Issue no 335

top story

  • Ghanaian press reports were full of jubilant crowing that the Norwegian contract managers Telenor were kicked out of Ghana Telecom in the run-up to privatisation scheduled for June 2007 (watch for almost inevitable slippage on that date). Whilst the reports were full of the under-performance of the company’s contract managers, there was little discussion of the company’s considerable problems (including under-investment by the Government) or even the under-performance of some of the company’s staff. In the blame game, it’s always easier to blame foreigners than those closer to home. Ask Nigeria’s politicians who did much the same with Nitel.

    According to the Ghanaian Chronicle, the Board of Directors of Ghana Telecom (GT), after a marathon meeting last week, accepted the resignation of the Norwegian Chief Executive Officer Fraude Haugen from Telenor, appointing MD. Oduro-Nyaning, Deputy CEO as the new CEO. Haugen was allegedly taking home US$100,000 a month and in addition there was a monthly contract fee paid to Telenor of $150,000.

    The Board's decision formally brings to an end the three-year management service contract signed in 2003 and ended on 31st December 2005. Both parties agreed to end the management service contract whose term had elapsed. A wholly Ghanaian Management Team takes over with immediate effect, with a one- month transitional period to allow for a handover.

    Other members of the new management team are: Joe Owusu-Ansah, Acting. Chief Financial Officer, who will continue to act in that position, David Mettle, Chief Technical Officer, Philip Sowah, Chief Officer, Onetouch, Fitnat Adjetey, Companay Solicitor and Ekow Mills as Company Secretary.

    The Communications Ministry has had 13 companies respond to the tender for international advisers to oversee the privatization process. The Ministry is to conduct a financial review of the company as part of the preparation for this process. The company needs a deep-pocket investor who will make improvements to the core network and cut over-staffing levels to improve profitability. After all, this is a key strategic telecoms company, not a local job creation project.

    The Ghanaian Chronicle’s report comments:”It was hinted that following the public outcry that greeted the astronomical sums being carted away by the Norwegians, both the President and the Minister have vowed to ensuring an open and transparent process to protect the national interest”. Local press coverage is almost hysterical over the amounts paid to foreigners but local reporters seem to suffer amnesia on the point that these sums were agreed by Ghana Telecom’s main shareholder, the Government.

    But the Ghanaian Government has always been rather good at deflecting attention away from its own laggardly and indecisive performance. Ghana has the unique distinction of being the only country in Africa where the Government has ended up being the main shareholder in the country’s three key telecoms assets -Ghana Telecom, Westel and Voltacom - after a flawed privatisation programme. No timetable has yet been set out for the privatisation of Westel and Voltacom. As ever there is much talk but little action.

    Similarly the Government “talks the talk” on attracting call centre business and external ICT investors but there is still no sign of legislation to legalise VoIP that would help encourage these developments. External investors can see quite clearly that the “talk, talk” does not connect to action. Whereas Ghana was once in the vanguard of those developing its ICT sector, it is now in danger of slipping behind other more advanced countries like Kenya and Nigeria.

    Meanwhile the foreigners were also getting it in the neck in the transition from Areeba (formerly owned by Investcom) to MTN. In this process, local Ghanaian lawyer David Hesse, formerly Company Secretary, took legal action to prevent the Board unseating him from his position and the Board of Directors. There has also been the curious sight of Richmond Aggrey, a 20% shareholder in the local Areeba subsidiary taking on the contention that his name had been removed from the shareholders list of Scancom Ltd, without any explanation, as a result of which he filed an ex parte motion for an interlocutory injunction against Investcom Consortium Holdings SA (now Investcom LLC) of Beirut, the parent company, Scancom Limited and Grandview Management Ltd in the USA to restrain them from dealing with the shares, stock and or interest in Scancom Limited in any manner. According to him, if the defendants are not restrained it would affect his 20 per cent interest in Scancom Limited.

    Whatever the rights and wrongs of each of these individual cases, what is at issue is simply the takeover of one company by another and in these circumstances both management and officers are usually changed as a matter of course. But again the local press portrays the whole drama as if it was solely the fault of those insidious foreigners and that the challenger Ghanaians are heroic figures much wronged.

    Perhaps it is time for serious Ghanaians to put their money where their mouth appears to be and invest in the forthcoming Ghana Telecom privitization and show that they can run things better than their Government and the foreigners.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Millicom Ghana Limited, operators of TIGO cellular network has been asked to give priority to the coverage of newly created districts in its expansion programme. Within the next one and half months, Funsi in Wa East, Gwollu in Sissala West and Ullo in Jirapa/Lambussie would be hooked onto the TIGO network while a new call site would be established at the Wa campus of the University of Development Studies.

    - Celtel Malawi is launching a GSM payphone called One-4-All, which has already been a success in Zambia, Kenya and Uganda. Costing MWK8,000 (USD60), it will allow street operators to monitor their daily sales and set their own billing tariffs.

telecoms

  • Public telephone provider TelOne should involve other players in the East Africa Submarine Cable Network project for it to raise the required foreign currency, the Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communications has said. Committee chairperson Leo Mugabe said this last Monday while responding to remarks by TelOne technical director Hampton Mhlanga on the overview of the 2007 National Budget.

    "Why are you doing it on your own? Why are you not involving other players?" he asked. Mhlanga had told the committee that TelOne required at least US$18.5 million to complete the project to link the country with the rest of the world via optic fibre.

    He said TelOne had so far invested US$5 million in the construction of an underground cable from Mthunzini (formerly Durban) in South Africa to Sudan where it would link up with Asia and Europe.

    Mhlanga revealed that TelOne was paying the US$5 million it was contributing towards construction of the undersea cable through instalments and was expected to have paid the full amount by the end of next year. He said by December this year, the company was required to pay at least US$155 000 while in February next year it would have to pay US$750 000, in May next year US$ 500 000 and the remainder by the end of the year.

    The company would require an additional US$13.5 million to construct a cable from Harare to Beira through Mutare where it would connect with the undersea cable. It would also need to construct cables to link the country with neighbouring countries such as Botswana and Zambia as well as Harare and other major cities and towns in the country.

    Mugabe castigated TelOne’s management for lacking innovation, saying the company was failing to generate revenue when it had all the capacity to do so. "You have the capacity to generate the money but you are not doing so. Why you are not doing so, we don't know," he said. This last comment appears rather unfair on TelOne as the current state of the Zimbabwean economy is hardly conducive to generating sufficient revenue for investment.

