

    The Web address of De Birhan has been blocked since Saturday night (21 April 2012) in Ethiopia. According to readers from Addis Abeba and the Website internal Audience Data Report, De Birhan was not accessible in Ethiopia for two days now. The regime in Addis Abeba has mastered the blocking of Websites, News and Information media since the 2005 election. Most Diaspora based Ethiopia focused News and Information Websites are blocked in Ethiopia.

    De Birhan advises its readers to follow its Facebook updates at De BirhanBlogspot and use mobile phones or proxy servers to access it.

    IginioGagliardone, a research fellow at University of Oxford highlights how Ethiopia’s government is being helped by the Chinese government in online censorship technologies and expertise.

    Gagliardone writes:China's EXIM bank provided a $1.5 billion loan to overhaul the country's telecommunication system, free media are struggling. Opposition blogs are blocked and the Prime Minister (MeleseZenawi) argued that Ethiopia has a right to jam the international broadcaster Voice of America because of its “destabilizing propaganda.”

    Gagliardone further notes that Chinese companies are replacing Western companies such as Cisco Systems:

    China has been accused of providing the technology and expertise to make these forms of censorship possible. A few years earlier, however, it was the expertise provided by Cisco Systems and Hughes Networks, two companies based in the U.S., that allowed the Ethiopian government to develop WoredaNet, one of Africa's most ambitious and problematic e-government projects.

    A recent document [am] said to be shared by sources close to The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), an opposition movement based in the US, has made stronger claims that China supports Ethiopia’s online surveillance capacity in name of building Ethiopia’s national security.

    The document [am] further states that Ethiopia’s only and government-owned Telecom Corporation and all of its network facility is appended to Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a government agency established to safeguard key government and public information systems from any security threat.

    The document claims that with a huge technical and monetary aid of the Chinese technology companies, INSA has developed a competence to use ordinary cell phones as spy devices by tracking citizens’ movements and listening to people’s private conversations even when the cell phones are turned off.

    This document further highlights that private conversations and movements of select members of the diplomatic community, civic society, opposition party leaders, journalists and individuals are closely monitored.

  • The cost of internet and data services is set drop drastically as the West Africa Cable System, a $650 million undersea cable goes live on May 11 in Nigeria and several African countries where it has landing points.

    WACS brought to Nigeria by MTN Nigeria spans the entire West African coast and terminating in the United Kingdom will complement SAT3, Glo1 and Main One Cable systems that are already commercial in West Africa.

    WACS is a 14, 000 kilometres fibre optic submarine cable with a capacity of 5.12 terabits per second (tbps), which berthed in the country last year. The WACS consortium include MTN, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom.;SociétéCongolaise des Postes et Télécommunications ("SCPT"); PT Communicacoes; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.

    Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria said "The WACS cable is here. It landed some time in the middle of last year. The landing station is ready and we expect that it should be carrying live traffic by the end of April. The capacity is bigger than any submarine cable that has landed in Nigeria and we expect that it would provide greater bandwidth, greater redundancy and for more latency for data services."

    The Africa-Europe undersea system will be the first direct connection to international submarine cable networks for Namibia, Togo, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The new fibre-optic route will also link South Africa, Angola, Cameroun, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal and the UK with a design capacity of 5.12Tbps. Other countries are able to access bandwidth on the system, including landlocked Botswana, which partnered Namibia in each raising USD37.5 million to invest in a 9.2 per cent stake in the cable consortium. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) will co-locate services within the landing station operated by Telecom Namibia, under the WACS open access policy.

computing

  • In a historical and trend setting education delivery development in Africa, consumer electronics firm Samsung Electronics East Africa has sealed a joint partnership with Strathmore University to rollout a digital learning solution.

    For the first time in Kenya, students enrolling at the Strathmore University to pursue their Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program will receive their course content and related materials digitally through the Samsung Learning Management Solution [Samsung LMS].The rollout will begin with the May Semester.

    Speaking at the Strathmore University, Samsung Electronics Business Leader Robert Ngeru disclosed that the Samsung E-learning solution has been custom designed to raise Strathmore's academic delivery efficiencies.

    As part of the development, Ngeru said, Samsung has deployed its end-to-end Learning Management Solution which leverages the use of Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablets linked to a Samsung Electronic board allowing for an interactive in and out of classroom learning experience.

    "As part of our enterprise solutions development capacity, we are proud to be unveiling this one of a kind solution in Kenya's premier Business School which we trust will help raise coursework delivery efficiencies," he said.

    Speaking during the ceremony, the Strathmore Business School Dean Dr Edward Mungai noted that adopting E - learning is a positive move towards enhancing leaders' capacity to deal with not only local challenges, but also focus on the global level.

    "The current globalised environment, demands that the leaders are not only aware of their local challenges, but are also prepared to fight it out in an international arena, both in the East African region and beyond," Mungai explained.

    And added: "The new Samsung Learning Management Solution will facilitate efficient learning both in and out of the lecture halls thus supporting our endeavours to transform leadership in Africa, through a world class learning environment."

    The solution, which will connect the e-board and Galaxy Tab 10.1 via a Wi-Fi connection, allows for multiple functionalities such as study resources, sharing via a learning management application (app) pre-installed on the tablets.

    Further, with the Classroom Management (CRM) functionality, Strathmore Lecturers will now be in a position to send what's on the board to the students' GALAXY Tabs and monitor their devices. The Mobile Learning Management System (m-LMS) provides multiple learning features such as resource sharing and assignment management.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • CEO of money transfer service speak exclusively to African Business Review on why his company means more to him than just making money.The story behind international money transfer Dahabshiil truly is one of rags to riches.

    The company, now one of the largest money transfer businesses in the Horn of Africa, was started by African entrepreneur Mohamed Duale. In the 1970s, he fled Somalia with his family when civil war broke out in 1988 to England. With very limited resources, Duale set about rebuilding his business in his mission to serve African communities.

    With an ever-increasing Somali population, Dahabshiil flourished in London and has gone from strength to strength. In 2009, Dahabshiil made banking history and launched the first ever debit card in Somaliland and the following year opened an Islamic bank in Djibouti. Then in 2010, a telecommunications provider, Somtel, was launched. The organisation is largely owned by Dahabshiil, and provides telecommunications services in the Somaliland region.

    More than 40 years on and Dahabshiil still ensures the values it was built on are adhered to – trust and responsibility. The business has zero debt, remains entirely family-owned and is committed to its fair commission fee policy.

    CEO AbdirashidDuale spoke to African Business Review exclusively to discuss how the company means much more to him than just making profit, demonstrated by its recent $100,000 investment in helping the Somalian health and education service in the wake of the devastating drought, working with many NGOs.

    “We target migrant communities wherever they are. I am a migrant and my father who founded the company was a migrant – so we understand completely the service required. People need to be able to send money back to home to help their families in a way that is easy and safe,” he said.

    “In the high street you will see internet cafés, food stores, aimed at the migrant community – if they are buying or selling from these places then we offer our services.”

    Dahabshiil employs nearly 5,000 people in over 150 countries. With offices in London and Dubai, Dahabshiil provides services to some of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations, Oxfam, the Department for International Development, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) and Save the Children.

    Taking its corporate social responsibility seriously, it continues to support the Somali community both in Africa and abroad, investing 5 percent of its profits into community regeneration projects involving the development of schools, hospitals, agriculture and sanitation.

    Running a business involving operations in Somalia certainly poses its problems, as Duale explains. “It is of course a challenging environment, but we are a trusted organisation there. We are impartial and not involved in any politics, all our staff are from different regions and parts of different communities.

    “The African economy is really getting stronger, with diversifying trade making it less prone to the economic downturn. Many African economies have had too much reliance on commerce but now there are real investment opportunities in management, public finance and an increasing private sector, with an abundance of natural resources, it is set for organic growth.”

    “I believe the African disapora community sent home around $40 billion last year. Of course it is going to be in many different forms, with some investments etc. However I think it will only increase, because although the economical downturn in 2008 affected people’s finances things are on the up.

    “To many people, remittance payments are a lifeline. It is very, very important and provides a lot of income to the national economy which boosts the private sector growth. People wish to invest in Africa because it is the future in many ways – and we are very proud to be part of that.”

    So what tips does Duale have for African entrepreneurs trying to get businesses up and running today?

    “It is not easy, you have to believe in yourself and have an attitude that anything is possible and work hard. You must find the right people you can trust and believe in and rely on.

    “I also think that if you don’t take risks you will never make money. The business operation should look at local companies to help, giving people opportunities. But it’s a lot about looking at the long-term picture and investing in that, then the day-to-day survival will be more manageable with customer service being key.

    “The biggest challenge for Africa is providing jobs for the next generation – it is up to the businesses to do this and reap the benefits later on.

    “The environment in Africa is changing, nowadays the Chinese invest so much and in a way I wish they would work alongside African companies instead of competing with them to help boost trade further. But the interest is good – it brings about opportunities and optimism. People talk about doom and gloom but there are a lot of positive stories to be found in Africa.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom last night discontinued sale of its unlimited data bundles as it seeks to optimise the sharing of its 3G network by users.The company has recently blamed some users for hogging bandwidth through massive downloading of content to the detriment of its other users.Safaricom now says the unlimited data model is suited for a fixed line network where users get dedicated pipes as opposed to a wireless network which has to be shared by the number of users connected.

Digital Content

  • Would you publicly come clean you paid a bribe to get a service? Probably not. But an app customized for Kenya is making it easier for citizens to report bribery incidences across the country, anonymously.

    I Paid a Bribe (IPaB) is a desktop, mobile web and SMS app that gives Kenyans a platform to share their experiences with bribery. Through a user-friendly interface, a user can post an incident where they had to pay a bribe because a public officer expressly asked for it or a situation where the officer asked for it but they refused to pay the bribe.

    The app also allows users to report an incidence where no bribe was asked, and the service was delivered on time.

    Since the launch of the website in December 2011, 630 bribery incidences worth Ksh 20 million have been posted on the website.

    The Police, municipal services, immigration and registration of persons and lands departments are the leading bribery hotspots as reported by citizens.

