Issue no 226

top story

  • Africa's small Portugese-speaking countries seem to be stealing a march on their larger neighbours. First Guinea-Bissau opened itself up to VoIP, now tiny Cape Verde is about to allow a second national operator to offer mobile, internet and cable TV, making it the equivalent of an SNO. The long, dark years of Portugal Telecom's monpoloy are coming to an end. The argument always advanced is that Africa's smaller countries cannot afford competition as their markets are too small. At around half a million inhabitants, you don't get smaller than Cape Verde but they look set to have new competitor - Shanghai Telecom - by this December. Russell Southwood investigates.

    Portugal Telecom (PT) has a licence from the Government to run Cape Verde Telecom (CVT), offering fixed lines, internet and mobile. Portugal Telecom is poorly regarded locally and as one person told us:”Portugal Telecom is amongst those with the highest prices in Europe.” The licence given to PT by the Government specified various investments but not all of these have been completed.

    Under previous government, the licence was originally for 25 years but this was reduced to 15 years by the current Government, ten years of which have already passed. The monopoly on fixed lines finishes in 2010. Much of the Government’s communications infrastructure is sourced from CVT.

    The Government owns a "golden share" of 3.4%, with the balance held by Portugal Telecom (40%) and other investors (46.4%).The network has a capacity of just under 80,000 lines are there are slightly over 70,000 subscribers. In July 2003, there were 45,000 mobile subscribers and 4,500 dial-up subscribers.

    The country is connected by Atlantis II which provides a 4 megabit fibre connection to Brazil and on to North America. It was built by a consortium which included CVT and was funded by OPEC money.

    The internet was set up by a government agency called RAF, funded by the World Bank. There are about 80 cyber-cafes run by a mixture of private sector owners, NGOs and government. The Government has plans to put telecentres in every town and into schools. There is a distance learning initiative also under development. Solar-power has been used to overcome lack of electricity in some villages but has not worked very effectively. The Government is launching a new institution to spearhead ICT developments, the Institute of Telecommunications and New Technology.

    The current cost of access is 200 escudos an hour (USD2.22) but some NGOs are free. Personal access to a house is around 800 escudos (USD8.88) a month excluding tax. The Government runs .cv and .gov.cv domains.

    There are two agencies dealing with regulation: the internet and telecoms sector regulator and another agency that is responsible for type approvals on equipment.

    The Government has recently called for bids as part of the legal changes it instituted in 2001. Many of the larger operators came and said it was really too small a market but currently there are two bidders – the Chinese Shanghai Telecom and the other an American company working with local investors. The former looks likely to be successful. The new operator will be able to offer internet, mobile and cable TV.

    The islands have half a million population and there is a diaspora of about 1 million people which means for its population size there is a relatively healthy flow of international traffic. Often diaspora visitors bring back mobiles for their relatives. The cost of domestic mobile calling is 20-28 escudos per impulse, with three impulses to the minute. This givesa per minute rate of between USD0.66-0.92 centsa minute. What will be the impact of competition? According to a source close to the Ministry of Communications it will “lower prices and provide a challenge to the incumbent Portugal Telecom".

telecoms

  • Within three months of signing its contract with Tunisia’s CERT, ZTE has completed the major network construction and installation of its initial equipment and became the first company to show the new system in action.

    The WCDMA network construction that ZTE has undertaken in Tunisia covers the country’s two important cities: Sousse and Tunis. The location is made more important by the fact that Tunis will hold the second phase of the ITU World Summit on Information Technology in 2005. ZTE’s WCDMA system will provide multiple 3G services for more than 20,000 attendees from over 190 countries at this important event. Sousse is a tourist resort and visited by millions of European travellers every year. ZTE’s advanced technology will enable the city’s visitors to enjoy the same quality of 3G services that they experience at home.

    Over the past few years, ZTE has established a predominant position in North Africa's telecommunications markets: in 2003, ZTE was selected to build Africa's largest CDMA WLL project in Algeria; ZTE's GSM products have been used in large-scale applications in Nigeria and Ethiopia; and, in 2004, ZTE was selected by Egypt Telecom to construct a large-scale CDMA network covering the Nile River Delta.

    3G.co.uk

  • Telkom Kenya has been losing hundreds of millions of shillings in international traffic revenue every year through lopsided agreements with third party carriers of international traffic. These traffic refilers, the three companies have been reaping millions at Telkom's expense, influencing a massive drop in Telkom's international revenues.

    Mystery still surrounds the identity of the local links and owners of the three companies, whose operations are perhaps the most damning indictment of of former managing director Augustine Cheserem. Indeed, what has emerged is that the business of traffic refiling had become a lucrative multi-million business in which only firms with links in centres of power could participate in.And as if to drive the point home, one of the firms has been linked to associates of a former Cabinet minister.

    The largest of the companies, an operation by the name CDR and said to be based in Massachusetts in the United States, has been operating since 2001. Zentel, the second largest, also started operating at the same period. The third, N-Tel, said to be operating from Dubai, started work 2002. A fourth, Carrier 1, and which used to transport traffic to Sweden, stopped operating in the year 2001.

    The firms have been reaping millions of shillings yet they have no transmission equipment of their own and remain largely reliant on Telkom's own infrastructure. They install equipment which compresses traffic, making it possible to transmit traffic with lower transmission capacity.Well placed sources at Telkom told Business Week that the new management had given the three firms notice to wind up their operations.