    The Herald

  • An Egyptian company has won the tender for joint ownership of Telkom Kenya's loss-making handsets division. The Egyptian Telephone Company beat five bidders, including Kenya Power and Lighting Company to clinch the joint venture bid for Gilgil Telecommunications Industries (GTI,) an assembler and manufacturer of telecommunications products.

    The company plans to invest $24 million (Sh1.6 billion) in GTI, but wants 70 per cent of the company, leaving the rest to Telkom. However, Telkom managing director, Sammy Kirui, said yesterday that the two parties would go into further talks, in order to agree on how to split the shareholding. He said Telkom's initial plan was an outright sale of GTI, but realised buyers were interested in stripping the company of its assets. "To achieve the initial objective of GTI complex we thought we had to retain some shareholding so that we can have a say in the management of the company," Kirui told reporters at his Nairobi office after announcing the winner.

    The GTI complex comprise a mechanical workshop, electronics workshop, maintenance centre, carpentry workshop and a pole treatment plant. When GTI was established it had a ready market in the monopoly provider, but after liberalisation of the telecommunications industry, it faced stiff competition as other players were licensed to procure and sell customer products, such as telephone sets, that were also assembled at GTI.

    Before GTI retrenched its 331 employees early this year, Kirui said Telkom was spending Sh5 million (US$72,000) every month to pay staff of the loss-making subsidiary. The Egyptian firm said it would employ 278 employees immediately.

    "You have given us the opportunity and we will fulfil your expectations," company's Anwar Hussein told Mr Kirui. Mr Kirui said a team sent to Egypt to find more information about the company found that it had successful track record in acquiring privatised telecommunications manufacturing facilities in Africa.

    In February the government approved the corporate restructuring of Telkom with a view of making it a viable telecommunications company. As part off the restructuring process the government authorised among other recommendations the divestiture of loss making subsidiaries.

    The Nation

  • An Abu Dhabi Group is seeking a license to start a new mobile phone company in Uganda. Business Editor Paul Busharizi interviewed Bashir Ahmad Tahir about his plans.

    QUESTION. Who are the Dhabi Group?

    ANSWER: The Dhabi Group is very diversified. We have seven core investors four of whom are from the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and the other three are well known businessmen in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

    The chairman, His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan is related to the president of the UAE and is a federal minister in his own right.

    What are you involved in?

    Our core business is banking. Sheik Al Nahayan is the chairman of the fifth largest bank in UAE, the Union National Bank, United Bank Ltd, the third largest bank in Pakistan which we own a 51% stake and the Bank Al Falah which we own 80%. In UAE, we have an edible oil manufacturing plant.

    We have own hotels - the Royal Meridian and the Al Ain in Abu Dhabi and in Dubai we are building the Movenpick Hotel.

    The group also owns a car air-conditioning plant in Iran, a $159m joint venture with a Japanese company. We are involved in oil exploration and we have about $1b in real estate.

    Our Warid Telecoms has seven million subscribers in Pakistan and we are to launch in Bangladesh in January - where we have planned for five million subscribers and Congo Brazaville where we expect to launch by June.

    What is your interest in Uganda?

    We are looking to invest in telecoms, set up a mobile phone company. Through this investment Uganda will become the first country in Africa to adopt Wimax technology, a step up above current 3G technologies.

    We want to establish a pharmaceutical plant for the local markets and for export. We will start feasibility studies for the project. We hope to be on the ground by the end of next year or a little bit later subject to permission and land acquisitions.

    We also want to develop a shopping complex in Kampala, a five-star hotel, office space and residences.

    We also plan to open a branch of our Bank Al Falah. We already have board approval and we are applying to the central bank.

    If all goes according to plan, in the next few years, we should be one of the biggest investors in the country. We will not only be an investor in Uganda but will attract other investors from the region like we did in Pakistan. An initial $40m investment in Pakistan has now grown to $1.5b.

    How much are you earmarking for investment in Uganda?

    In the next two to three years, we should have invested $400 to $500m but naturally as you go along, you see more opportunities and this could change.

    What kind of support would you require from the Government?

    We are going to seat with the Government and to see whether the existing tax regime and regulatory environment is feasible and make any business sense. The Government has to look at the benefits of our participation in technology transfer and employment.

    In Congo Brazzaville, we have some tax relief and other incentives that make it possible to do business at the levels to which we are used to.

    When do you hope your mobile company will be up and running?

    As far as the GSM license is concerned, the Government has been very supportive. We are now under pressure to be as efficient in our investment as government was. I am looking forward to being in the market by August. We will be a GSM operator. Our next step is to provide Wimax services and establish a pharmaceutical plant. The difference between us and other telecom operators is that we are investors in the broad sense. We are not only mobile telephone operators.

    What are your expectations of the Ugandan mobile phone market?

    A country of 28 million people, the number of mobile users is approximately 8%. When we went to Pakistan last year, the teledensity was 6%. Today it is more than 20%. You have to gauge the income level. If you can provide what people want, get the right type of handset and tariff structure, you should be okay.

    How much do you think will go into start up costs?

    The team is working on that but I guess an initial investment before operations of between $170 and $180m. But it could be more; $150 to $200m.

    How many subscribers are you hoping for by putting down such money?

    We are planning for four million users within three to five years. But we will have capacity for 1.5 million at launch. In Pakistan, our first year expectations were met in the 40 days.

    What is the attraction of Uganda for you?

    In Europe, we are talking about GDP growth of less than 3%. They have come to a saturation point.

    In Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, we were talking of 2 -3% growth five years ago. They are now 6%. China's growth was 0% a few years ago, it is now 10%. In Africa, we are talking of 5-8%. Everybody recognises that in the years to come, growth will come from the sub-continent, Far East and Africa

    You think Uganda can sustain this magnitude of investment?

    If your head tells you this is a good place, and your heart confirms, you have to do it and by the Grace of God, we will be successful in Uganda.

    What drives your expansion?

    Our chairman's vision and instructions are that you don't focus on financial outcome, wherever you are; concentrate on quality and value-added services. There is no reason that technology used in the West should not be used here. You will be success if you have quality, the right price and service.

    What is the relationship between the Middle East and Africa?

    I think there are a lot of things that can happen between Africa and the Middle East. We have a very long history and there are a lot of things that can happen between these two regions.

    What is the book value of the Dhabi Group?

    We don't talk about wealth where we come from in those terms. But each of our core seven investors is worth $1b. So the Group's book value is more than $7b.

    New Vision

  • The Telecoms Action Group, which raised in excess of R 5,000,000 from disgruntled telecoms consumers for a campaign to highlight problems in this arena, has set a date for their campaign to hit newspapers.