    Interestingly, there are quite a high number of witness reports showing high bribery prevalence in the private sector, according to IPaB.

    "Once a user files a bribe report on the site, the system takes it up automatically and edits out any names. IPaB does not target individuals but seeks to expose weaknesses in the system and advocate for them to be rectified," says Anthony Ragui, developer of IPaB.

    After users send their experience, either through the IPaB website, mobile site or SMS, the story is published on the website after a 10 minute lag. Specific data from the story (county, amount paid and department) is logged in and added to the analytics.

    "I paid a Bribe Kenya as a platform aims to get Kenyans to report and talk about the problem of corruption," says Ragui, who came up with idea after seeing a similar initiative in India.

    A Transparency International (TI) report on East African Bribery Index revealed while a vast majority of Kenyans perceived Kenya as a corrupt county, only 7 per cent reported corruption incidences, probably for fear of victimization.

  • Radio astronomers in Africa and across the globe will benefit from faster collaboration through a dedicated, high speed 15,000 km network link between the pan-European GÉANT and African UbuntuNet Alliance education networks announced last week.

    The 2Gbps point-to-point circuit will enable astronomers at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in South Africa to stream observational data to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands for processing and correlation, and is the first point-to-point circuit between GÉANT and UbuntuNet. 

    HartRAO, located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of Johannesburg, is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa. Through the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), it collaborates with radio telescopes on other continents to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth.

    Combining observations from multiple telescopes using VLBI allows more detailed observations of distant astronomical objects than with any other technique. Information is sent in real-time from radio telescopes around the world to JIVE, where these enormous volumes of simultaneous observation data are correlated to form high resolution images of cosmic radio sources.

    The establishment of the point-to-point circuit is part of the European VLBI Network’s (EVN) e-EVN development programme for electronic VLBI (e-VLBI). This uses high speed research networks to transfer data for processing in real-time is an alternative to the traditional VLBI method of recording and shipping data on disk. e-VLBI enables observations of transient phenomena such as supernovae, using the highest resolution astronomical technique possible.

    “This is collaborative research and education networking at its best,” said Dr F F (Tusu) Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance. “Providing a point-to-point link between Hartebeesthoek and JIVE in the Netherlands benefits the entire global radio astronomy community, as it enables faster, more detailed observations to be shared in real-time and consequently dramatically increases our knowledge of the universe.”

    The point-to-point circuit will seamlessly add the 26m telescope at Hartebeesthoek into the e-EVN array at the highest possible data rate. It will be used for a series of 10 observing sessions annually to observe targets that would benefit from the rapid turnaround that analysing the data in real time provides. The fast turnaround of results through the e-EVN enables decisions on further observations to be made whilst the astronomical event is still in progress, thereby enabling the study of more rapid transients, such as supernovae.

    “This new link between Africa and Europe is the perfect example of close co-operation between research networks across the globe, working together to provide astronomers and scientists with the infrastructure they need to advance their work,” said CathrinStöver, Chief International Relations Officer, DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) has built and operates the GÉANT network. “As the first point-to-point link between Europe and Africa, it shows the truly global nature of research and should encourage even greater collaboration between the two continents moving forward.”

    For the global radio astronomy community, adding HartRAO into the e-EVN array will improve the North/South resolving power, thereby allowing more detailed source structure to be seen, especially in the southern sky.

    Research data gathered at HartRAO, a member institution of the South African national research and education network (NREN), TENET, flows in succession across the networks of TENET, UbuntuNet, GÉANT and Dutch NREN SURFnet.

  • The ‘Kony 2012’ YouTube video was a phenomenon previously unseen in new media. Attracting over one hundred million views, it has been described as the most viral online campaign in history.

    It made Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony a household name, and pushed discussion about his Lord’s Resistance Army, who have been terrorising East and Central Africa for 26 years, to the top of the agenda.

    It also attracted a lot of criticism from across the world, and in particular, from some of Uganda’s online community, many of whom said the film ignored Ugandan voices.

    A group of Ugandan bloggers responded by launching an online project called UgandaSpeaks, they say to “..recapture the narrative about Joseph Kony and Northern Uganda from Invisible Children”.

    The bloggers have now released their own Youtube video on Friday.The backlash to Kony 2012 from online critics in Uganda was in part due to its incredible viral success. Invisible Children itself said the video was meant for an American audience – not a Ugandan one – suggesting they had not initially expected it to be seen in Uganda.

    And had the video been released, and gone viral, just a few years earlier it might have barely been noticed here.

    When Invisible Children started working in Uganda in 2005, internet users had to rely on slow, expensive satellite connections. A personal, home internet connection was the exclusive luxury of a tiny elite, with most users going online at internet cafes.

    East Africa was first connected to the global network of undersea broadband fibre cable in 2009, via the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Now, faster internet speeds, alongside an influx of affordable USB-modems sold by mobile phone companies, have opened up broadband internet access to everyone who can afford it – typically the urban, middle class.

    It is still a minority of the population, but for hundreds of thousands it has become possible to watch a Youtube video or make a Skype call.

    The number of Facebook and Twitter accounts has exploded, and Uganda’s middle class has become visible to the rest of the online world.

    Putting the particular controversies of Kony 2012 aside, everyone from 19th-century European explorers, through to 21st-century charities and international news-media, have all taken advantage of Africa’s lack of means to tell its own stories – exaggerating and fictionalising, only too often telling tales of horrors worse than the realties on the ground, to raise money or just to sell drama, and with no voice to hold them to account back home.

    But times are changing.

    While the majority-rural population in Africa are still stuck in much the same place – not connected, many even illiterate – the online community is growing fast.

    And the increasing connectivity means not only can people see what’s being said about them, but they can now also respond and be seen and heard by the rest of the world.

    So maybe, finally, it is becoming a little harder for foreign storytellers who visit Africa – be they novelists, charities or journalists – to tell stories that are a far cry from perspectives on the ground.

More

  • Maghreb Startup Initiative Seeks Out Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

    Yesterday, the Education for Employment (EFE) foundation and its partners announced the inauguration of the Maghreb Startup Initiative (MSI) – a regional competition to spur innovative entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

     Starting this month, teams of young entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will have the chance to submit proposals of innovative ideas to MSI.

    In Tunisia alone, around 300 applicants are expected to submit group proposals. Only 25 teams will be shortlisted to advance through the second round, which involves pitching the concept of their enterprise to a jury of experts.

     Each proposal will be judged on its innovative character, profitability, and social impact as well as the team’s managerial competence.

     The 25 teams will then participate in a six-day “boot camp,” which will consist of intensive training in management, project implementation, and marketing.

     Ultimately, by December, three to five teams per country will be selected to win a cash prize. Currently, the total prize money to be divided among the winning teams is at $70,000. However, this amount could increase as EFE attracts additional sponsors for the MSI.

    Regardless of the final outcome, all teams that make it to the “boot camp” phase will enjoy a continuing rapport with mentors, or established figures in the entrepreneurial field, with whom they were paired during the competition.

     “This initiative is meant to give hope to the youth of the Maghreb,” said SaïdAïda, president of EFE-Tunisia’s board of directors, during his public address at yesterday’s press conference.

     “This competition reflects the need to identify projects. You have many such projects that are unexploited in Tunisia,” said MondherKhanfir, managing director of Wiki Start Ups – one of MSI’s local sponsors.

     When asked by Tunisia Live how MSI stands apart from other similar regional initiatives, Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, vice president of EFE’s global team, stressed MSI’s aim to provide “end-to-end support” to its participants. Contestants don’t just receive training only to later find themselves on their own, wading the choppy waters of the labor market. Even after the cash prize has been awarded to the winning teams, all participants that make it to the “boot camp” will be aided by their mentors to broaden their network and get the first interview.

    The innovative focus of the projects must be in the fields of biotechnology, green energy, media, or information and communication technologies (ICT). “These sectors don’t require too much initial capital from start ups,” explained Khanfir, who was recently at the National College of Engineers in Sfax to spread word of the regional competition.
    “Tunisia already has the technology and laboratories in its universities, where young participants can test their innovative ideas,” he said.

     ICT and renewable energy sectors are markets that have not yet been saturated in Tunisia, and could be drivers of the economy. “The local potential in these sectors is critical for the country’s development,” added Khanfir.
    Source: Tunisia Live

Issue no 603 4th May 2012

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Top story

  • Access to reliable and transparent information helps markets work effectively. There is plenty of mobile subscriber data for Africa, whether from company reporting requirements or from the continent’s better regulators. However, with honourable exceptions, most regulators have not believed the Internet was sufficiently important to warrant tracking its subscribers. Now as Africa’s Internet steps into the limelight, it becomes important to know more. Russell Southwood talks this week to JulienCoulon of Cedexis who have just launched a tool that might contribute to solving this problem and be useful for optimising content delivery for telcos and media companies.

    Cedexis’ product was launched by ex-Akami veterans and it polls a wide range of websites by putting a piece of Java script on the site. This enables Cedexis to do two things: firstly, as a free service called Radar, to be able to identify the origin of traffic to the site and secondly, as a pay-for service called Open Mix, to look at the performance of the infrastructure delivering the content, to allow load balancing.

    As Coulon told us:”It’s a way for content site owners to see how their ISPs and cloud providers are performing and using this information, to optimise delivery for their users. In this way, you can load balance between 2-3 data centres to give users a much better experience. It answers which are the providers that respond in the fastest time.”

    The service has 250 international content providers whose websites provide 25,000 data points per second:”This allows us to offer our clients real-time routing changes. We are able to improve by 17 times the speed with which a page loads for the user. Packet loss can be as high as 21% and this increases time to download. It shows the content provider how they perform and how to accelerate their website for users.”

    There is not a complete selection of African countries but those that are monitored provide fascinating insights:”It relies on getting a sufficiently large amount of data to get accurate information. For example, in Ethiopia, there are not enough people looking at the websites where the tags are deployed.”