    To understand how the irregular arrangement has been operating, one has to appreciate how international traffic is routed into the country. Where there are direct links between Kenya and another country, traffic is usually transported directly. And, where there are none, operators like Telkom will contract another company to convey traffic on its behalf at a commission. The prices for routing are sometimes determined through an international pact known as Total Accounting Rates.

    Telkom has been losing revenue because it has been paying a higher price to the brokers to transport outgoing international traffic while charging below market prices when it terminates the refilers' traffic into the country. Evidence obtained by Business Week shows that the tier-2 operators have been charging rates higher than what more established operators such as British Telecom (BT), Spain Telefonicas and Deutsch Telkom.

    For example, according to the agreement between BT and Telkom, the foreign operator terminates traffic into Telkom's network at USD0.20 (Sh15) a minute.But it would appear the brokers went ahead and renegotiated even lower rates with BT, allowing them to terminate BT's traffic into Kenya at a rate of USD0.10 per cent (Sh 7.50) a minute.According to their own agreements with Telkom, the brokers pay USD0.06 (Sh4.70) a minute for terminating BT's traffic into Kenya, allowing them to gain a margin of USD$0.04 (Sh3) a minute.

    What this means is that Telkom loses USD0.14 (Sh10.50) a minute for every international call transported and terminated through Telkom's network by the brokers.The loss is even greater for calls delivered to either Safaricom or KenCell, considering that Telkom has until recently been paying Sh19 to terminate the same calls to mobile networks.The revelations come against the background of raging debate about the real reasons for the rapid decline in Telkom's traffic in the past 10 years.

    Business Week claims that the tier-2 operators have been the largest contributors to the revenue declines. However this does not deal with the persistent rumours of direct international call diversion. Telkom Kenya's international minutes dropped precipitously at the end of the 1990s and this particular scam would not alter the volume of recorded minutes.

    With Telkom having given notice to terminate the tier-2 operators, the next loophole that will need to be sealed will be the illegal termination of international traffic. The snag, however, is that raids on premises of illegal operators would appear to have provoked an explosive subterranean battle between two powerful competing interests each trying to control the direction of investigations.

    In the most successful operations so far, staff of the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) recently raided the operations of an illegal operator by the name Data Global Kenya Ltd.But as it has turned out, the move has provoked intriguing undercurrents suggesting that the Data Global raid may have worked against the interests of an influential group of decision-makers within the telecommunications sector.Anxiety gripped the market a few weeks ago with rumours that the officials involved in the raid were about to be relieved of their duties.

    Data Global remains one of the most mysterious operations so far. While some of its employees have recently appeared in court on criminal charges, the main actor, Michael Butler, alias Bartlett, is yet to be arrested.With 80 lines from Telkom and 35 lines from Safaricom, Global Data had the capacity to deliver and terminate international traffic to the mobile telephone network in Kenya. It is suspected the company's mobile lines were bought from one of the large private dealers of telecommunication equipment.

    Since they cannot operate without several phone lines from Telkom, the chances of busting the illegal operators will ultimately depend on how fast Telkom can provide information and regularly monitor clients with more lines than they need for their operations.

    Success will also depend on Telkom's ability to monitor and attract operations of firms with several digital lines; and clients whose monthly bills exhibit the tendency to experience sudden upsurges.

    The latter case was graphically demonstrated during a raid in the Embakassi area, where 11 companies suspected to be related by physical address and line routing information were found to have suddenly accumulated bills amounting to Sh140 million in the month of March alone.

    In that case, nondescript firms, with no known business, were found to have accumulated millions of shillings in telephone bills.One company alone, ET-Coms, with 52 lines, was found to have a bill of Sh32.7 million in one month, while a small hotel, by the name Pikam with 5 telephone lines had consumed talk time worth Sh12.6 million in the same period. Jaffa Ltd, with eight lines, had a Sh14 million bill in a month. It is suspected that it was all part of an operation terminating international traffic into the country. With such lucrative rewards, there are considerable opportunities for the use of corrupt Telkom Kenya employees to provide lines to illegal operators.

    The Perspective

  • LogicaCMG last week announced it has been selected to provide a Next Generation Messaging solution to Wataniya Algeria. Wataniya has secured one of three GSM network licences awarded in Algeria, strengthening its position as a key mobile operator in the region. This is the first major mobile infrastructure project for LogicaCMG in Algeria and this deal has been won through LogicaCMG's longstanding strategic partnership with Siemens Mobile Networks.

    Joseph Ged, Chief Technical Officer at Wataniya Telecom, said: "The market for mobile services is growing at an astonishing rate in Algeria, creating exciting new opportunities for us as a major provider of SMS and other value-added mobile services. Our strategy to invest in new markets such as this has led to us operating GSM networks in several high-growth territories, including Kuwait and Iraq where we are also working with LogicaCMG. We are pleased to continue developing this business relationship in the confidence that we are building a solid platform for our mobile services."

  • Vodacom Tanzania Limited said last week that no mobile phone company in the country would be able to maintain its investment and satisfy its customers if the proposed interconnection rates were adopted. Speaking on the second day of the public forum on cost-based interconnection rates in Tanzania, Vodacom Tanzania Managing Director Jose Dos Santos maintained that no company would be able to recoup its investment under the proposed (reduced) rates.