    The aim of this advertising campaign is to spark consumer consciousness around the link between Telkom's high prices and its exorbitant profits, and the complicity of the South African government and ICASA in maintaining the status quo. According to Richard Frank, founder of the TAG, a full page advert will be published in the Mail & Guardian newspaper on Friday 19 January 2006.

    “The advert, developed in conjunction with Da Vinci Edison Bell and Peppermint media strategists, and paid for by over 100 pledgers, will reveal how Telkom manages to make billions of rands profit at the expense of the South African consumer,” said Frank.

    A total of R5,475,000 (US$ 778,164 ) was raised for an advertisement in the national newspaper Mail & Guardian, but according to Frank there is a good chance of cheap or even free advertising space from other newspapers around the same date. "We've made a few friends among the big media companies in South Africa, who see the importance and value of our message," says Frank.

    The speed and ease with which this amount was raised and the willingness of some publications to make advertising space available free of charge gives a good indication of the prevailing negativity towards Telkom.

    Frank is confident that next year will be the year where consumers will get the upper hand. "We believe 2007 will be the year that telecoms consumers fight back against the lack of momentum in the South African telecoms market," he said. "This campaign will bring the topic firmly onto the national agenda."

    The TAG will however not stop after this campaign and will continue to be involved in the fight for better telecoms services. “After the advert, TAG will continue to support consumer groups fighting for the liberalisation of telecoms in South Africa,” Frank said. "We see ourselves in a supporting role to the likes of MyADSL and Antitrust, providing media expertise to get the consumer message across."

    MyADSL

  • The government of Mozambique has approved plans to award the country’s third cellular licence in the first quarter of next year. Reuters quotes Transport and Communications Minister Antonio Munguambe, who said: ‘There is room for competition. We are going to issue a third licence and once the regulatory body is through with technical aspects, we will immediately launch the tender, probably in the first quarter of 2007.’ Enquiries had already been received from MTN and Celtel, he added. Mozambique is currently home to two operators, state-owned mCel and the local unit of South Africa-based Vodacom. They serve around two million subscribers between them, with mCel claiming almost two-thirds of the market.

    Telegeography

  • Madagascar’s incumbent Telma officially launched its own mobile network this week. It has rolled out its network to 20 towns across Madagascar and has attracted 13,000 active subscribers during its soft launch period in November. It is the third mobile operator after Orange and Celtel.

    It has long-term plans to have coverage in the 120 towns that the incumbent offers fixed lines in, compared with the 90 or so towns offered by it competitors. Ericsson has been the main supplier of the GSM network equipment and Telma has plans to invest US$90 million.

  • The first Africa Telecentre Leaders’ Forum concluded last week in Porto Novo, Benin. The forum brought together community media, telecentre and network leaders from across the continent to share their successes and challenges, skills and ideas. Over 90 participants attended from over 20 countries. The forum was organised by telecentre.org, UNESCO and the Open Knowledge Network.

    The forum used an innovative and dynamic facilitation approach to maximise interaction and networking among participants. Atypical of events of this type there were no keynote speeches, no formal panels and a marked absence of digital slide presentations. Participants designed and self-selected sessions based on their own interests and a majority of the forum’s work was done in small groups. A post-forum wiki is being established to facilitate follow-through on specific projects and to synthesise key points for both practitioners and policy makers.

    A number of alternative formats had participants rotating through ten five-minute presentations in the course of an hour, pitching their ideas in a project marketplace and running short skill-sharing and peer-assist sessions. While organisers recognise the need to refine and adapt the methodology, the approach resonated strongly among participants, particularly younger paricipants.

    “I found here in two days the kind of information and ideas I have not found in my own country in two years” said Nouhou Soumana, manager of a community multimedia centre in Goudel, Niger, a pilot that aims to inspire more than 100 community radios across the country to make more strategic use of ICTs. Asked why the forum was so useful, he responded “No question, it has been the approach. The methodology demands a certain passion and engagement from everyone involved and so people are able to discover things they actually need. It was exceptional.”

    Key involvement and support for the forum and for larger community multimedia and telecentre objectives also came from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Microsoft.

    UNESCO used the opportunity to bring together programme specialists working with community multimedia centres from across Africa as well as from Asia and the Caribbean to review the recent independent evaluation of the organisation’s community multimedia projects and new strategies to promote the integration of traditional media and new ICTs. The meeting reaffirmed the UNESCO commitment to community multimedia, especially in respect of strategic projects at the local and national level and for building the capacity of media, civil society and government to foster community access to the widest possible range of ICTs.

    Among other recommendations were a clearer elaboration of the CMC approach, a more central place for development content in promotion of the model and stronger focuses on policy advocacy, open curriculum development and supporting national networks. A global monitoring system for individual country’s success in providing community-level access to ICTs was also discussed as a longer-term objective.

  • - Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Holding (OTH) has signed up its 50 millionth subscriber, adding 20 million new users across its subsidiaries in less then twelve months, the company said in a statement.

    - The management team of the Liberia Telecommunication Corporation (LTC) has assured employees of the corporation that it has secured five months salary arrears to have employees of the corporation paid for the Christmas Holiday.

    - Vodafone Egypt is in negotiations with the Egyptian government over the possible purchase of a 3G operating licence, Chief Executive Ian Gray told investors and analysts at a meeting this week. Gray said that whilst buying a UMTS licence would be more expensive than first thought, it would give Vodafone’s business a significant boost in the country. ‘There are already more than 600,000 3G [capable] phones being used by customers on our network and a lot of these are high value customers,’ he said. ‘The argument against doing 3G in Egypt is quite straightforward – it's a lot of money, but we need more capacity if we are going to grow the business.’

internet

  • What constitutes broadband came into sharp focus this week in South Africa. An Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) ruling that iBurst may not advertise its product as broadband drew sharp criticism from iBurst and some consumers. But the definitions of broadband have encompassed download speeds that have been laughably low so maybe this ruling will prompt on a debate that will raise expectations.

    In the consumer complaint to the ASA, Mr Soper said that iBurst misleads its customers regarding the broadband nature of its service as it can not guarantee speeds in line with International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standards.

    “The complainant submitted, in essence, that the commercial is misleading as International Telecommunication Union Standardization Sector (ITU-T) defines the minimum speed for broadband as being between 1.5 and 2.0 megabits/second, and the respondent does not have a guarantee that it can offer such speed at all times,” the ASA website states.

    The iBurst radio advertisement essentially says “…Get iBurst now. It’s fast wireless broadband internet and email”. ASA says in the ruling that a broadband connection, at the very least, should deliver a minimum speed of 256 kbps. This is in line with the recently released ICASA ADSL regulations, but interestingly enough ICASA said that their ADSL broadband definition does not really apply to wireless broadband.