    The question the tags seek to answer is: Where are my end-users (most likely to be) coming from within this country? For example for Ghana, it shows that Vodafone Ghana was getting 75% of the traffic based on just under half a million data point measurements, followed by Airtel at 10% and MTN at a surprisingly low 5%. None of the non-mobile provider ISPs score above 2% and almost all are 1% or below.

    By contrast, in Mali Sonatel-owned Ikatel was getting 66% of the traffic with ex-incumbent Sotelma getting 20%. The most surprising but heartening achievement is that Mali’s independent ISP Afribone still gets 15% of the traffic.

    In case any other proof was needed, the data from Senegal conclusively shows that Sonatel is completely dominant as the Internet provider. Based on just over 300,000 data measurements, 100% of the traffic comes from Sonatel. Where is competition and what is the regulator doing to break this de-facto monopoly?

    However, when it comes to large markets, there is another layer of complexity. For example, in South Africa, 22% of traffic originated from SAIX, the local IXP and this inevitably doesn’t tell you the provider but does give an indication of local traffic flowing locally. Sometimes providers have different marketing descriptions but one you add these separate totals together, the Top 5 in South Africa are: Vodacom (17%); IS (16%); MTN (13%); Netactive (9%) and TENET (7%).

    Again with Kenya, the picture is more complex. There appears to be no traffic for the local IXP, KIXP. Safaricom traffic seems to come to 41%, adding together Communications Solutions Ltd and Onecom followed by Orange Kenya at 23%. These are then followed by KENET at 10% and KDN at 8%. There are then plentiful independent ISPs, most of whom attract 2%.

    By contrast, Nigeria shows no provider with more than 15% and for some reason, MTN does not seem to feature. Obviously, the names need to be interpreted to get at the results and there needs to be some fine-tuning to make sure everyone is included but as the base of data points gets wider, the easier it will be to get a clear sense of active market share.

    The link for those who are curious is here:

    So who is Cedexis targeting in Africa? “It’s very relevant for telcos seeking to measure their performance; for media companies; and for anybody who feels their website or mobile app is strategic for them.” But it’s not just about speed of upload:”Hermes are not getting huge amounts of traffic but have improved their sales, their number of page views and their ad views.”

     

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

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Telecom operator Tunisiana’s bid for the 3G and fixed licence has been declined by Tunisia’s ICT Ministry, according to a report by Biztech Africa.

    As per the report the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, MongiMarzouk, said Tunisiana had offered to purchase the landline license for $ 23.38 million and the 3G license for $ 81.2 million. The Ministry earlier accepted the company’s proposed terms for network quality.

    The report reveals that while the Ministry declined to specify what bid it would accept, it pointed out that Orange Tunisia had paid $ 179 million in June 2009 for a similar package with the option of an exclusive 3G licence for one year.

    Tunisie Telecom acquired its 3G licence in 2010, for $ 75.3 million. Tunisiana has indicated that it may revise its bid.

  • Vodacom stands accused of using political and diplomatic pressure in its battle with a fixer who recently won a case against it in a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) court, which ordered the company to pay him $21-million.

    A lawyer representing Moto Mabanga, the South African-based fixer, has sent a letter to the general inspectorate of judicial council services in Kinshasa and the United Kingdom's ambassador in the DRC stating that Vodacom is trying to place itself above the laws of the country.

    His letter followed one sent by Vodacom to the inspectorate that was copied to the South African and British ambassadors in the Congo.

    One of Mabanga's lawyers, José IlungaKapanda, wrote to the inspectorate on April 4 this year stating that the body did not have the jurisdiction to prevent the execution of the judgment. Kapanda stated that he did not understand why Vodacom International copied its request for the suspension of the execution of the judgment to the British ambassador.

    Diplomatic pressure?
    Kapanda said everybody was equal before the law, including foreigners. He accused Vodacom of trying to use diplomatic pressure to put itself above the law.

    Another of Mabanga's lawyers, Emery MukendiWafwana, stated in another letter to the British ambassador that the latter should not interfere in the matter. He said the UK was a partner with the DRC in establishing an investment climate in the country and it should not interfere, unless it believed the DRC could interfere in legal disputes in the UK.

    "To act other­wise would be to lead the United Kingdom into a great conflict in the engagements it has reached with the Democratic Republic of Congo," Wafwana stated.

    The Mail & Guardian reported on the dispute between Mabanga's company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who acted as a consultant in the Congo for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The amount was allegedly for work done between May 6 and July 31 2007 and between September 12 2007 and August 31 2008. The case was withdrawn and filed in Kinshasa.

    Vodacom's spokesperson, Richard Boorman, said it was ironic, given the string of extraordinary legal activity in the Congo, that Vodacom was being accused of using underhanded tactics to defend its business.

    "There is zero legal justification for Mr Mabanga's contractual claim and we challenge him to provide one shred of evidence to support it. We keep in regular touch with officials and embassies in all of the countries in which we operate.

    "Both South African and the UK companies are major investors in the DRC and it's a common-sense step to keep officials apprised of a situation that is already tarnishing the reputation of the DRC and has the potential to jeopardise further investment from both countries," said Boorman.

    "I would like to say very clearly that Vodacom honours its commitments. If Mr Mabanga could in any way justify his claim, why is he not doing so in South Africa, where the agreements were made and which he explicitly agreed would have contractual jurisdiction?

    "The act of sending letters to diplomats in the DRC instructing them how to behave demonstrates a concern that Vodacom's position is valid and that common sense will prevail."

  • Glo Mobile Ghana has extended the period for which people could activate their specially-reserved numbers indefinitely.This was to allow the claimed 1.5 million Ghanaians who reserved special Glo numbers to activate their lines at their own convenience.

    Glo originally gave Ghanaians up to seven days to activate their reserved lines, but Chief Operating Officer for Glo Ghana, George Andah told Adom News the crowds at their Glo World Shops had compelled them to extend the period indefinitely.

    “We want our teaming customers to relax and activate their numbers at their own convenience so we have removed the deadline completely,” he said.

    George Andah noted that several people visiting Glo World Shops went there to either activate reserved numbers and or buy additional or new SIMs and that was encouraging so the company had decided to reciprocate the gesture.

    “We have also received a few porting requests and we are working on them,” he said.

    But George Andah stopped short of saying how many people have activated their reserved lines, bought new SIMs or made porting requests to Glo.

    It took Glo three years to launch after getting license as Ghana's sixth mobile operator in 2008, and the Glo Ghana COO said for everyday Ghanaians waited, Glo prepared special packages worth the while of Ghanaians.

    At their launch on Sunday, April 29, 2012 Glo announced some juicy offers such as 20Gp free everyday for 100 days, 100% bonus on every recharge, 2Gp per minute call to one special number, one minute bonus for every three minutes of call received on Glo, five hours free night calls, as well as news, sports, entertainment and weather updates on Glo’s 128Kb SIM.

    George Andah said the company wanted to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the offers on their specially-reserved numbers at their own convenience and that was why they lifted the seven-day deadline.

    Glo started commercial operations in Ghana at 85% coverage, supported by $750 million worth of world class infrastructure, including the popular Glo One submarine fibre optic cable, and some 1,400 BTS across country, to provide service to 974 cities and 10,000 villages.

    Ahead of commercial launch, the company supported Ghana soccer at the top level, branding the Premier League to the tune of $3.5million and also being headline sponsor of the national senior soccer team, The Black Stars, in the amount of another $1.5 million.

  • The Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) has issued a decision approving Telecom Namibia’s proposed takeover of cellular operator Powercom (trading as Leo) provided the buyer meets certain conditions aimed at ensuring fair competition in the market. The NaCC stipulated that the shareholding structure of Telecom Namibia and the country’s mobile market leader Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) must be ‘separate and independent’ within two years (by 24 April 2014).

    The state investment holding company Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) currently owns 100% of Telecom Namibia and a 66% stake in MTC, which is part-owned by Portugal Telecom; if the takeover of Leo goes ahead with existing ownership structures, the government will effectively control the entire mobile sector, in which Telecom is currently the third, and smallest, player.

    In addition, the NaCC said that no director or employee of Telecom Namibia may serve as a director of NPTH, and that the same applies in the case of MTC, ‘in the interest of preventing any collusive or coordinated behaviour that would undermine the free and spirited competition for all entities in that sector.’

  • An agreement on the financing of the regional broadband telecommunications network in Central Africa was signed by the representative of the World Bank in Chad, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Chadian Minister of Planning, the Economy and international Cooperation, BedoumraKordjé.

    The agreement covers the implementation of a regional project between Chad and the Central African Republic, to improve access and service utilization of fiber optic network and reduce costs.

    Overall estimated at 15 billion CFA francs (30 million), the project aims to build a network of 1202 km between N'Djamena and Sudan and 334 km from Doba, and the Central Bennal.

    Financial participation of Chad is $ 4 billion CFA francs (8,000,000 dollars).Speaking few days after the inauguration, Chadian President IdrissDeby, said the agreement will help the landlocked Chad, out of its unfavorable geographical situation.

internet

  • Ethiopian netizens are outraged and expressing their concern on different social media platforms as the Ethiopian government increasingly engages in blocking and surveillance of selected websites, blogs and Facebook pages. The report about Ethiopia’s authorities engaging in online censorship came about after all previously blocked websites and blogs became available for three successive days during Ethiopia’s Easter celebration in early April.

    Reporters Without Borders reported on 26 April, 2012, that:Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Zelalem Malcolm Kibret, a blogger residing in Addis Ababa, reacted strongly on his Facebook page:

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty.

    First EPRDF [the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] going to be MAD, then gone WILD & now gone WILDER.In an effort to smash dissenting opinion in Ethiopia, EPRDF block 100 + websites and bloggers that puts Ethiopia as blocker-in-chief of Ideas in Africa.* . The recent wild act is blocking mediocre blogs like Abe Tokichaw's blog. Abe’s new blog is launched today for the fourth time with a new name. This can be the best instance that fits formerly mad and now turned wild government mad action.

    Abe on his latest interview to a monthly Ethiopian Amharic Magazine called Addis Times via e-mail says:

    My only task here in a country where I am residing is only to blog and to contemplate. One more task is to produce different blogs on daily bases.