    He categorically refused to buy the idea that lowering of interconnection charges would result in lower tariffs. “If reductions in interconnection charges lead to reductions in tariffs, then why do companies fail to lower tariffs for calls among their customers?” he queried. However, other companies dismissed the argument, saying that lower interconnection charges would not only enable them operate profitably, but also enable them to expand their services and introduce new world-class services.

    The Zantel Chief Executive Officer, Mohamed Salim, assured the panel headed by retired High Court Judge Buxton Chipeta that his company had been applying a 10 US cents interconnection rate and managed to record a 35 per cent increase in customer base. He said the company already covered a large part of rural Zanzibar with the 10 US cents termination rate opposed by Vodacom.

    Termination charges had nothing to do with phone companies’ roll-out plans, Salim said and added that if Zantel would be allowed to operate in Tanzania Mainland today, it could immediately cover six major towns and cover the whole of the country in five to six years’ time at the 10 US cents interconnection rate.

    Mobitel Tanzania Limited Company Secretary Francis Buturo said the company would not suffer losses and would continue to render quality services and sustain its adopted roll-out plan if the new charges were introduced.

    “Yes, in the past we concentrated in towns, but since early this year, we have adopted a roll-out plan which includes building our own backbone from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza and this plan is not going to be affected by the new interconnection rates,” he said.

    He said income from termination charges was not among the major sources of income that kept the company in business.

    Salim said the new rates would not hinder competition in the sub-sector as claimed by Vodacom, which insists that the close relations between Celtel Tanzania Limited and the Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) violated the etiquette of fair competition.

    But TTCL Chief Executive George Mbowe challenged Vodacom to provide evidence that the TTCL-Celtel connection denied other players a level playing field. “We like evidence rather than insinuation that our relations with Celtel have an anti-competition element,” Mbowe said.

    Celtel Managing Director Steve Torode said the company was very much in favour of competition and urged the authorities to adopt the new rates as a way of stimulating competition among various service providers in the sub-sector.

    The Guardian

  • - The Liberia Telecommunication Corporation Workers‚ Union has suspended a Planned strike action due Wednesday. The workers decision followed an appeal by the Corporation's New Manager, Amara Kromah. The workers strike was to press for the payment of four months salary arrears and better working condition.

    - In Niger, Celtel has recently announced that it has hit the 80,000 subscriber mark and is now covering 80% of the population. The Prime Minister has announced that Sonitel will lose its monopoly by the end of December 2005. The Government is anxious to make sure that everything is in place in bandwidth terms when the international press arrives for the Francophone Games to be held in Niamey. The employees union for Sonitel lost its case over the unpopular Chinese women manager from ZTE: the Court ruled that because they had walked off the job unilaterally they were in breach of contract.

    - The cynics in South Africa are saying that the recent competition framework was slipped in just ahead of the meeting of the Presidential Commission on ICT (which includes powerful multinationals like Microsoft). Why? Because the last time the Commission met it said it wanted to see progress on liberalisation.

    - The Ghanaian Government wants to privatise Voltacom’s fibre network which has largely been unused since it was first built. There’s an election in December of this year which may upset things but the Government looks set to get a second term…There’s no progress on sorting out Westel.

    - The latest entrepreneurs on the street corners of Accra? The “umbrella-sellers” who sell pre-paid time to make calls on mobiles to passers-by.

    - Alcatel is planning to inaugurate its new office in Egypt at the Smart Village in Cairo on September 28th, 2004.

  • - Zimbabwean incumbent Tel-One, will be staggering its tariff increases going into the future, top company officials have said, after widespread anger from consumers at a recent 400% increase. Telephone users will have to brace themselves for a quarterly upward review in tariffs, Tel-One Managing Director Winston Makamure said, at least until the point when the charges match other regional tariffs.

    According to Makamure it presently costs between ZD139 and ZD392 per minute to make a telephone call on land line to land line within the region, while Tel-One is charging ZD195, up from ZD40 before increases in July this year. This makes TelOne tariffs cheap.

    - Celtel Uganda has upgraded its network in Kakira, as part of its on-going network roll-out plan in the east to improve its coverage. “The company has made a huge investment in the new state of the art technology from Ericsson which is being rolled-out.This will bring the finest network to our customers in Uganda,” Lars Andersen, the company’s managing director, said in a statement last week.

internet

  • Twenty-eight Internet fraudsters have been arrested in Lagos, in joint operations between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the FBI.Also, USD3.5 million (N490 million) was recovered in fraudulent cashier cheques and goods bought over the Internet and shipped to Nigeria by credit card scammers.

    Osita Nwajah, Head, Media and Publicity of EFCC said the year-long cooperation targeted the rising cases of cyber crime, especially credit card fraud in Nigeria. Some of the suspected fraudsters are to be charged to court soon, Nwajah said.

    Meanwhile, the United States Attorney General, John Asheroft has commended President Olusegun Obasanjo for setting up EFCC.Ashcroft gave the public commendation, last month at an international media conference of law enforcement agencies to review Operation Web Snare, an inter-agency initiative, in Washington USA.

    Ashcroft, noted that cyber crime was a major global source of worry adding that only committed governments and cooperative efforts between law enforcement agencies around the world can effectively tackle the menace.

    He singled out Nigeria as one fine example where such a government exists and where joint operations between EFCC and FBI have been exceptionally fruitful.