    “ICASA submitted, inter alia, that its regulations on ADSL do not apply to wireless internet. Wireless internet is currently unregulated. Accordingly, the definition of broadband in the regulations should be viewed in that context and has a limited application,” the report states.

    ICASA however seems somewhat confused regarding the definition of broadband, and despite defining broadband as having a minimum download speed of 256 kbps in the ADSL regulations, it advised the ASA to use the yardstick of 1.5 Mbps to 2 Mbps as the characteristic of a broadband connection.

    “It [ICASA] cautioned against extending the existing definition of broadband to wireless Internet. There is an effort by the government to develop a national policy on broadband and until such a time, it is of the opinion that the best yardstick would be to refer to the ITU definition on broadband,” the report says.

    Why wireless broadband connections should abide by ITU standards while ADSL services can be many times slower and still be considered broadband is unclear.

     From the feedback received from iBurst the ASA said that there is no evidence that they can guarantee a minimum speed of 256 kbps and must therefore withdraw their broadband claims.

    “The respondent advised that its maximum speed is 1Mbps, but remained silent on its minimum speed. From the material before the Directorate there is therefore currently nothing before the Directorate to show that the respondent is capable of delivering a minimum speed significantly faster than a traditional dial up connection, or a speed of 256 kbps,” the ASA says. According to the ruling iBurst must withdraw its broadband claim and the claim may not be used again in its current format. iBurst is not very happy with the ASA decision, especially since the nature of a broadband service is that they generally do not guarantee minimum throughputs at all times.

    “It seems strange that MyADSL’s ‘Broadband Provider of the Year’ could be prevented from calling itself a broadband Internet service,” said Alan Knott-Craig, Jnr, MD of iBurst. “This serious aberration amongst the ASA’s usually sane rulings is regrettable because it has implications for every other broadband provider in South Africa. It should be obvious to the Authority that no operator anywhere on the planet can guarantee a minimum download speed qualifying as broadband 100% of the time,” Knott-Craig continued.

    “The download speed experienced by some subscribers could be zero kilobits per second when a particular base station is offline, but this doesn’t mean the service we provide is not broadband. The ASA alluded to international definitions of broadband, without understanding that iBurst is an international wireless broadband standard and is defined as such by regulators in the applicable countries,” the iBurst MD concluded. iBurst sent an appeal to the Authority last week and iBurst expects the ruling to be overturned shortly.

    MyADSL

  • African participants at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) meeting in Sao Paulo have formed a unified body that will articulate issues from participants drawn from various sectors on the African continent.

    Africa Regional At Large Organisation (AFRALO) will unite users wishing to articulate their issues to ICANN. AFRALO is expected to link Africa to the global At Large Organisation within ICANN.

    Alice Munyua, a member of ICANN´s At Large Organisation says AFRALO will help Africa identify their peculiar issues and call attention to the global body.

    Through the regional body, African users can identify their challenges and design ways to deal with them. For instance, "if the fibre optic cable is constructed, then more people can access the internet and then we can deal with other problems other than access," said Munyua.

    With the growing mobile telephony and cutting edge technology that provides internet via mobile, Munyua says AFRALO will ensure that African voices are heard. Though not officially launched, preparations of a Memorandum of Understanding are in top gear.

    AFRALO is expected to face challenges of language and culture, multiplicity and diversity of digital challenges. Some countries are deemed to have developed ICT infrastructure while others have not.

    Munyua expects all countries to meet and point out issues that affect all sectors and the changes they would like to see. The country representatives/ liasons will be seconded to AFRALO which will then link with the global body.She however recognises that it will be hard to reach consensus because of the diverse interests but promises that AFRALO will work hard to adequately represent African users.

    Highway Africa News Agency

  • Tunisie Telecom has announced that it has recently successfully tested an experimental Wimax network in the northern Tunis suburbs. The move shows that Tunisia 's largest telephone operator with some 5 million users, is standing fast on its commitment to deliver an additional 200,000 ADSL connections by 2007.

    Considering the fact that only two weeks were required to set up the experimental network, it is expected that this technology can be set up fairly rapidly throughout Tunisia , and particularly in areas where it represents an alternative to ADSL if the latter is not available.

    In the words of Tunisie Telecom's CEO: "The introduction of Wimax marks a new step in the development of broadband internet in Tunisia . It allows us to respond to the increasing demand for it, within a few weeks only."

    Tunisie Telecom which was partially privatized a few months ago when Dubai Tecom, bought up 35% of the company, is undergoing a major structural adjustment to adapt it to the demand of a growing competition by Tunisia 's second private mobile phone operator "Tunisiana".

    Tunisia Online

  • "The idea of using the Internet as an alternative to the telephone network is not new, but the software that makes it possible certainly is revolutionary."

    This is according to the authors of a new free book, VoIP-4D primer - building voice infrastructure in developing regions released yesterday.

    Funded by the International Development Research Center of Canada, the book's primary target is users in the developing world but it has enough detail and hands-on information to be useful to a broad range of users new to free software Voice over IP (VoIP).

    The free guide to VoIP, available in four major languages, is an effort to disseminate the use of telephony over the Internet in developing regions.

    The 40-page guide targets both technical and non-technical readers. The first part presents the essentials of telephony over the Internet. For those interested in the more technical details, hands-on guidelines and configuration files are included in the second part. The examples provide essential background to build your own low-cost telephony system.

    The last part demonstrates three realistic scenarios of how VoIP can be deployed in rural communities in developing regions. The scenarios cover how to build a local telephony system and how to connect it to other voice networks. Through these scenarios, you will learn how your own local VoIP network, built with inexpensive equipment, can link to the traditional telephony network and other voice networks anywhere on the Internet.

    The booklet, VoIP-4D primer, building voice infrastructure in developing regions, is written by IT +46, a Swedish consultancy company focusing on innovative usage of IT technology in the developing world.

    The guide is licensed under the Creative Commons Non-commercial Share-Alike license. It is available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. Free PDF downloads are available in http://voip4d.it46.se

    Tectonic

  • Near Fort Portal, where power outages occur daily, four remote villages are harnessing solar-powered computers, wireless networks and telephones to help farmers compete in the regional economy. The computer-and-telephone system, designed by the San Francisco-based non-profit group, Inveneo, also enables villagers to surf the web, build databases, use e-mail and make phone calls over the Internet. This is a big boost considering that the nearest landline phone is two miles away.

    The impact has been immediate. Computer literacy among the 3,200 residents is on the rise. The local governments also use the technology to organise records and cut back on paper files. In an e-mail message, Jane Nabwire, the information technology officer of the project said farmers used the technology to obtain market prices for their produce. "The technology has brought services to people. They can access developmental information at any time," Nabwire wrote.