    * In Africa, Only Sudan & Ethiopia block websites in a 'substantial manner' and Ethiopia is the only country that blocks Political websites.

    Markos Lemma, a blogger and Global Voice author, warns Internet censorship agents in the country that other people will be inspired to start blogging if blogs are blocked:

    To whom it may concern: It might be possible to block 100s of blogs but not 10,000s or millions. I bet the second one blog is blocked in Ethiopia, 10 new blogs created. Thanks who ever writes, shares and communicates

    Another blogger, debirhan, reported about his blog being banned in Ethiopia:

    The Web address of De Birhan has been blocked since Saturday night (21 April 2012) in Ethiopia. According to readers from Addis Abeba and the Website internal Audience Data Report, De Birhan was not accessible in Ethiopia for two days now. The regime in Addis Abeba has mastered the blocking of Websites, News and Information media since the 2005 election. Most Diaspora based Ethiopia focused News and Information Websites are blocked in Ethiopia.

    De Birhan advises its readers to follow its Facebook updates at De BirhanBlogspot and use mobile phones or proxy servers to access it.

    IginioGagliardone, a research fellow at University of Oxford highlights how Ethiopia’s government is being helped by the Chinese government in online censorship technologies and expertise.

    Gagliardone writes:China's EXIM bank provided a $1.5 billion loan to overhaul the country's telecommunication system, free media are struggling. Opposition blogs are blocked and the Prime Minister (MeleseZenawi) argued that Ethiopia has a right to jam the international broadcaster Voice of America because of its “destabilizing propaganda.”

    Gagliardone further notes that Chinese companies are replacing Western companies such as Cisco Systems:

    China has been accused of providing the technology and expertise to make these forms of censorship possible. A few years earlier, however, it was the expertise provided by Cisco Systems and Hughes Networks, two companies based in the U.S., that allowed the Ethiopian government to develop WoredaNet, one of Africa's most ambitious and problematic e-government projects.

    A recent document [am] said to be shared by sources close to The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), an opposition movement based in the US, has made stronger claims that China supports Ethiopia’s online surveillance capacity in name of building Ethiopia’s national security.

    The document [am] further states that Ethiopia’s only and government-owned Telecom Corporation and all of its network facility is appended to Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a government agency established to safeguard key government and public information systems from any security threat.

    The document claims that with a huge technical and monetary aid of the Chinese technology companies, INSA has developed a competence to use ordinary cell phones as spy devices by tracking citizens’ movements and listening to people’s private conversations even when the cell phones are turned off.

    This document further highlights that private conversations and movements of select members of the diplomatic community, civic society, opposition party leaders, journalists and individuals are closely monitored.

  • The cost of internet and data services is set drop drastically as the West Africa Cable System, a $650 million undersea cable goes live on May 11 in Nigeria and several African countries where it has landing points.

    WACS brought to Nigeria by MTN Nigeria spans the entire West African coast and terminating in the United Kingdom will complement SAT3, Glo1 and Main One Cable systems that are already commercial in West Africa.

    WACS is a 14, 000 kilometres fibre optic submarine cable with a capacity of 5.12 terabits per second (tbps), which berthed in the country last year. The WACS consortium include MTN, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom.;SociétéCongolaise des Postes et Télécommunications ("SCPT"); PT Communicacoes; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.

    Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria said "The WACS cable is here. It landed some time in the middle of last year. The landing station is ready and we expect that it should be carrying live traffic by the end of April. The capacity is bigger than any submarine cable that has landed in Nigeria and we expect that it would provide greater bandwidth, greater redundancy and for more latency for data services."

    The Africa-Europe undersea system will be the first direct connection to international submarine cable networks for Namibia, Togo, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The new fibre-optic route will also link South Africa, Angola, Cameroun, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal and the UK with a design capacity of 5.12Tbps. Other countries are able to access bandwidth on the system, including landlocked Botswana, which partnered Namibia in each raising USD37.5 million to invest in a 9.2 per cent stake in the cable consortium. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) will co-locate services within the landing station operated by Telecom Namibia, under the WACS open access policy.

computing

  • In a historical and trend setting education delivery development in Africa, consumer electronics firm Samsung Electronics East Africa has sealed a joint partnership with Strathmore University to rollout a digital learning solution.

    For the first time in Kenya, students enrolling at the Strathmore University to pursue their Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program will receive their course content and related materials digitally through the Samsung Learning Management Solution [Samsung LMS].The rollout will begin with the May Semester.

    Speaking at the Strathmore University, Samsung Electronics Business Leader Robert Ngeru disclosed that the Samsung E-learning solution has been custom designed to raise Strathmore's academic delivery efficiencies.

    As part of the development, Ngeru said, Samsung has deployed its end-to-end Learning Management Solution which leverages the use of Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablets linked to a Samsung Electronic board allowing for an interactive in and out of classroom learning experience.

    "As part of our enterprise solutions development capacity, we are proud to be unveiling this one of a kind solution in Kenya's premier Business School which we trust will help raise coursework delivery efficiencies," he said.

    Speaking during the ceremony, the Strathmore Business School Dean Dr Edward Mungai noted that adopting E - learning is a positive move towards enhancing leaders' capacity to deal with not only local challenges, but also focus on the global level.

    "The current globalised environment, demands that the leaders are not only aware of their local challenges, but are also prepared to fight it out in an international arena, both in the East African region and beyond," Mungai explained.

    And added: "The new Samsung Learning Management Solution will facilitate efficient learning both in and out of the lecture halls thus supporting our endeavours to transform leadership in Africa, through a world class learning environment."

    The solution, which will connect the e-board and Galaxy Tab 10.1 via a Wi-Fi connection, allows for multiple functionalities such as study resources, sharing via a learning management application (app) pre-installed on the tablets.

    Further, with the Classroom Management (CRM) functionality, Strathmore Lecturers will now be in a position to send what's on the board to the students' GALAXY Tabs and monitor their devices. The Mobile Learning Management System (m-LMS) provides multiple learning features such as resource sharing and assignment management.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • CEO of money transfer service speak exclusively to African Business Review on why his company means more to him than just making money.The story behind international money transfer Dahabshiil truly is one of rags to riches.

    The company, now one of the largest money transfer businesses in the Horn of Africa, was started by African entrepreneur Mohamed Duale. In the 1970s, he fled Somalia with his family when civil war broke out in 1988 to England. With very limited resources, Duale set about rebuilding his business in his mission to serve African communities.

    With an ever-increasing Somali population, Dahabshiil flourished in London and has gone from strength to strength. In 2009, Dahabshiil made banking history and launched the first ever debit card in Somaliland and the following year opened an Islamic bank in Djibouti. Then in 2010, a telecommunications provider, Somtel, was launched. The organisation is largely owned by Dahabshiil, and provides telecommunications services in the Somaliland region.

    More than 40 years on and Dahabshiil still ensures the values it was built on are adhered to – trust and responsibility. The business has zero debt, remains entirely family-owned and is committed to its fair commission fee policy.

    CEO AbdirashidDuale spoke to African Business Review exclusively to discuss how the company means much more to him than just making profit, demonstrated by its recent $100,000 investment in helping the Somalian health and education service in the wake of the devastating drought, working with many NGOs.

    “We target migrant communities wherever they are. I am a migrant and my father who founded the company was a migrant – so we understand completely the service required. People need to be able to send money back to home to help their families in a way that is easy and safe,” he said.

    “In the high street you will see internet cafés, food stores, aimed at the migrant community – if they are buying or selling from these places then we offer our services.”

    Dahabshiil employs nearly 5,000 people in over 150 countries. With offices in London and Dubai, Dahabshiil provides services to some of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations, Oxfam, the Department for International Development, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) and Save the Children.

    Taking its corporate social responsibility seriously, it continues to support the Somali community both in Africa and abroad, investing 5 percent of its profits into community regeneration projects involving the development of schools, hospitals, agriculture and sanitation.

    Running a business involving operations in Somalia certainly poses its problems, as Duale explains. “It is of course a challenging environment, but we are a trusted organisation there. We are impartial and not involved in any politics, all our staff are from different regions and parts of different communities.

    “The African economy is really getting stronger, with diversifying trade making it less prone to the economic downturn. Many African economies have had too much reliance on commerce but now there are real investment opportunities in management, public finance and an increasing private sector, with an abundance of natural resources, it is set for organic growth.”

    “I believe the African disapora community sent home around $40 billion last year. Of course it is going to be in many different forms, with some investments etc. However I think it will only increase, because although the economical downturn in 2008 affected people’s finances things are on the up.

    “To many people, remittance payments are a lifeline. It is very, very important and provides a lot of income to the national economy which boosts the private sector growth. People wish to invest in Africa because it is the future in many ways – and we are very proud to be part of that.”

    So what tips does Duale have for African entrepreneurs trying to get businesses up and running today?

    “It is not easy, you have to believe in yourself and have an attitude that anything is possible and work hard. You must find the right people you can trust and believe in and rely on.

    “I also think that if you don’t take risks you will never make money. The business operation should look at local companies to help, giving people opportunities. But it’s a lot about looking at the long-term picture and investing in that, then the day-to-day survival will be more manageable with customer service being key.

    “The biggest challenge for Africa is providing jobs for the next generation – it is up to the businesses to do this and reap the benefits later on.

    “The environment in Africa is changing, nowadays the Chinese invest so much and in a way I wish they would work alongside African companies instead of competing with them to help boost trade further. But the interest is good – it brings about opportunities and optimism. People talk about doom and gloom but there are a lot of positive stories to be found in Africa.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom last night discontinued sale of its unlimited data bundles as it seeks to optimise the sharing of its 3G network by users.The company has recently blamed some users for hogging bandwidth through massive downloading of content to the detriment of its other users.Safaricom now says the unlimited data model is suited for a fixed line network where users get dedicated pipes as opposed to a wireless network which has to be shared by the number of users connected.

Digital Content

  • Would you publicly come clean you paid a bribe to get a service? Probably not. But an app customized for Kenya is making it easier for citizens to report bribery incidences across the country, anonymously.