    The Daily Champion

  • UUNET Kenya is set to set up an internet backbone service that can carry multimedia traffic on their network in two months time. The firm's Managing Director, Henry Kimani, says the company plans are at an advanced stage.

    He said the deal was mooted after the September 9 strategy released by the Communication Commission of Kenya to acknowledge the end of a monopoly by Telkom Kenya.It aims at making the internet sub sector fully liberalised.

    He said UUNET would utilise existing Internet Protocol (IP) infrastructure to converge traditional voice and data applications onto a unified communications platform.

    "The acceleration of convergence between telecommunications, broadcasting, multimedia and other information and communication technologies has firmly taken root in the developed world, and is rapidly opening up new ways of conducting business and commerce, and Africa has the opportunity to leapfrog international developments," he continued.

    He added that UUNET Kenya has invested in a countrywide IP network, backed by its international connectivity via UUSAT and Telkom Kenya's Jambonet to the rest of the world.

    This implementation allows UUNET Kenya to offer customers converged IP solutions and today the company is able to advise and assist customers in implementing IP solutions such as IP telephony and video conferencing.

    He said that currently only about 0.1 per cent of corporates are in a position to fully effect the use of video conferencing facility such as the World Bank, the US Embassy among others.

    According to Peter Mwondi of UUNET "the two of the most prominent and effective solutions to ensure increased operational efficiencies through convergence in Kenya is IP Telephony and Video Conferencing, as the technology utilises a single network infrastructure for the transmission of data, intra corporate voice and video traffic.

    This technology delivers the business benefits of a converged network including increased productivity, greater business flexibility and reduced operational costs."

    He added that with the introduction of the VoIP companies will experience lower overall communication costs that are about 40 per cent savings on phone bills through the toll by pass VoIP and 30 per cent savings on travel costs through video conferencing especially for frequently travelling executives, cost savings in long distance calls and centralisation of data and process proficiency.

    The other benefits derived from this convergence are that it improves bandwidth utilisation through the use of a single network to carry voice, fax, video and data and have a single sourcing for all communications which in turn reduces the network maintenance and management costs.

    He noted that organisations with phone bills exceeding Sh200,000 can save 40 per cent or more of their communications costs using UUNET's converged solutions.

    Convergence is the cornerstone to the success of telecommunications within the African continent and UUNET Kenya is best positioned to ensure its corporate customers leverage their own data networks to bring the true benefits of convergence to the forefront of their business.

    "The Kenyan market will greatly benefit from converged solutions as it brings with it economic development and upliftment because these technologies provide the platform for lower costs of communication, increased flexibility in access to phones, e-mail and unified messaging for a user situated anywhere on the UUNET network," says Mwondi.

    The technologies that form part of converged IP solutions include; IP telephony, IP video conferencing, unified messaging, IP call centres, outsourced PABX and e-mail services.

    While the regulatory authorities in Kenya only allow use of IP telephony within an organisation's own network, UUNET Kenya is working closely with the relevant authorities to leverage on its global alliances to provide corporate organisations of all sizes with the technologies to leapfrog traditional methods of communication thus adequately preparing them for migration to converged solutions since Voice over IP for corporates is legal.

    Kenya Times

  • Moroccans are the best hackers in the world, according to a report in L'Economiste, after Brazilians. They amuse themselves by attacking overseas web sites and like to attract attacks from other hackers who in return leave their work on other Arab sites. Sites which only offer elementary security are used as training grounds by hackers.

    LIRE EN FRANCAIS:

    http://www.balancingact-africa.com/news/french.html

  • African lobby groups, as well as community and independent media, are using free software and the internet to fight a lack of money and skills.

    The internet had also helped overcome the problems associated with widely dispersed audiences and, in some countries, government crackdowns on freedom of expression, speakers told the Highway Africa 2004 conference in Grahamstown last week.

    Lynne Muthoni Wanyeki, a director of Femnet, a pan-African organisation based in Kenya, said the group had used the internet to campaign for and protect women's rights. It began by sending information via e-mail and SMS to women's groups across the continent and posting information on its website about the regional debates on the formation of the African Union. It had also lobbied its network to make nominations for the posts available for women in the PanAfrican Parliament.

    Wanyeki said Femnet's experience showed there was a need to plan internet-based campaigns carefully, determining who needed to be reached, what needed to be achieved and how, and to understand better the technologies available.

    John Lannon of the Praxis Centre at Leeds University said the internet had helped human rights movements because it was cost- efficient, suited non-hierarchical structures and could be used to skirt government controls. It was used to disseminate information to a wide audience rapidly and could encourage effective action. It was also a useful research tool and provided educational material. One organisation to use the internet well was religious group Falun Gong, harassed by China's government.

    Some well-known South African examples of using the internet for lobbying are websites such as "hellkom", "telkomsucks" and "neverflysaa", which were begun by dissatisfied Telkom and South African Airways customers.

    Telkom's senior manager of corporate communications, Hans van de Groenendaal, said there was a difference between lobbying and activism on the web. A ctivism went further than lobbying for example, by encouraging supporters to send e-mails, which Telkom considered an infringement on people's right to privacy.

    Customers should have a right to express an opinion, and although companies might not like it, they should listen and respond by changing or correcting wrong perceptions, if that was the case, Van de Groenendaal said. Companies should be allowed to protect their brands and trademarks, and the media should take into account that opinions expressed on lobby sites might emanate from a minority.