    Inveneo sells its technology to non-governmental organisations, which supply it to areas in need. Another non-profit organisation, the AED-Satellife Centre for Health Information and Technology in Watertown, gets financing through grants and gives the technology away.

    With the help of a special wireless access point, the hand-held devices transmit information about patients from field offices to regional ministries of health. The network, much like computers from Inveneo, runs on solar and battery power and is meant to replace the paper-based record-keeping that characterised so many of these countries for years. Andrew Sideman, AED-Satellife's director of development, said this information was important because it helped doctors decide how resources were allocated.

    So far in Uganda, Satellife has accomplished that goal. For years, when pregnant women gave birth, doctors had 72 hours afterward to dispatch a messenger to pick up a refrigerated dose of Nevirapine, a drug that kills HIV in newborns and is routinely administered.

  • The rapid growth in online recruitment in the past five years is likely to continue as more people gain access to the Internet, says Inge de Klerk, general sales manager at Job Mail.

    According to De Klerk, the number of registered active jobseekers on the Job Mail Web site more than doubled from 13 000 in 2003 to 28 000 this year. She says more than 7 000 new CVs were added to the site in November alone.

    CareerWeb business development manager Ernie Hipner confirms this trend. “We noted a growth of 60% compared with last year's figures in the number of IT professionals submitting their CVs to our database to market themselves to ICT recruiters,” he says.

    De Klerk says although print is still “king” for some, there has also been a mass migration of prospective employers and recruitment agencies to online in the past few years. She says many are adopting a more holistic strategy that combines the two.

    CareerWeb reports an 80% increase in the number of ICT positions that were posted on the site in the past year. The site is also attracting an average of 35 000 visitors each month, says Hipner.

    Job Mail's online advertising revenue has increased by 40% in the past year, says De Klerk, with 6 500 recruiters using the company's online services to advertise job vacancies. CareerWeb reports a revenue increase of 70% in the past year. “We are acquiring on average 20 new advertisers per month,” says Hipner.

    Admitting there is still some resistance to the migration to online and that many South Africans have limited Internet access, De Klerk still predicts online recruitment will continue to grow.

    “Although still lagging behind more developed countries, Internet penetration in SA is growing and Internet acceptance is increasing,” she says.

    Hipner agrees: “Online recruitment will continue to grow as both job-seekers and recruiters find continued success with this medium. By placing your CV online, you allow yourself to be marketed 24/7.”

    ITWEB

  • - Netcom Africa emerged winner of the ISP of the year award at the annual Nigerian Information Technology and Telecom Awards (NITTA) ceremony .

    - Emerging Markets Communications (EMC) has been contracted to provide significant IP capacity via satellite to Internet Solutions. EMC will provide a 155Mbps + 45Mbps link between EMC’s Raisting Teleport and IS’ earth stations in South Africa.

    - Reporters Without Borders called for the release of Libyan cyber-dissident Dr. Idrees Mohammed Boufayed, who is believed to have been detained in Tripoli since 5 November for criticising the Libyan government on opposition websites. There has been no news of him for the past month.

    - CCK has commissioned a study on the local Internet sub-sector to establish reasons behind the low service penetration and usage. The study will also propose mechanisms of revamping the Internet sub-sector and encouraging service penetration to rural areas.

computing

  • The push to complete a national ICT master plan that would eventually connect federal offices nationwide was stymied recently when the Ethiopian Information and Communication Technology Development Agency (EICTDA) suddenly cancelled a controversial tender issued to find a consultancy firm to prepare it. The tender had run into problems when participating companies complained that the Agency was not following specifications set for the tender process. EICTDA, which is under the Ministry of Capacity Building, first invited companies to express interest in August 2006.

    The Agency wanted to hire a consultant company that would conduct a study on drawing up a network master plan focusing in part on the Woreda network (Wordeda Net), implemented two years ago. Other goals of the desired consultancy include recommending a three year ICT strategic plan and providing training requirements to run an eventual network.

    Seven IT firms responded to the tender. Three were local companies; MAT Electrotechnical, BIS and National IT Solutions. The other four were Telecom Finland; EQ Telecom from the Netherlands, Huaxin China and TCIN India.

    Although EICTDA welcomed all the companies to the next level of technical bids, Huaxin and MAT Electrotechnical were not present for the opening of the documents on October 2, 2006. The Agency then evaluated the offers for 11 days and proceeded to open their financial offers on October 13, 2006, when the controversy arose.

    The companies held that the Agency could not open all of their financial documents as it had not announced the ones that passed the technical level. They referred to the tender specifications, pointing out that EICTDA could only open the financial documents of those firms that had passed the evaluation. Unless the Agency told them the results, the bidding process could not properly proceed.

    "Even if the Agency does not like the specification, it was required by the body that is funding the project, and the Agency needs to follow it" a representative of one of the international participant firms said.

    Due to the strong protests stating that the Agency could not go against the specifications of the tender, it postponed the financial opening indefinitely, telling the participants that it would call on them when ready. But in the end, EICTDA has announced a re-tender. "Despite the Agency's mistake, nothing went wrong as to block the whole procedure," said the general manager of one of the local contesting companies.

    He said that beginning from scratch did not only make them go through the process of organizing their documents all over again, but it wasted time, compromising the project's deadline.

    "Unless the Agency has a certain firm that it is trying to benefit, I cannot understand how it would go through the whole process of re-tendering after they saw the content of our offers," said a representative of one of the international companies.

    Attempts made to talk to the Director of EICTDA, DebreTsion GebreMichael, were unsuccessful as he is currently out of the country. The National Network Master Plan is being entirely funded by the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) and overseen by the Public Sector Capacity Building Program (PSCBP). Other programs that are run under the PSCBP include tax reform as well as justice reform programs. The Master Plan project is under the ICT capacity program.

    Addis Fortune

  • The Revenue Agencies Governing Board (RAGB) and the Tanzanian Revenue Authority (TRA) would sign an agreement on Wednesday to grant Ghana the rights and utilization of automated tax mechanism software known as the Integrated Tax Administration System (ITAX).

    The two institutions are currently negotiating the terms of the agreement which seeks to computerize the operations of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to function efficiently and effectively for increased revenue. ITAX will subsequently enable the IRS to integrate its activities with the other revenue agencies.

    Harry Owusu, the Chairman of the RAGB, said in Accra on Wednesday, that the negotiations and the subsequent signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) marked a milestone in the efforts to ensure effective mobilization of revenue in the country.