    I Paid a Bribe (IPaB) is a desktop, mobile web and SMS app that gives Kenyans a platform to share their experiences with bribery. Through a user-friendly interface, a user can post an incident where they had to pay a bribe because a public officer expressly asked for it or a situation where the officer asked for it but they refused to pay the bribe.

    The app also allows users to report an incidence where no bribe was asked, and the service was delivered on time.

    Since the launch of the website in December 2011, 630 bribery incidences worth Ksh 20 million have been posted on the website.

    The Police, municipal services, immigration and registration of persons and lands departments are the leading bribery hotspots as reported by citizens.

    Interestingly, there are quite a high number of witness reports showing high bribery prevalence in the private sector, according to IPaB.

    "Once a user files a bribe report on the site, the system takes it up automatically and edits out any names. IPaB does not target individuals but seeks to expose weaknesses in the system and advocate for them to be rectified," says Anthony Ragui, developer of IPaB.

    After users send their experience, either through the IPaB website, mobile site or SMS, the story is published on the website after a 10 minute lag. Specific data from the story (county, amount paid and department) is logged in and added to the analytics.

    "I paid a Bribe Kenya as a platform aims to get Kenyans to report and talk about the problem of corruption," says Ragui, who came up with idea after seeing a similar initiative in India.

    A Transparency International (TI) report on East African Bribery Index revealed while a vast majority of Kenyans perceived Kenya as a corrupt county, only 7 per cent reported corruption incidences, probably for fear of victimization.

  • Radio astronomers in Africa and across the globe will benefit from faster collaboration through a dedicated, high speed 15,000 km network link between the pan-European GÉANT and African UbuntuNet Alliance education networks announced last week.

    The 2Gbps point-to-point circuit will enable astronomers at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in South Africa to stream observational data to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands for processing and correlation, and is the first point-to-point circuit between GÉANT and UbuntuNet. 

    HartRAO, located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of Johannesburg, is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa. Through the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), it collaborates with radio telescopes on other continents to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth.

    Combining observations from multiple telescopes using VLBI allows more detailed observations of distant astronomical objects than with any other technique. Information is sent in real-time from radio telescopes around the world to JIVE, where these enormous volumes of simultaneous observation data are correlated to form high resolution images of cosmic radio sources.

    The establishment of the point-to-point circuit is part of the European VLBI Network’s (EVN) e-EVN development programme for electronic VLBI (e-VLBI). This uses high speed research networks to transfer data for processing in real-time is an alternative to the traditional VLBI method of recording and shipping data on disk. e-VLBI enables observations of transient phenomena such as supernovae, using the highest resolution astronomical technique possible.

    “This is collaborative research and education networking at its best,” said Dr F F (Tusu) Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance. “Providing a point-to-point link between Hartebeesthoek and JIVE in the Netherlands benefits the entire global radio astronomy community, as it enables faster, more detailed observations to be shared in real-time and consequently dramatically increases our knowledge of the universe.”

    The point-to-point circuit will seamlessly add the 26m telescope at Hartebeesthoek into the e-EVN array at the highest possible data rate. It will be used for a series of 10 observing sessions annually to observe targets that would benefit from the rapid turnaround that analysing the data in real time provides. The fast turnaround of results through the e-EVN enables decisions on further observations to be made whilst the astronomical event is still in progress, thereby enabling the study of more rapid transients, such as supernovae.

    “This new link between Africa and Europe is the perfect example of close co-operation between research networks across the globe, working together to provide astronomers and scientists with the infrastructure they need to advance their work,” said CathrinStöver, Chief International Relations Officer, DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) has built and operates the GÉANT network. “As the first point-to-point link between Europe and Africa, it shows the truly global nature of research and should encourage even greater collaboration between the two continents moving forward.”

    For the global radio astronomy community, adding HartRAO into the e-EVN array will improve the North/South resolving power, thereby allowing more detailed source structure to be seen, especially in the southern sky.

    Research data gathered at HartRAO, a member institution of the South African national research and education network (NREN), TENET, flows in succession across the networks of TENET, UbuntuNet, GÉANT and Dutch NREN SURFnet.

  • The ‘Kony 2012’ YouTube video was a phenomenon previously unseen in new media. Attracting over one hundred million views, it has been described as the most viral online campaign in history.

    It made Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony a household name, and pushed discussion about his Lord’s Resistance Army, who have been terrorising East and Central Africa for 26 years, to the top of the agenda.

    It also attracted a lot of criticism from across the world, and in particular, from some of Uganda’s online community, many of whom said the film ignored Ugandan voices.

    A group of Ugandan bloggers responded by launching an online project called UgandaSpeaks, they say to “..recapture the narrative about Joseph Kony and Northern Uganda from Invisible Children”.

    The bloggers have now released their own Youtube video on Friday.The backlash to Kony 2012 from online critics in Uganda was in part due to its incredible viral success. Invisible Children itself said the video was meant for an American audience – not a Ugandan one – suggesting they had not initially expected it to be seen in Uganda.

    And had the video been released, and gone viral, just a few years earlier it might have barely been noticed here.

    When Invisible Children started working in Uganda in 2005, internet users had to rely on slow, expensive satellite connections. A personal, home internet connection was the exclusive luxury of a tiny elite, with most users going online at internet cafes.

    East Africa was first connected to the global network of undersea broadband fibre cable in 2009, via the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Now, faster internet speeds, alongside an influx of affordable USB-modems sold by mobile phone companies, have opened up broadband internet access to everyone who can afford it – typically the urban, middle class.

    It is still a minority of the population, but for hundreds of thousands it has become possible to watch a Youtube video or make a Skype call.

    The number of Facebook and Twitter accounts has exploded, and Uganda’s middle class has become visible to the rest of the online world.

    Putting the particular controversies of Kony 2012 aside, everyone from 19th-century European explorers, through to 21st-century charities and international news-media, have all taken advantage of Africa’s lack of means to tell its own stories – exaggerating and fictionalising, only too often telling tales of horrors worse than the realties on the ground, to raise money or just to sell drama, and with no voice to hold them to account back home.

    But times are changing.

    While the majority-rural population in Africa are still stuck in much the same place – not connected, many even illiterate – the online community is growing fast.

    And the increasing connectivity means not only can people see what’s being said about them, but they can now also respond and be seen and heard by the rest of the world.

    So maybe, finally, it is becoming a little harder for foreign storytellers who visit Africa – be they novelists, charities or journalists – to tell stories that are a far cry from perspectives on the ground.

More

  • Maghreb Startup Initiative Seeks Out Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

    Yesterday, the Education for Employment (EFE) foundation and its partners announced the inauguration of the Maghreb Startup Initiative (MSI) – a regional competition to spur innovative entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

     Starting this month, teams of young entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will have the chance to submit proposals of innovative ideas to MSI.

    In Tunisia alone, around 300 applicants are expected to submit group proposals. Only 25 teams will be shortlisted to advance through the second round, which involves pitching the concept of their enterprise to a jury of experts.

     Each proposal will be judged on its innovative character, profitability, and social impact as well as the team’s managerial competence.

     The 25 teams will then participate in a six-day “boot camp,” which will consist of intensive training in management, project implementation, and marketing.

     Ultimately, by December, three to five teams per country will be selected to win a cash prize. Currently, the total prize money to be divided among the winning teams is at $70,000. However, this amount could increase as EFE attracts additional sponsors for the MSI.

    Regardless of the final outcome, all teams that make it to the “boot camp” phase will enjoy a continuing rapport with mentors, or established figures in the entrepreneurial field, with whom they were paired during the competition.

     “This initiative is meant to give hope to the youth of the Maghreb,” said SaïdAïda, president of EFE-Tunisia’s board of directors, during his public address at yesterday’s press conference.

     “This competition reflects the need to identify projects. You have many such projects that are unexploited in Tunisia,” said MondherKhanfir, managing director of Wiki Start Ups – one of MSI’s local sponsors.

     When asked by Tunisia Live how MSI stands apart from other similar regional initiatives, Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, vice president of EFE’s global team, stressed MSI’s aim to provide “end-to-end support” to its participants. Contestants don’t just receive training only to later find themselves on their own, wading the choppy waters of the labor market. Even after the cash prize has been awarded to the winning teams, all participants that make it to the “boot camp” will be aided by their mentors to broaden their network and get the first interview.

    The innovative focus of the projects must be in the fields of biotechnology, green energy, media, or information and communication technologies (ICT). “These sectors don’t require too much initial capital from start ups,” explained Khanfir, who was recently at the National College of Engineers in Sfax to spread word of the regional competition.
    “Tunisia already has the technology and laboratories in its universities, where young participants can test their innovative ideas,” he said.

     ICT and renewable energy sectors are markets that have not yet been saturated in Tunisia, and could be drivers of the economy. “The local potential in these sectors is critical for the country’s development,” added Khanfir.
    Source: Tunisia Live

Issue no 603 4th May 2012

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Top story

  • Access to reliable and transparent information helps markets work effectively. There is plenty of mobile subscriber data for Africa, whether from company reporting requirements or from the continent’s better regulators. However, with honourable exceptions, most regulators have not believed the Internet was sufficiently important to warrant tracking its subscribers. Now as Africa’s Internet steps into the limelight, it becomes important to know more. Russell Southwood talks this week to JulienCoulon of Cedexis who have just launched a tool that might contribute to solving this problem and be useful for optimising content delivery for telcos and media companies.

    Cedexis’ product was launched by ex-Akami veterans and it polls a wide range of websites by putting a piece of Java script on the site. This enables Cedexis to do two things: firstly, as a free service called Radar, to be able to identify the origin of traffic to the site and secondly, as a pay-for service called Open Mix, to look at the performance of the infrastructure delivering the content, to allow load balancing.

    As Coulon told us:”It’s a way for content site owners to see how their ISPs and cloud providers are performing and using this information, to optimise delivery for their users. In this way, you can load balance between 2-3 data centres to give users a much better experience. It answers which are the providers that respond in the fastest time.”