    Open-source software can also help cash-strapped media organisations. The Centre for Advanced Media Prague (Camp), a Czech-based subsidiary of the Media Development Loan Fund, gives technology assistance to independent news media in emerging countries.

    In SA, Noseweek ran on Campware, MD Sava Tatic said, and the organisation had also assisted community radio stations in Indonesia and Nepal.

    Campware, which was free, was available in multiple languages and included content management, customer relationship management and print distribution tracking software.

    Another solution was using refurbished computers. Alan Finlay of Open Research said it was estimated that about 50% of Africa's computers were refurbished. These cost less than new ones and last at least five years.

    But there were limitations to using the internet, Lannon said. Skills were often lacking, and human rights websites and e-mails were competing for attention with a lot of other noise in cyberspace. The internet was only a tool and could not "change the disengaged to the engaged".

    All Africa

  • - Francis Quartey, IDN has done a VoIP calling deal with Ghana Telecom but other ISPs have not had the chance to reach the same arrangement…the Ghanaian regulator NCA is meant to be generating a paper on the subject (assisted by a World Bank consultant) but haven’t we been here before?…Outgoing calls are not mentioned in the draft telecommunications act which seems to be an oversight…Ghana Telecom is offering GISPA bandwidth at USD7,900 mbps…IP Planet has put in a counter-offer of USD7,800. Another international carrier was also going to put an offer to GISPA but seems to have fallen out with Ghana Telecom over it.

    - Ghanaian cyber-café Busy Internet is about to put in place charging for its wireless hot-spot. There are now quite large numbers of people using it.

    - Rumours reach us that an African ISP is about to open an operation in Dakar.

    The Nation

computing

  • Cisco Systems, has announced that it has evolved its solution distribution model for sub-Saharan Africa, bringing cost, time-to- market and support benefits to distributors, resellers and customers alike.

    "With the selection of these qualified distribution partners we have reached another milestone in Cisco's distribution strategy for EMEA," said Haico Meijerink, senior director, EMEA Distribution Operations at Cisco Systems. "After conducting a thorough RFI/RFP process for the sub-Saharan Africa region, we have reached our objective to optimise our distribution landscape in this region. Together with these local organisations, we see a great opportunity to expand the Cisco distribution footprint in Africa still further."

    With the new distribution model, the sub-Saharan Africa region has been structured as follows: two master distributors will service a network of authorised distributors, each of which has been assigned specific countries they can operate. These authorised distributors will sell to in-country VARs that will, in turn, deliver point or integrated solutions to end-user customers. Cisco"s first-tier, pan- African systems integrator partners - such as Business Connexion and Dimension Data - will continue to source products directly from Cisco.

    "Our technology often forms the very fabric of our customers' businesses. The networks that we build are relied upon for every facet of a company's operations, whether concentrated in one country or spanning a sub-region or the continent," explains George Atrash, channel manager, sub-Saharan Africa at Cisco Systems. "One of our highest priorities when creating our network of distributors was to find companies with the right logistics infrastructure, product and solution knowledge, and the ability to provide training and add value."

    Cisco's VARs and customers are set to benefit from this distribution evolution. VARs will have access to the distributors" large stock holding and will therefore be able to source products in even shorter time frames. Customers will also benefit from this faster time-to- market, as well as the ability to interface more closely with their Cisco solution providers.

    Vanguard

  • Two schools have engaged in a resource-sharing project in a way that places their students in a classroom of the future. Unlike other schools in a similar situation, which bus pupils between venues, this pioneering pair have used technology.Using two standard Microsoft PCs, two simple webcams, two headsets, a few cheap speakers and two Smart whiteboards, St Alban's College and Gatang High School in Gauteng may have revolutionised the African classroom.

    The schools are two of five involved in the Ulwazi E-Learning Project, a pilot broadband wireless schools network project being conducted in the Pretoria area.With the help of Motorola and the Department of Communications, these schools have deployed a broadband wireless technology that has allowed a teacher at St Alban's to teach science to a class at Gatang, 20km east of the capital in Mamelodi.

    "The most amazing thing about this project," says an excited Ron Beyers, who teaches the class, "is that there are virtually no running costs.After an initial set-up cost, there are no fees for connecting the schools and staying online to teach the lesson. There are no data or call costs." Beyers and another technology enthusiast, Richard Gerber, from the Department of Communications, came up with the concept about five years ago when they met at a conference in Morocco. This meeting sparked the birth of what is thought to be the first virtual classroom in Africa.

    Using Smart boards, which were supplied by Omega Digital Technologies, Beyers is able to teach from many kilometres away in real-time, while seeing, hearing and interacting with the remote pupils. The boards are powered by two PCs that use Microsoft's NetMeeting technology.The core of the project is Motorola's Canopy technology, which enables a private broadband wireless network that links the schools without the need for a satellite or any other communication channel.

    All five schools involved in the pilot project have already been equipped with the Canopy technology, but three schools are waiting for funding for computers and Smart boards. Pupils at Gatang can view Beyers on a video win-dow that is projected onto the interactive whiteboard, which is identical to the whiteboard in Beyers's science laboratory.

    "Being able to be a part of Mr Beyers's lessons is helping us with our school work because we cannot do all the experiments he can do in his lab," said Francis Mashaba, a Grade 10 learner who attends the fortnightly voluntary classes. "It has been good for revising what we've been learning because it's with another teacher. We can't afford all the chemicals that St Alban's College has," he added.