    He said the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) had supported the Board by facilitating collaboration between Ghana and Tanzania to access the software to be used for the computerization programme. He said the Board had worked on a similar programme with the Large Tax Payer Unit for the past two years, which had given some measurable outcome.

    He said some automation at the Value Added Tax (VAT) Service and the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) had improved revenue collection from the two revenue agencies but the IRS, which received direct taxes, had not seen any improvement in its work. Mr Owusu said the Board, therefore, wanted to transform the IRS to adopt current practices, the results of which would among other things, optimize service delivery and enable the Service to attend to large clientele better.

    The process of automating the IRS would be undertaken on the basis of public-private partnership (PPP). Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, a Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, said increased revenue was important to every developing country that was why Ghana had prioritized this objective in the Growth and Poverty-Reduction Strategy II. He said the Government had managed to increase the percentage of tax of the GDP to 21 per cent from 16 per cent in 2000. Projection for 2007 is pegged at 23 per cent.

    Dr Akoto Osei said there was room for improvement in the nation's tax levels to meet commitments such as the provisions in the wage bill; transfers to support the Volta River Authority and the Tema Oil Refinery to ensure that the latter did not accumulate any more debt.

    Tanzania's current tax yield is less than 15 per cent and it has been using the automation system since 2002 with the assistance of the GTZ after conducting a pilot test in 1998. The automation of Ghana' IRS is expected to simplify procedures; cut costs and time spent by the taxpayer and the tax administration; broaden the tax net and raise revenue.

    The Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNET) is expected to be the private partner to the project by establishing GCNET 2 at an estimated cost of between 16 dollars and 18 million dollars. Alwin Hoegerle, General Manager, told the GNA that the GCNET was involved in the project because of its track record with the CEPS and could provide a more flexible infrastructure and adapt to the specifications of the implementers.

    GNA

  • When the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced in 2001 that it was planning to offer free online access to educational materials from hundreds of its course offerings, the university in Cambridge said it hoped its Open Course Ware (OCW) Web site would inspire other educational institutions to help create a "worldwide web of knowledge that will benefit humanity."

    Judging by the enthusiastic worldwide response to MIT's gesture, the university appears five years later to be leading an international movement that is affecting education on every continent. Twelve U.S. educational institutions currently are participating in what has become an international consortium comprising more than 50 institutions in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.

    "OpenCourseWare expresses in an immediate and far-reaching way MIT's goal of advancing education around the world," MIT President Susan Hockfield said in a statement featured on the university's OCW Web site. "Through MIT OCW, educators and students everywhere can benefit from the academic activities of our faculty and join a global learning community in which knowledge and ideas are shared openly and freely for the benefit of all."

    MIT remains the leader of the OCW movement, offering anyone in the world free and open access to the educational materials from more than 1,500 courses. These materials include course syllabi, reading lists, PowerPoint presentations, problem sets and solutions, lecture notes, exams and in some cases videotaped lectures. MIT says it plans to include materials from 1,800 courses by the year 2008.

    But other U.S. universities have joined the OCW movement as well, usually offering something for which the school is noted rather than repeating offerings already available from MIT.

    Yale University in Connecticut recently announced that it would be making available on the Internet videotapes of lectures from seven undergraduate liberal arts courses with transcriptions into several languages. If all goes well, Yale intends to add additional courses each year.

    The University of Notre Dame in Indiana announced in September that it was making available eight courses and would eventually offer 30, each of them dealing with understanding "the spiritual and moral aspects of life, the human condition, the search for meaning, and conflict resolution."

    The Johns Hopkins University in Maryland features courses from its Bloomberg School of Public Health.

    Tufts University in Massachusetts has made available a selection of courses in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, nutrition science and the liberal arts, as well as a course on international multilateral negotiation created by Tuft's Fletcher School.

    The OCW-affiliate organizations tend to have a regional or single country focus. The eGranary Digital Library, for example, places Web resources, including OCW offerings, on a server on African university campuses that have little or no Internet connectivity. A nonprofit, largely volunteer service based at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, the eGranary Digital Library manually updates its library at least twice each year on dozens of African campus intranets.

    MIT says that the users of its OCW materials come from 215 countries, territories and city-states around the world. In 2005, it had 8.5 million visits to its OCW content, a 56 percent increase over the previous year. Most of its users (61 percent) were from outside the United States -- 22 percent from East Asia, 15 percent from Western Europe, 6 percent from South Asia, 5 percent from Latin America and 13 percent from other regions.

    Johns Hopkins' OCW site, launched just one year ago, now receives over 70,000 page views a month from more than 110 countries, with 38 percent of the site's visitors coming from outside the United States, the university says.

    In surveying its users, MIT found that 49 percent of its OCW visitors characterized themselves as "self-learners," 32 percent as students and 16 percent as educators.Among the educators, 62 percent said they combined materials from MIT's OCW with other content, while 38 percent said they adapted course syllabi and 26 percent said they adapted assignments or exams.

    MIT has found that more than a third of its own students use OCW to complement courses they are taking. Other users are educators interested in using MIT's OCW to improve their own teaching. Still others are self-learners who use MIT OCW to enhance personal knowledge and to stay current in their chosen fields.

    MIT has established formal partnerships with organizations that are translating MIT OCW course materials into Spanish, Portuguese, simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese. MIT OCW materials have also been translated into Thai, French, German, Vietnamese and Ukrainian.

    Other U.S. educational institutions and organizations currently participating in the OCW consortium include the Defense Acquisition University, Harvard Law School and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Michigan State University, the University of California at Irvine, the University of Michigan School of Information, Utah State University, Utah Valley State College, and Wheelock College in Boston.

    The University of the Western Cape in South Africa, became the first African university to join the OCW movement when it announced in February it had made a policy decision to make its course material freely available over the Internet.

    Open Course Ware is not about gaining college credit for coursework, although in the future it might become easier to gain such credit. Instead, MIT says on its Web site, "This initiative continues the tradition at MIT, and in American higher education, of open dissemination of educational materials, philosophy, and modes of thought."

  • The United Nations (UN) has initiated moves to curb inherent dangers posed in donations of developed countries of old possibly toxic computers, mobile phones and televisions, which could pose a hazard to the environment of poor countries.

    Delegations from some 120 nations meeting for five days of talks in Kenya are expected to focus on the estimated 20-50 million tonnes of so-called "e-waste" generated globally each year, much of it then shipped to the developing world.

    Western consumers who donate old equipment to poor nations, especially in Africa, could be adding to a multitude of environmental problems there, officials say. One study last year in Nigeria said about 500 containers of secondhand electronics arrived at Lagos seaport every month.