    The service has 250 international content providers whose websites provide 25,000 data points per second:”This allows us to offer our clients real-time routing changes. We are able to improve by 17 times the speed with which a page loads for the user. Packet loss can be as high as 21% and this increases time to download. It shows the content provider how they perform and how to accelerate their website for users.”

    There is not a complete selection of African countries but those that are monitored provide fascinating insights:”It relies on getting a sufficiently large amount of data to get accurate information. For example, in Ethiopia, there are not enough people looking at the websites where the tags are deployed.”

    The question the tags seek to answer is: Where are my end-users (most likely to be) coming from within this country? For example for Ghana, it shows that Vodafone Ghana was getting 75% of the traffic based on just under half a million data point measurements, followed by Airtel at 10% and MTN at a surprisingly low 5%. None of the non-mobile provider ISPs score above 2% and almost all are 1% or below.

    By contrast, in Mali Sonatel-owned Ikatel was getting 66% of the traffic with ex-incumbent Sotelma getting 20%. The most surprising but heartening achievement is that Mali’s independent ISP Afribone still gets 15% of the traffic.

    In case any other proof was needed, the data from Senegal conclusively shows that Sonatel is completely dominant as the Internet provider. Based on just over 300,000 data measurements, 100% of the traffic comes from Sonatel. Where is competition and what is the regulator doing to break this de-facto monopoly?

    However, when it comes to large markets, there is another layer of complexity. For example, in South Africa, 22% of traffic originated from SAIX, the local IXP and this inevitably doesn’t tell you the provider but does give an indication of local traffic flowing locally. Sometimes providers have different marketing descriptions but one you add these separate totals together, the Top 5 in South Africa are: Vodacom (17%); IS (16%); MTN (13%); Netactive (9%) and TENET (7%).

    Again with Kenya, the picture is more complex. There appears to be no traffic for the local IXP, KIXP. Safaricom traffic seems to come to 41%, adding together Communications Solutions Ltd and Onecom followed by Orange Kenya at 23%. These are then followed by KENET at 10% and KDN at 8%. There are then plentiful independent ISPs, most of whom attract 2%.

    By contrast, Nigeria shows no provider with more than 15% and for some reason, MTN does not seem to feature. Obviously, the names need to be interpreted to get at the results and there needs to be some fine-tuning to make sure everyone is included but as the base of data points gets wider, the easier it will be to get a clear sense of active market share.

    The link for those who are curious is here:

    So who is Cedexis targeting in Africa? “It’s very relevant for telcos seeking to measure their performance; for media companies; and for anybody who feels their website or mobile app is strategic for them.” But it’s not just about speed of upload:”Hermes are not getting huge amounts of traffic but have improved their sales, their number of page views and their ad views.”

     

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

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

     

telecoms

  • Telecom operator Tunisiana’s bid for the 3G and fixed licence has been declined by Tunisia’s ICT Ministry, according to a report by Biztech Africa.

    As per the report the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, MongiMarzouk, said Tunisiana had offered to purchase the landline license for $ 23.38 million and the 3G license for $ 81.2 million. The Ministry earlier accepted the company’s proposed terms for network quality.

    The report reveals that while the Ministry declined to specify what bid it would accept, it pointed out that Orange Tunisia had paid $ 179 million in June 2009 for a similar package with the option of an exclusive 3G licence for one year.

    Tunisie Telecom acquired its 3G licence in 2010, for $ 75.3 million. Tunisiana has indicated that it may revise its bid.

  • Vodacom stands accused of using political and diplomatic pressure in its battle with a fixer who recently won a case against it in a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) court, which ordered the company to pay him $21-million.

    A lawyer representing Moto Mabanga, the South African-based fixer, has sent a letter to the general inspectorate of judicial council services in Kinshasa and the United Kingdom's ambassador in the DRC stating that Vodacom is trying to place itself above the laws of the country.

    His letter followed one sent by Vodacom to the inspectorate that was copied to the South African and British ambassadors in the Congo.

    One of Mabanga's lawyers, José IlungaKapanda, wrote to the inspectorate on April 4 this year stating that the body did not have the jurisdiction to prevent the execution of the judgment. Kapanda stated that he did not understand why Vodacom International copied its request for the suspension of the execution of the judgment to the British ambassador.

    Diplomatic pressure?
    Kapanda said everybody was equal before the law, including foreigners. He accused Vodacom of trying to use diplomatic pressure to put itself above the law.

    Another of Mabanga's lawyers, Emery MukendiWafwana, stated in another letter to the British ambassador that the latter should not interfere in the matter. He said the UK was a partner with the DRC in establishing an investment climate in the country and it should not interfere, unless it believed the DRC could interfere in legal disputes in the UK.

    "To act other­wise would be to lead the United Kingdom into a great conflict in the engagements it has reached with the Democratic Republic of Congo," Wafwana stated.

    The Mail & Guardian reported on the dispute between Mabanga's company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who acted as a consultant in the Congo for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. The amount was allegedly for work done between May 6 and July 31 2007 and between September 12 2007 and August 31 2008. The case was withdrawn and filed in Kinshasa.

    Vodacom's spokesperson, Richard Boorman, said it was ironic, given the string of extraordinary legal activity in the Congo, that Vodacom was being accused of using underhanded tactics to defend its business.

    "There is zero legal justification for Mr Mabanga's contractual claim and we challenge him to provide one shred of evidence to support it. We keep in regular touch with officials and embassies in all of the countries in which we operate.

    "Both South African and the UK companies are major investors in the DRC and it's a common-sense step to keep officials apprised of a situation that is already tarnishing the reputation of the DRC and has the potential to jeopardise further investment from both countries," said Boorman.

    "I would like to say very clearly that Vodacom honours its commitments. If Mr Mabanga could in any way justify his claim, why is he not doing so in South Africa, where the agreements were made and which he explicitly agreed would have contractual jurisdiction?

    "The act of sending letters to diplomats in the DRC instructing them how to behave demonstrates a concern that Vodacom's position is valid and that common sense will prevail."

  • Glo Mobile Ghana has extended the period for which people could activate their specially-reserved numbers indefinitely.This was to allow the claimed 1.5 million Ghanaians who reserved special Glo numbers to activate their lines at their own convenience.

    Glo originally gave Ghanaians up to seven days to activate their reserved lines, but Chief Operating Officer for Glo Ghana, George Andah told Adom News the crowds at their Glo World Shops had compelled them to extend the period indefinitely.

    “We want our teaming customers to relax and activate their numbers at their own convenience so we have removed the deadline completely,” he said.

    George Andah noted that several people visiting Glo World Shops went there to either activate reserved numbers and or buy additional or new SIMs and that was encouraging so the company had decided to reciprocate the gesture.

    “We have also received a few porting requests and we are working on them,” he said.

    But George Andah stopped short of saying how many people have activated their reserved lines, bought new SIMs or made porting requests to Glo.

    It took Glo three years to launch after getting license as Ghana's sixth mobile operator in 2008, and the Glo Ghana COO said for everyday Ghanaians waited, Glo prepared special packages worth the while of Ghanaians.

    At their launch on Sunday, April 29, 2012 Glo announced some juicy offers such as 20Gp free everyday for 100 days, 100% bonus on every recharge, 2Gp per minute call to one special number, one minute bonus for every three minutes of call received on Glo, five hours free night calls, as well as news, sports, entertainment and weather updates on Glo’s 128Kb SIM.

    George Andah said the company wanted to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the offers on their specially-reserved numbers at their own convenience and that was why they lifted the seven-day deadline.

    Glo started commercial operations in Ghana at 85% coverage, supported by $750 million worth of world class infrastructure, including the popular Glo One submarine fibre optic cable, and some 1,400 BTS across country, to provide service to 974 cities and 10,000 villages.

    Ahead of commercial launch, the company supported Ghana soccer at the top level, branding the Premier League to the tune of $3.5million and also being headline sponsor of the national senior soccer team, The Black Stars, in the amount of another $1.5 million.

  • The Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) has issued a decision approving Telecom Namibia’s proposed takeover of cellular operator Powercom (trading as Leo) provided the buyer meets certain conditions aimed at ensuring fair competition in the market. The NaCC stipulated that the shareholding structure of Telecom Namibia and the country’s mobile market leader Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) must be ‘separate and independent’ within two years (by 24 April 2014).

    The state investment holding company Namibia Post and Telecommunications Holdings (NPTH) currently owns 100% of Telecom Namibia and a 66% stake in MTC, which is part-owned by Portugal Telecom; if the takeover of Leo goes ahead with existing ownership structures, the government will effectively control the entire mobile sector, in which Telecom is currently the third, and smallest, player.

    In addition, the NaCC said that no director or employee of Telecom Namibia may serve as a director of NPTH, and that the same applies in the case of MTC, ‘in the interest of preventing any collusive or coordinated behaviour that would undermine the free and spirited competition for all entities in that sector.’

  • An agreement on the financing of the regional broadband telecommunications network in Central Africa was signed by the representative of the World Bank in Chad, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Chadian Minister of Planning, the Economy and international Cooperation, BedoumraKordjé.

    The agreement covers the implementation of a regional project between Chad and the Central African Republic, to improve access and service utilization of fiber optic network and reduce costs.

    Overall estimated at 15 billion CFA francs (30 million), the project aims to build a network of 1202 km between N'Djamena and Sudan and 334 km from Doba, and the Central Bennal.

    Financial participation of Chad is $ 4 billion CFA francs (8,000,000 dollars).Speaking few days after the inauguration, Chadian President IdrissDeby, said the agreement will help the landlocked Chad, out of its unfavorable geographical situation.

internet

  • Ethiopian netizens are outraged and expressing their concern on different social media platforms as the Ethiopian government increasingly engages in blocking and surveillance of selected websites, blogs and Facebook pages. The report about Ethiopia’s authorities engaging in online censorship came about after all previously blocked websites and blogs became available for three successive days during Ethiopia’s Easter celebration in early April.

    Reporters Without Borders reported on 26 April, 2012, that:Reporters Without Borders is very worried to learn that access to the Amharic website of Ethiopia’s leading independent, privately-owned weekly, The Reporter, has been blocked for the past five days. No one has been able to access the site from within Ethiopia since around 4:30 p.m. on 21 April unless they use a proxy server.