    With bright flashes of chemical explosions, Gatang pupils are shown what happens when sodium is set alight, and when potassium is dipped in water. Beyers adds to the realism of the experience by coughing as he chokes on the fumes of his experiment."You should be using a fume cupboard," comments Leslie Hlengani, Gatang's science teacher, speaking to Beyers across the Canopy network.

    At a more than safe distance from Beyers's mad science explosions, Mashaba and his classmates are able to see the colours of the chemical flames and the brightness of the explosions.The only thing the pupils miss out on is the smell and the heat.The pupils are later asked to approach the interactive whiteboard and to explain various chemistry theories to Beyers.

    All Africa

  • PM Tech Holdings has introduced the latest version of its acclaimed Business System Monitoring (BSM) enterprise-wide solution, Enterprise Gauge, which offers a number of enhancements and features that is now built on Open Source architecture.

    Developed by PM Tech's software division, PM Ora Software, version 4 offers all the well-known functionality that has made it the company's flagship product, plus the added benefits of running an open source-based solution.

    One of Enterprise Gauge 4's most important enhancements it that it's now entirely based on Java, running on multiple databases such as MySQL as well as Apache Tomcat web server.

    Since its rollout, almost 5 years ago, Enterprise Gauge has enabled companies to proactively identify problem areas within their IT infrastructures, ensuring that notifications and alerts are generated before it is too late.

    Indeed, Enterprise Gauge monitors and connects four crucial layers of the enterprise-wide environment: fault; configuration; performance; and security - proactively providing notifications should issues arise.

    PM Ora Software has also greatly simplified version 4's deployment process and now features an integrated default option enabling it to be installed within 10 minutes. Simply press "next", "next" etc and you're done.

    "With Enterprise Gauge version 4, we've not only strived to rollout a BSM solution that is packed with new functionality, but to also align ourselves closely with the country's Open Source service providers," comments Cornel van Lingen, product manager at PM Ora Software.

    Enterprise Gauge version 4's also features a new front-end client UI (user interface) Java WebStart that offers enhanced intuitive and customisation functionalities such as the ability to simply "drag and drop" information.

    Looking at other new features, version 4's Business Map dashboard enables companies to import any map and "drag and drop" it in Enterprise Gauge. This will assist companies to more accurately plan, assess and monitor their systems, for example, users can now display their environments graphically.

    Also, Enterprise Gauge now features an Application Programming Interface (API)that can be customised to add any object into the software, which means that basically anything can be monitored. The API consists of two Java classes (Connected and Executed) that will appear to the user as standard object type with flashing icons, reports and notifications.

  • A new software product for general and specific office use has been launched in Mombasa. Known as the e-Horizon Human Resource Management System (HRMS) 3.0, the Software Technologies product will be provided to users of an earlier version, e-Horizon HRMS 2.7, free of charge.

    Software Technologies managing director Jyoti Mukherjee said the HRMS 3.0 is loaded with features that will help users meet the ever changing corporate needs.

    "It features training, performance appraisal, leave and disciplinary action modules, which have been enhanced to ease processing of information into valuable knowledge database," she said.

    Mukherjee said the product has also been enriched with recruitment, corporate directory, ID card, medical check-up packages to enrich the functionality of the system.

digtool

  • The property professional’s demand for greater and immediate access to critical market data for use in valuations, models and analyses has led to the introduction of a new suburb trends analysis tool by the South African Property Transfer Guide (SAPTG).

    SAPTG’s new addition to its comprehensive web-based property market information service empowers the property professional to instantly gain suburb summations in the form of price trends over the past one, three or five years and the median value of prices being commanded.

    “The property professional is constantly looking for real time access to current and relevant information to supplement their own research or to provide their clients with sound recommendations. The greatest need for any property practitioner is to identify the key elements of an area quickly – where is the demand and what prices can be realistically commanded,” explains John Sikiotis, managing director of Knowledge Factory, developers and sole suppliers of SAPTG.

    The new suburb trend analysis tool - available free to all 1800 valued subscribers – empowers SAPTG’s clients to compare a suburb’s current performance against its historical performance or against that of other suburbs in an instant.

    “To ensure that the trends and analyses provided by this tool are not inappropriately influenced by undue factors, “unusual” property transfers have been removed from the underlying data prior to the statistical procedures being applied,” explains Sikiotis.

    “In addition to this, we have separated the analyses into two main categories, being freehold and sectional title properties to further ensure that the analyses are relevant and not clouded by the inclusion of dissimilar property types. Each of these categories is, once again, segmented into a high value and low value price range to cater for the instance where there are both sales of “developed land” and “land only” in a suburb, or where there are two distinct price bands being evidenced.

    “This will go a long way to making unreasonable valuations which create unrealistic expectations in the market, a thing of the past. Sound valuations are now a reality, given the backing of relevant and current information gleaned from sales statistics pertinent to that particular area,” adds Sikiotis.

    The suburb trend analysis tool is the latest feature that SAPTG, the country’s leading web based information source in the property sector, has introduced. This complements its indepth 11-year history of Deeds Office data. SAPTG also has the only comprehensive comparative property market analysis tool in the marketplace.

    SAPTG has a nationwide subscriber base of property professionals, which include estate agents, financial institutions, property valuers, auctioneers, property developers and the like.