    But dealers said as much as three-quarters of the PCs, televisions and phones inside were 'junk' so obsolete they could not be repaired. Many were burned at open-air dumps, releasing toxic fumes and leaching chemicals like barium, mercury and brominated flame retardants into surrounding soils.

    On the agenda at the meeting are proposals to make manufacturers (including some of the world's top computer companies) take more responsibility for their products, from the design stage through the supply chain to final disposal.

    The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that some 14-20 million Personal Computers (PCs) are thrown out each year in the United States alone. Activists say if manufacturers had to pay recycling costs, they would create less toxic, longer-life products.

    A four-year partnership with 12 mobile phone manufacturers including Vodafone, Nokia and Sony Ericsson to develop strategies for the recycling and re-use of the more than 600 million phones now sold worldwide every year was equally hailed.

    As well as 'e-waste', the meeting is expected to also consider what to do with thousands of aircraft and ships expected to go out of service and be scrapped before the end of the decade. It will also focus on strengthening nations' obligatory reporting on waste shipments thought to be have increased more than four-fold around the world in the last decade.

    This Day

  • - Mindset Network, a South African NGO, was announced the winner of the 2006 Development Gateway Award. The award issues a $100,000 cash prize as acknowledgement of excellence in the use of information and communications technologies for development, and .recognizes projects, organizations and individuals who improve the lives of young people.

    - Microsoft has re-entered Zimbabwe after a few years' absence, appointing local company MS Solutions as sole distributor of its software in the local market.

    - Fifty-seven hectares of land has been reserved for the proposed Botswana Innovation Hub in Gaborone's Block Eight. Addressing a national stakeholders seminar on the proposal for a Botswana Innovation Hub the Minister of Lands and Housing, Ramadeluka Seretse said; "The size of the land is enough to allow for future expansion.

    - Software provider, HansaWorld, which sells enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that do not need high bandwidth or expensive hardware is extending its reseller network throughout the continent, recently appointing value-added resellers (VARs) in Kenya, Ghana and Botswana.

    - Google today announces that it is providing Egypt's Ministry of Higher Education the ability to offer the university's 3 million students and the Ministry of Education's 8 million preparatory students Google applications for email, instant-messaging, and calendar.

    - Intel has showed off its first mobile WiMax baseband chipset, which it hopes will begin appearing in notebooks as early as 2008, during a keynote demo at the 3G World Congress and Mobility Marketplace event, in Hong Kong.

Digital Content

  • The number of people reading the news online is continuing to rise month by month, with traditional media titles steadily pushing up their online readership. More than 2,6-million South Africans accessed websites run by members of the Online Publishers Association every month in the third quarter of the year, up from 2,4-million in the second quarter.

    The total number of visitors, including people accessing local websites from abroad, was 7,1-million compared to 6,7-million in the previous quarter. That continuing growth showed that the internet was becoming an increasingly mainstream media platform, the association said.

    Research conducted by Nielsen/Netratings shows that the average online reader remains unchanged: typically young, higher-income office workers. Three out of four readers have full-time jobs, and 62% access the internet from work, 27% from home, 6% from an educational establishment, and 3% from an internet café.

    The relatively low access from home showed that the high cost of internet access in SA was stifling the potential for a far greater take-up, said the association.

    Johannesburg is still the internet capital, providing 27% of the online readers, with 12% based in Pretoria, 16% in Cape Town and 6% in Durban.

    Although the level of online media readership is tiny as a proportion of the population, it has triggered strong growth in online advertising, with the revenue likely to hit R183m by the end of the year as more advertisers run online campaigns.

    Business Day

  • The Department of Health in the Eastern Cape has launched a new innovative website to provide members of the public with easy access to government programmes and services. The website will facilitate interactive, two-way communication and feedback within the department and with communities.

    According to MEC Nomsa Jajula, the website will provide opportunities to reach and connect with people in all areas in the province. "Information is power; those without it have no power to have access and to benefit from government services," she said.

    The launch of this website was to ensure that ordinary people had easy access to government services. "The department has done well in meeting the expectations of the Batho Pele principle of making information easily available," MEC Jajula said.

    She said the launch of the website was a clear indication that the government was willing to empower people with information so that they would know how and where government services were offered.

    The website was launched at the time when there was a growing demand by people to have access to electronic government information. "We are trying to ensure that the government decentralises its services so that ordinary people can have easy access to those services," she added. Ms Jajula said initially the website concentrated on delivering information and content about the department and community services.

    "We want to shift its emphasis so that it is more about delivering public services online, rather than simply delivering public information online. Some of the things that the public will find interesting on the website are forms, reports, news, departmental vacancies, calendar of events and information about diseases.

    The website features clear navigation, more focused content and a cleaner user interface for enhanced usability. The enhanced search capabilities will allow users to search health statistics and other information on the site. It further links with the national ministry, provincial departments and other stakeholders in the health field. It can be accessed on www.ecdoh.gov.za

    BuaNews

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Vodafone Group raised its majority stake in Vodafone Egypt on Sunday in a deal worth 1.15 billion Egyptian pounds (101 million pounds), the stock exchange and a company official said on Sunday.

    Egypt's bourse said a tender offer had been executed on Vodafone Egypt, with an unidentified buyer taking more than 11.5 million shares at a price of 100 pounds per share. A Vodafone Egypt official identified Vodafone Europe BV, a subsidiary of Vodafone Group, as the buyer. The shares were down 5 percent at 94.86 pounds at one point last week.

    Vodafone Group offered last month to increase its 50.1 percent stake in Vodafone Egypt by 4.9 percent by tendering for shares which are mostly held by Telecom Egypt, the country's only fixed-line operator. The two carriers have said they plan to collaborate on services.

    Reuters

  • The Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) has increased its profit to a record P138.9 million, representing a 17.7 percent revenue growth from P118.1 million the previous year.

    "Our aim is to achieve a target in the range of 18 to 20 percent," said the corporation's chairman, Leonard Makwinja. "BTC is now more confident about its opportunities than at any time in recent years. It is aggressively pursuing new growth opportunities."

    The BTC, which is to be privatised by the first quarter of next year, has been pursuing its business and transformation strategy geared at making it the communication company of choice.

    "We fully recognise that because of the Internet, the telecommunications industry is in dramatic transition and will continuously undergo transformations in order to ensure a new kind of company emerges, built on a converged and next generation intelligent network platform to stimulate its future growth," said Makwinja.

    BTC chief executive, Vincent Seretse, said the growth in revenue is an indication that the transformation process of BTC is yielding results. Revenue for the fixed line operator is up by 7.4 percent to P739.1 million, with earnings per share of Thebe 660 up 17.7 percent.