    The reason for the blocking is unclear and Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to provide an explanation. “Everything indicates that the blocking is being carried by the state-owned company Ethio-Telecom, since it is Ethiopia’s only Internet Service Provider,” the press freedom organization said.

    Zelalem Malcolm Kibret, a blogger residing in Addis Ababa, reacted strongly on his Facebook page:

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

    Ethiopian blogger and journalist, EskinderNega, is facing the death penalty.

    First EPRDF [the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] going to be MAD, then gone WILD & now gone WILDER.In an effort to smash dissenting opinion in Ethiopia, EPRDF block 100 + websites and bloggers that puts Ethiopia as blocker-in-chief of Ideas in Africa.* . The recent wild act is blocking mediocre blogs like Abe Tokichaw's blog. Abe’s new blog is launched today for the fourth time with a new name. This can be the best instance that fits formerly mad and now turned wild government mad action.

    Abe on his latest interview to a monthly Ethiopian Amharic Magazine called Addis Times via e-mail says:

    My only task here in a country where I am residing is only to blog and to contemplate. One more task is to produce different blogs on daily bases.

    * In Africa, Only Sudan & Ethiopia block websites in a 'substantial manner' and Ethiopia is the only country that blocks Political websites.

    Markos Lemma, a blogger and Global Voice author, warns Internet censorship agents in the country that other people will be inspired to start blogging if blogs are blocked:

    To whom it may concern: It might be possible to block 100s of blogs but not 10,000s or millions. I bet the second one blog is blocked in Ethiopia, 10 new blogs created. Thanks who ever writes, shares and communicates

    Another blogger, debirhan, reported about his blog being banned in Ethiopia:

    The Web address of De Birhan has been blocked since Saturday night (21 April 2012) in Ethiopia. According to readers from Addis Abeba and the Website internal Audience Data Report, De Birhan was not accessible in Ethiopia for two days now. The regime in Addis Abeba has mastered the blocking of Websites, News and Information media since the 2005 election. Most Diaspora based Ethiopia focused News and Information Websites are blocked in Ethiopia.

    De Birhan advises its readers to follow its Facebook updates at De BirhanBlogspot and use mobile phones or proxy servers to access it.

    IginioGagliardone, a research fellow at University of Oxford highlights how Ethiopia’s government is being helped by the Chinese government in online censorship technologies and expertise.

    Gagliardone writes:China's EXIM bank provided a $1.5 billion loan to overhaul the country's telecommunication system, free media are struggling. Opposition blogs are blocked and the Prime Minister (MeleseZenawi) argued that Ethiopia has a right to jam the international broadcaster Voice of America because of its “destabilizing propaganda.”

    Gagliardone further notes that Chinese companies are replacing Western companies such as Cisco Systems:

    China has been accused of providing the technology and expertise to make these forms of censorship possible. A few years earlier, however, it was the expertise provided by Cisco Systems and Hughes Networks, two companies based in the U.S., that allowed the Ethiopian government to develop WoredaNet, one of Africa's most ambitious and problematic e-government projects.

    A recent document [am] said to be shared by sources close to The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), an opposition movement based in the US, has made stronger claims that China supports Ethiopia’s online surveillance capacity in name of building Ethiopia’s national security.

    The document [am] further states that Ethiopia’s only and government-owned Telecom Corporation and all of its network facility is appended to Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a government agency established to safeguard key government and public information systems from any security threat.

    The document claims that with a huge technical and monetary aid of the Chinese technology companies, INSA has developed a competence to use ordinary cell phones as spy devices by tracking citizens’ movements and listening to people’s private conversations even when the cell phones are turned off.

    This document further highlights that private conversations and movements of select members of the diplomatic community, civic society, opposition party leaders, journalists and individuals are closely monitored.

  • The cost of internet and data services is set drop drastically as the West Africa Cable System, a $650 million undersea cable goes live on May 11 in Nigeria and several African countries where it has landing points.

    WACS brought to Nigeria by MTN Nigeria spans the entire West African coast and terminating in the United Kingdom will complement SAT3, Glo1 and Main One Cable systems that are already commercial in West Africa.

    WACS is a 14, 000 kilometres fibre optic submarine cable with a capacity of 5.12 terabits per second (tbps), which berthed in the country last year. The WACS consortium include MTN, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom.;SociétéCongolaise des Postes et Télécommunications ("SCPT"); PT Communicacoes; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.

    Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria said "The WACS cable is here. It landed some time in the middle of last year. The landing station is ready and we expect that it should be carrying live traffic by the end of April. The capacity is bigger than any submarine cable that has landed in Nigeria and we expect that it would provide greater bandwidth, greater redundancy and for more latency for data services."

    The Africa-Europe undersea system will be the first direct connection to international submarine cable networks for Namibia, Togo, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The new fibre-optic route will also link South Africa, Angola, Cameroun, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal and the UK with a design capacity of 5.12Tbps. Other countries are able to access bandwidth on the system, including landlocked Botswana, which partnered Namibia in each raising USD37.5 million to invest in a 9.2 per cent stake in the cable consortium. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) will co-locate services within the landing station operated by Telecom Namibia, under the WACS open access policy.

computing

  • In a historical and trend setting education delivery development in Africa, consumer electronics firm Samsung Electronics East Africa has sealed a joint partnership with Strathmore University to rollout a digital learning solution.

    For the first time in Kenya, students enrolling at the Strathmore University to pursue their Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program will receive their course content and related materials digitally through the Samsung Learning Management Solution [Samsung LMS].The rollout will begin with the May Semester.

    Speaking at the Strathmore University, Samsung Electronics Business Leader Robert Ngeru disclosed that the Samsung E-learning solution has been custom designed to raise Strathmore's academic delivery efficiencies.

    As part of the development, Ngeru said, Samsung has deployed its end-to-end Learning Management Solution which leverages the use of Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablets linked to a Samsung Electronic board allowing for an interactive in and out of classroom learning experience.

    "As part of our enterprise solutions development capacity, we are proud to be unveiling this one of a kind solution in Kenya's premier Business School which we trust will help raise coursework delivery efficiencies," he said.

    Speaking during the ceremony, the Strathmore Business School Dean Dr Edward Mungai noted that adopting E - learning is a positive move towards enhancing leaders' capacity to deal with not only local challenges, but also focus on the global level.

    "The current globalised environment, demands that the leaders are not only aware of their local challenges, but are also prepared to fight it out in an international arena, both in the East African region and beyond," Mungai explained.

    And added: "The new Samsung Learning Management Solution will facilitate efficient learning both in and out of the lecture halls thus supporting our endeavours to transform leadership in Africa, through a world class learning environment."

    The solution, which will connect the e-board and Galaxy Tab 10.1 via a Wi-Fi connection, allows for multiple functionalities such as study resources, sharing via a learning management application (app) pre-installed on the tablets.

    Further, with the Classroom Management (CRM) functionality, Strathmore Lecturers will now be in a position to send what's on the board to the students' GALAXY Tabs and monitor their devices. The Mobile Learning Management System (m-LMS) provides multiple learning features such as resource sharing and assignment management.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • CEO of money transfer service speak exclusively to African Business Review on why his company means more to him than just making money.The story behind international money transfer Dahabshiil truly is one of rags to riches.

    The company, now one of the largest money transfer businesses in the Horn of Africa, was started by African entrepreneur Mohamed Duale. In the 1970s, he fled Somalia with his family when civil war broke out in 1988 to England. With very limited resources, Duale set about rebuilding his business in his mission to serve African communities.

    With an ever-increasing Somali population, Dahabshiil flourished in London and has gone from strength to strength. In 2009, Dahabshiil made banking history and launched the first ever debit card in Somaliland and the following year opened an Islamic bank in Djibouti. Then in 2010, a telecommunications provider, Somtel, was launched. The organisation is largely owned by Dahabshiil, and provides telecommunications services in the Somaliland region.

    More than 40 years on and Dahabshiil still ensures the values it was built on are adhered to – trust and responsibility. The business has zero debt, remains entirely family-owned and is committed to its fair commission fee policy.

    CEO AbdirashidDuale spoke to African Business Review exclusively to discuss how the company means much more to him than just making profit, demonstrated by its recent $100,000 investment in helping the Somalian health and education service in the wake of the devastating drought, working with many NGOs.

    “We target migrant communities wherever they are. I am a migrant and my father who founded the company was a migrant – so we understand completely the service required. People need to be able to send money back to home to help their families in a way that is easy and safe,” he said.

    “In the high street you will see internet cafés, food stores, aimed at the migrant community – if they are buying or selling from these places then we offer our services.”

    Dahabshiil employs nearly 5,000 people in over 150 countries. With offices in London and Dubai, Dahabshiil provides services to some of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations, Oxfam, the Department for International Development, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) and Save the Children.

    Taking its corporate social responsibility seriously, it continues to support the Somali community both in Africa and abroad, investing 5 percent of its profits into community regeneration projects involving the development of schools, hospitals, agriculture and sanitation.

    Running a business involving operations in Somalia certainly poses its problems, as Duale explains. “It is of course a challenging environment, but we are a trusted organisation there. We are impartial and not involved in any politics, all our staff are from different regions and parts of different communities.

    “The African economy is really getting stronger, with diversifying trade making it less prone to the economic downturn. Many African economies have had too much reliance on commerce but now there are real investment opportunities in management, public finance and an increasing private sector, with an abundance of natural resources, it is set for organic growth.”

    “I believe the African disapora community sent home around $40 billion last year. Of course it is going to be in many different forms, with some investments etc. However I think it will only increase, because although the economical downturn in 2008 affected people’s finances things are on the up.

    “To many people, remittance payments are a lifeline. It is very, very important and provides a lot of income to the national economy which boosts the private sector growth. People wish to invest in Africa because it is the future in many ways – and we are very proud to be part of that.”

    So what tips does Duale have for African entrepreneurs trying to get businesses up and running today?