Digital Content

  • The South African Secret Service (SASS) will tonight at 20:00 launch its official website as part of an ongoing effort to keep the public informed of their role, developments and challenges. The launch takes place at a function in Midrand attended by representatives from business, government and non-governmental organisations.

    The website features a history, a ten year review frequently asked questions, the structure, oversight and control mechanism and the legal framework in which the Service performs its functions.

    Headed by Director-General Mr. Hilton Dennis, the foreign intelligence service was formed in 1995 following the amalgamation of statutory and non-statutory intelligence bodies that existed prior to 1994.

    Minister Ronnie Kasrils said: "The launch of the SASS website is a sign of the tremendous strides achieved in a short space of time by this young Service.The website will provide the public with an understanding of the mandate of the Service, and my hope is that they will play a greater role in helping us to achieve our goals". The website address is www.sass.gov.za

  • - The President of Cameroon was announced dead on a web site last year and had to leave the country he was visiting to return home to prove he was still alive. The authorities in the USA were able to identify the individual as a Cameroonian living in the States but no prosecution followed. Perhaps anxious to avoid future misunderstandings the President launched his own website last Thursday: www.presidentielle2004.gov.cm

    - A Web site that promotes positive news about SA is growing substantially, say its creators.The privately run, non-commercial Web site, www.positivelysa.co.za, aims to "offer a central repository of engaging positive facts and inspirational quotes most relevant to SA today".Readership has grown from around 2 000 readers in its first two months to 14 000 at present, with positive feedback from readers. "We've only received three negative responses and that was in the first two months when we launched the site," says De Klerk.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The annual profit anticipated by the state telecom monopoly, the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) is down by 40.8 million Br (USD4.9m) for the years 2003/04, when compared to the previous year.

    Although the final auditing remains to be conducted, after statements were collected from the Company's district offices, officials announced that last year's profit will stand at 331.2 million Br. This amount is even worse compared to what was planned. Their performance was 47pc lower.

    "We had been ambitious," admitted ETC's Managing Director, Tesfaye Birru, at a press conference held in his office earlier this month.

    The management had planned to install 170,130 landline telephones, but only managed to provide to 95,131 homes. In mobile provision, its target of selling 350,000 SIM cards ran short by 100,000. Even those with mobile connections are still complaining about the quality of its service, which suffers from call terminations, a busy network, and lack of clarity.

    ETC's managers pledged at the press conference that they are trying hard to solve the problems, together with their equipment suppliers, the Swedish Ericsson and the Chinese ZTE.

    ETC was even poor at spending its budget last year. Of the 2.6 billion Br capital budget it had allocated, only 1.2 billion Br was spent."It was more a year of planning than results," said Abayneh Abebe, deputy manager in charge of Telecom Business Services Department.

    He admitted that the effort made to implement the civil service reform programme, prescribed by the federal government in a bid to enable such companies provide expedient services to the public, has achieved hardly any results. Abayneh criticized the management for "deceiving itself" in a hope that the lower rank and file of the Corporation had been as reformed as the leadership."It was a year where employees of the Corporation failed to realize that they are here to serve the public," he said.

    Tesfaye on the other hand argued that although last year's profit was lower compared to the "ambitious plans", it was, nonetheless, a record year in terms of accomplishments. ETC had a positive year in terms of its revenue which grew by 130 million Br to 1.13 billion Br. Its asset increased to a total of 3.9 billion Br from the 3.1 billion Br in the previous year.

    The Corporation also claimed to have registered results in urban network installation, accomplishing 95pc of its target to install 131,637 lines. The management also prided itself for successfully networking 401 schools of the 450 originally planned to be connected through video conferencing. Among the 600 woredas which it had planned to connect in a similar way, it had completed wiring up to 495 of them.

    However, a report by this newspaper two weeks ago disclosed that the much anticipated connections of these woreda's through a live satellite link failed during its trail phase. ETC claims to have drawn considerable lessons from last year's experience. A particular area was related to the manner in which it conducted the procurement of goods and services. The Managing Director disclosed that the Corporation will no longer make procurements after the first quarter of the budget year.

    For the year 2004/05, ETC has budgeted a record high of 4.2 billion Br to be spent on developing its backbone infrastructure that could install 3,198Km of optical fibre. This installation, intended to help the Corporation provide telephone services to 3,000 kebeles across the country, will be stretched in six directions: Dire Dawa to Djibouti, Dessie to Mekelle, Bahir Dar to Nekemte and Jimma to Awassa.

    The Corporation plans to expand landline telephones by 250,000 lines, mobiles to 850,000, internet to 40,000, and 220 additional services for data during the year.

    ETC also plans to install microwave technology in Harar, Bale, Arsi, Shashamene, Arba Minch and Addis Abeba, disclosed its managers. The managers have also vowed to fight those whom they allege are practicing illegal internet telephony, creating a new organization, the Network Operation Center.ETC has a total of 180,000 mobile subscribers, 14,000 internet users and 470,000 telephone lines in the country.

    Addis Fortune

  • With a turnover of FCFA 17 billion, Sonatel has had a 30% increase in its first quarter from FCFA 90.2 billion for the same quarter last year. If mobile telephony didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent it as Sonatel remains the leader in this sector. Deducting operating costs, the increase in turnover is 41.49%, an increase from FCFA39.8 billion to FCFA56.4 billion. Sonatel has 575,000 mobile subscribers in Senegal and 180,000 in Mali through its subsidiary Ikatel. It has 228,000 fixed lines in Senegal. This increase in turnover comes despite lowering its international tariffs.