    “It is not easy, you have to believe in yourself and have an attitude that anything is possible and work hard. You must find the right people you can trust and believe in and rely on.

    “I also think that if you don’t take risks you will never make money. The business operation should look at local companies to help, giving people opportunities. But it’s a lot about looking at the long-term picture and investing in that, then the day-to-day survival will be more manageable with customer service being key.

    “The biggest challenge for Africa is providing jobs for the next generation – it is up to the businesses to do this and reap the benefits later on.

    “The environment in Africa is changing, nowadays the Chinese invest so much and in a way I wish they would work alongside African companies instead of competing with them to help boost trade further. But the interest is good – it brings about opportunities and optimism. People talk about doom and gloom but there are a lot of positive stories to be found in Africa.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Safaricom last night discontinued sale of its unlimited data bundles as it seeks to optimise the sharing of its 3G network by users.The company has recently blamed some users for hogging bandwidth through massive downloading of content to the detriment of its other users.Safaricom now says the unlimited data model is suited for a fixed line network where users get dedicated pipes as opposed to a wireless network which has to be shared by the number of users connected.

Digital Content

  • Would you publicly come clean you paid a bribe to get a service? Probably not. But an app customized for Kenya is making it easier for citizens to report bribery incidences across the country, anonymously.

    I Paid a Bribe (IPaB) is a desktop, mobile web and SMS app that gives Kenyans a platform to share their experiences with bribery. Through a user-friendly interface, a user can post an incident where they had to pay a bribe because a public officer expressly asked for it or a situation where the officer asked for it but they refused to pay the bribe.

    The app also allows users to report an incidence where no bribe was asked, and the service was delivered on time.

    Since the launch of the website in December 2011, 630 bribery incidences worth Ksh 20 million have been posted on the website.

    The Police, municipal services, immigration and registration of persons and lands departments are the leading bribery hotspots as reported by citizens.

    Interestingly, there are quite a high number of witness reports showing high bribery prevalence in the private sector, according to IPaB.

    "Once a user files a bribe report on the site, the system takes it up automatically and edits out any names. IPaB does not target individuals but seeks to expose weaknesses in the system and advocate for them to be rectified," says Anthony Ragui, developer of IPaB.

    After users send their experience, either through the IPaB website, mobile site or SMS, the story is published on the website after a 10 minute lag. Specific data from the story (county, amount paid and department) is logged in and added to the analytics.

    "I paid a Bribe Kenya as a platform aims to get Kenyans to report and talk about the problem of corruption," says Ragui, who came up with idea after seeing a similar initiative in India.

    A Transparency International (TI) report on East African Bribery Index revealed while a vast majority of Kenyans perceived Kenya as a corrupt county, only 7 per cent reported corruption incidences, probably for fear of victimization.

  • Radio astronomers in Africa and across the globe will benefit from faster collaboration through a dedicated, high speed 15,000 km network link between the pan-European GÉANT and African UbuntuNet Alliance education networks announced last week.

    The 2Gbps point-to-point circuit will enable astronomers at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in South Africa to stream observational data to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands for processing and correlation, and is the first point-to-point circuit between GÉANT and UbuntuNet. 

    HartRAO, located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of Johannesburg, is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa. Through the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), it collaborates with radio telescopes on other continents to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth.

    Combining observations from multiple telescopes using VLBI allows more detailed observations of distant astronomical objects than with any other technique. Information is sent in real-time from radio telescopes around the world to JIVE, where these enormous volumes of simultaneous observation data are correlated to form high resolution images of cosmic radio sources.

    The establishment of the point-to-point circuit is part of the European VLBI Network’s (EVN) e-EVN development programme for electronic VLBI (e-VLBI). This uses high speed research networks to transfer data for processing in real-time is an alternative to the traditional VLBI method of recording and shipping data on disk. e-VLBI enables observations of transient phenomena such as supernovae, using the highest resolution astronomical technique possible.

    “This is collaborative research and education networking at its best,” said Dr F F (Tusu) Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance. “Providing a point-to-point link between Hartebeesthoek and JIVE in the Netherlands benefits the entire global radio astronomy community, as it enables faster, more detailed observations to be shared in real-time and consequently dramatically increases our knowledge of the universe.”

    The point-to-point circuit will seamlessly add the 26m telescope at Hartebeesthoek into the e-EVN array at the highest possible data rate. It will be used for a series of 10 observing sessions annually to observe targets that would benefit from the rapid turnaround that analysing the data in real time provides. The fast turnaround of results through the e-EVN enables decisions on further observations to be made whilst the astronomical event is still in progress, thereby enabling the study of more rapid transients, such as supernovae.

    “This new link between Africa and Europe is the perfect example of close co-operation between research networks across the globe, working together to provide astronomers and scientists with the infrastructure they need to advance their work,” said CathrinStöver, Chief International Relations Officer, DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) has built and operates the GÉANT network. “As the first point-to-point link between Europe and Africa, it shows the truly global nature of research and should encourage even greater collaboration between the two continents moving forward.”

    For the global radio astronomy community, adding HartRAO into the e-EVN array will improve the North/South resolving power, thereby allowing more detailed source structure to be seen, especially in the southern sky.

    Research data gathered at HartRAO, a member institution of the South African national research and education network (NREN), TENET, flows in succession across the networks of TENET, UbuntuNet, GÉANT and Dutch NREN SURFnet.

  • The ‘Kony 2012’ YouTube video was a phenomenon previously unseen in new media. Attracting over one hundred million views, it has been described as the most viral online campaign in history.

    It made Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony a household name, and pushed discussion about his Lord’s Resistance Army, who have been terrorising East and Central Africa for 26 years, to the top of the agenda.

    It also attracted a lot of criticism from across the world, and in particular, from some of Uganda’s online community, many of whom said the film ignored Ugandan voices.

    A group of Ugandan bloggers responded by launching an online project called UgandaSpeaks, they say to “..recapture the narrative about Joseph Kony and Northern Uganda from Invisible Children”.

    The bloggers have now released their own Youtube video on Friday.The backlash to Kony 2012 from online critics in Uganda was in part due to its incredible viral success. Invisible Children itself said the video was meant for an American audience – not a Ugandan one – suggesting they had not initially expected it to be seen in Uganda.

    And had the video been released, and gone viral, just a few years earlier it might have barely been noticed here.

    When Invisible Children started working in Uganda in 2005, internet users had to rely on slow, expensive satellite connections. A personal, home internet connection was the exclusive luxury of a tiny elite, with most users going online at internet cafes.

    East Africa was first connected to the global network of undersea broadband fibre cable in 2009, via the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Now, faster internet speeds, alongside an influx of affordable USB-modems sold by mobile phone companies, have opened up broadband internet access to everyone who can afford it – typically the urban, middle class.

    It is still a minority of the population, but for hundreds of thousands it has become possible to watch a Youtube video or make a Skype call.

    The number of Facebook and Twitter accounts has exploded, and Uganda’s middle class has become visible to the rest of the online world.

    Putting the particular controversies of Kony 2012 aside, everyone from 19th-century European explorers, through to 21st-century charities and international news-media, have all taken advantage of Africa’s lack of means to tell its own stories – exaggerating and fictionalising, only too often telling tales of horrors worse than the realties on the ground, to raise money or just to sell drama, and with no voice to hold them to account back home.

    But times are changing.

    While the majority-rural population in Africa are still stuck in much the same place – not connected, many even illiterate – the online community is growing fast.

    And the increasing connectivity means not only can people see what’s being said about them, but they can now also respond and be seen and heard by the rest of the world.

    So maybe, finally, it is becoming a little harder for foreign storytellers who visit Africa – be they novelists, charities or journalists – to tell stories that are a far cry from perspectives on the ground.

More

  • Maghreb Startup Initiative Seeks Out Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

    Yesterday, the Education for Employment (EFE) foundation and its partners announced the inauguration of the Maghreb Startup Initiative (MSI) – a regional competition to spur innovative entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

     Starting this month, teams of young entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will have the chance to submit proposals of innovative ideas to MSI.

    In Tunisia alone, around 300 applicants are expected to submit group proposals. Only 25 teams will be shortlisted to advance through the second round, which involves pitching the concept of their enterprise to a jury of experts.

     Each proposal will be judged on its innovative character, profitability, and social impact as well as the team’s managerial competence.

     The 25 teams will then participate in a six-day “boot camp,” which will consist of intensive training in management, project implementation, and marketing.

     Ultimately, by December, three to five teams per country will be selected to win a cash prize. Currently, the total prize money to be divided among the winning teams is at $70,000. However, this amount could increase as EFE attracts additional sponsors for the MSI.

    Regardless of the final outcome, all teams that make it to the “boot camp” phase will enjoy a continuing rapport with mentors, or established figures in the entrepreneurial field, with whom they were paired during the competition.

     “This initiative is meant to give hope to the youth of the Maghreb,” said SaïdAïda, president of EFE-Tunisia’s board of directors, during his public address at yesterday’s press conference.

     “This competition reflects the need to identify projects. You have many such projects that are unexploited in Tunisia,” said MondherKhanfir, managing director of Wiki Start Ups – one of MSI’s local sponsors.

     When asked by Tunisia Live how MSI stands apart from other similar regional initiatives, Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, vice president of EFE’s global team, stressed MSI’s aim to provide “end-to-end support” to its participants. Contestants don’t just receive training only to later find themselves on their own, wading the choppy waters of the labor market. Even after the cash prize has been awarded to the winning teams, all participants that make it to the “boot camp” will be aided by their mentors to broaden their network and get the first interview.

    The innovative focus of the projects must be in the fields of biotechnology, green energy, media, or information and communication technologies (ICT). “These sectors don’t require too much initial capital from start ups,” explained Khanfir, who was recently at the National College of Engineers in Sfax to spread word of the regional competition.
    “Tunisia already has the technology and laboratories in its universities, where young participants can test their innovative ideas,” he said.

     ICT and renewable energy sectors are markets that have not yet been saturated in Tunisia, and could be drivers of the economy. “The local potential in these sectors is critical for the country’s development,” added Khanfir.
    Source: Tunisia Live

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