    Le Soleil

  • - Winston Makamure, Managing Director of Tel-one has applied to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ),for concessionary funds under the Public Sector Facility. He could not disclose the amount, which the company has applied for, save to say it was running into several billions of dollars.

    - The Pinnacle Technology Holdings board has proposed a maiden dividend of 1.5c a share for the year to 30 June. The company's net profit for the year rose from R2.41 million to R12.66 million, while headline earnings of 8.9c a share were up from 4.8c previously. Revenue increased by 19% from R417.82 million to R497.2 million. Pre-tax profit of R20.56 million compared with R12.78 million previously.

More

  • * Stakeholders in the Nigerian telecommunication sector including the country's High Commissioner to Britain, Dr Christopher Kolade have condemned the high GSM tariffs in Nigeria at the 3rd Nigerian International Telecommunications Summit started in London yesterday.

    In his welcome address, the High Commissioner had tasked participants at the Summit to discuss the key issue of high telecom tariff in Nigeria as compared to the quality of service: "When you provide a service, the cost of the service to the consumer is a critical factor in the sustained success of the service. It is true that when you start giving a service, the cost to the consumer may be high, because the ground has not been tested, but it must be the objective to lower the cost as much as possible so that they can expand the market. As you hear from the presentation, the market is large and it is there. In order to utilize the market to its maximum; you need to bring down the cost within the majority of the people in the market and that is the point I was trying to make."

    * Mesh networks are the way of the future, as they put power in the hands of the consumer rather than the mobile operators, says Clickatell Development Manager Gary Cousins. Cousins, who will address Futurex Cape 2004: The Conference at the end of the month, believes mesh networks will be the way of the future. "People are already setting up their own WiFi networks around Johannesburg and Cape Town. With the legislation coming in next year, we will see more and more people converting to mesh networks. "The fundamental thing is the paradigm shift it will offer. The consumers will be empowered and will no longer be at the mercy of large telecoms conglomerates." In his presentation, Cousins will take a futuristic view of where telecoms is going, covering grid computing, mesh networks and peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. "It will be a different view of how telecoms is perceived today. With regards to P2P, I will look at Skype, and how it is a threat to global telecoms."

    * Our first sighting of an iPod in sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa: Aboubacar Kossomi of USAID in Niger was toting one at the workshop last week in Dakar on international ICT issues.

    * On the move: Bjorn Anderson of Ghana Telecom who was conducting the negotiations with GISPA has retired…Nii Quaynor left NCS earlier this year to go and work for Enterprise Africa...Liberia Telecomunications Corporation has a new Managing Director who will take over from Acting Chairman Wesley Momo Johnson...Paul Shaw has resigned from Africa Online in Malawi and is concentrating on doing wireless work...Rogers W'O Okot-Uma has left the Commonwealth Secretariat and is now working for Commonwealth Informatics Resources...Webmaster of Guinea's Boubah.com Bah Thierno Khaliron is the proud father of a daughter born on 22 September.

    * The South African Government has appointed four new non-executive directors to the Board of Telkom: Dumisani Tabata, Richard Tenza, Veli Ntombela and Thenjiwe Chikane. Three of the new directors are replacements for non-executive directors whose three-year terms recently came to an end. The outgoing directors are Peter Moyo, Tlhalefang Sekano and Rick Menell. Chikane is replacing Themba Vilakazi, who has resigned from the Telkom board. Tabata is a director of a King William's Town-based firm of attorneys, Smith Tabata, while Tenza is a certified public accountant and director of consulting firm Global Business Equilibrium. Ntombela, a tax specialist, is a director at accounting firm Sizwe Ntsaluba, and Chicane, a chartered accountant, is CEO of MGO Consulting.

  • - 3rd ICT for Government Conference

    Accra International Conference Centre, Accra, Ghana

    27-28 January 2005

    Hosted by: Ministry of Communications, Ghana

    Organized by: Techgov

    - Centurion Systems and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) East African chapter have organised the 5th annual Engineering Students’ Exhibition. This year’s event will be held on 16th October 2004 at the Sarit Centre Expo from 10am to 5pm..

    - UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is organizing a sub-regional workshop on ICT Indicators in Gaborone, Botswana from 26 to 29 October, 2004. More information about the workshop can be found at http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/botswana04/index.html.

    - Gearing up for newly legal Internet telephony
    http://www.itweb.co.za/events/voip/2004/default.asp 

    A one-day event hosted by ITWeb

    From technologies, business opportunities and strategies to practical solutions, services and action plans.

    The Forum, Bryanston Tuesday 16 November, 2004 

  • - There is a contract appointment for an interim CFO in Nigeria for a 3-6 month assignment. Applicants must have telco operator experience. USD800/day plus flights and accommodation. Required to start 1st week in October 2004. Contact:dvoice@eutopiaonline.com

    jobs@afrinic.net

    If our correspondent is "off the mark" or you have factual amendments, mail them to us and we will include them in subsequent News Updates. If you'd like to contribute, write and let us know.

    If you need information about a particular place or issue, just send your questions in. We are always happy to follow up on readers concerns.



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