    "The improvement in profitability was attributable to new revenue streams such as ADSL, growth in data services and better management of customer accounts," he said. The corporations also said the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector would allow it to increase its product ranges including mobility of customers.

    "The BTC believes the privatisation will bring many benefits for the Corporation and the country in general, in that it will allow the Corporation to function along the same lines as other private licensed (mobile) operators without too many bureaucratic controls. This will definitely unleash some of BTC's true potential," he said.

    Although admitting that liberalisation would bring competition, Makwinja warned that such competition would only succeed if it were to take place on a "level playing field with all service providers treated by regulators in a similar way."

    "We also believe that a fair and predictable regulatory regime is vital for the development of telecommunications services in Botswana," Makwinja said. He also welcomed the timetable for the corporation's privatisation.

    "This is a welcome development given the fact that BTC is to be privatised in an environment which would have one of the few open and liberalised telecommunications markets in Africa," he said. He added that privatisation would also create opportunities for expertise and access to financial markets.

    Meanwhile, the BTC was last week voted the overall winner in the awards for best corporate report and accounts. The awards, by Price Waterhouse, which are held under the auspices of BOCCIM, are meant to encourage Botswana businesses to improve the standard of financial reporting and ensure that their published financial statements comply with international accounting standards and statutory disclosure requirements in terms of corporate governance.

    The financial institutions sector was won by Botswana Insurance Holdings Limited, while Commerce and Industry went to the Botswana Development Corporation; the non-profit sector was won by the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund and the best designer category went to Optimum McCann-Erikson.

    Mmegi/The Reporter

  • Last week, this column noted how Telkom had been roughed up by the Supreme Court of Appeal, and how it now faces the very real prospect of paying up to R2bn to US software company Telcordia. But as Jackie Selebi's advisers should be telling the embattled police boss, the situation is a tad more horrendous than it initially seemed.

    It turns out that Telcordia, desperate to wrap up the six-year dispute with Telkom, offered to settle the matter in exchange for a payment of as little as $30m, weeks before the Supreme Court of Appeal case.

    That $30m is equal to about R210m, or roughly a 10th of the liability that Telkom now faces. But Telkom's lawyers -- and, one assumes, its board -- rejected the offer, and soon after, Telkom was trumped in court.

    Now, the matter heads to arbitration to determine the quantum -- and Telcordia wants R2bn, equal to 43% of Telkom's R4,6bn net profit last year. The revelation that settlement talks failed because Telkom's lawyers couldn't compromise make things look awfully bleak for Telkom, its bosses, and its shareholders.

    Last week, Telcordia's lawyer, Greg Nott, declined to comment "because negotiations were in confidence and privileged, so I cannot disclose any numbers". Telkom's lawyer, Anton Klopper, acknowledges that settlement talks took place this year, but said the parties were "too far away from each other". "We were engaged in 'without prejudice' settlement talks that went back to July, but the figures were too different," he says.

    Klopper denied that $30m was put on the table, suggesting $50m was closer to the mark. However, a source close to the matter confirms the parties "did talk around the $30m figure at the time, and Telkom knows that".

    Already, Telkom should be in serious trouble with shareholders for not setting aside a cent for this liability in its financials. It even reversed its 2003 provision of R325m for the dispute.

    Now, Telkom may inhabit some Nevernever Land, where it wins all its legal battles and Airports Company baggage handlers wouldn't even steal your toothbrush, but the court judgment made it clear Telkom needed more than a dash of pixie dust to win the case.

    So how big a blunder was it that Telkom rebuffed the Telcordia offer of $30m. If Telkom ends up paying 10 times as much, its shareholders should roast it for playing so fast and loose with their money.

    Business Day

  • Delta Capital has launched a US$75 million regional telecoms fund, to allow investors to take advantage of the strong growth in the industry.

    The Delta Capital Middle East and North Africa Telecom Fund, from the subsidiary of telecom advisory firm Delta Partners, is intended to provide investors with access to two growth opportunities in the MENA telecommunications industry.

    The main focus is on the growth expected within the emerging class of niche players along the telecom value chain, which provide services to the telecom operators. The second focus will be on participation in specific license classes throughout the region.

    The fund will target an annual rate of return of 25%, focusing on taking minority or majority stakes anywhere between $3 million and $15 million per investment, according to Morten Kvammen, head of private equity at Delta Capital. Although it will target investments in the entire MENA region, specific focus will be on the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

    “At Delta Capital, we are nurturing the growth potential of the telecom industry in this region. Our specific industry and investment expertise and close ties with Delta Partners puts us in pole position to capitalise on business opportunities related to the liberalisation process, new business models and technologies.” explains Kvammen.

    “In addition, this fund will provide investors the ability to participate in pre-IPO value gains in an industry where they have had previous access only through public markets “ 2006 saw the Middle Eastern telco industry grow by around US$46 billion, and growth for the region is expected to double in the next three years.

    ITP

  • Technology group Datatec has made the first move to spend some of the £13,9m it raised through a secondary listing in London, by spending £6m on a UK company.

    The target is CSF Solutions, which provides technology hardware, software and services to large businesses.

    As CSF specialises in IBM and Hewlett-Packard (HP) technologies, the deal should improve Datatec's relationships with those computer giants. CSF has revenue of £40m and 70 staff, headquarters in London and two regional offices. Datatec is also buying the assets of a data centre CSF Managed Services operates.

    The £6m will be settled partly in cash and partly by issuing 419948 new shares in Datatec. The move is the first acquisition since Datatec raised more cash by listing on London's Alternative Investment Market in October.

    At the time, CEO Jens Montanana promised to grow the company through a combination of organic and acquisitive growth. It already held $70m in cash and even though the London listing fell short of the £29m target, it still gave Datatec $100m to spend.

    The first moves would be to strengthen its network security offerings and grow its presence in the UK, Montanana said, with further acquisitions next year to grow its international footprint, particularly in developing markets. CSF would be folded into the UK operations of Logi-calis, a Datatec subsidiary that focuses on network integration.

    The deal gives Logicalis the status of an accredited supplier of IBM z-series mainframes in the UK, making it one of only a handful of companies to hold that status on both sides of the Atlantic.

    The acquisition of the data centre also strengthens the ability of Logicalis to manage software services on behalf of its clients, which it sees as a key focus for growth.

    Logicalis UK will now have annual revenue of more than $300m, and that will push up the revenue for Logicalis as a whole to $800m from its operations in nine countries. Montanana said the acquisition of CSF significantly strengthened Logicalis UK by letting it provide a complete offering of computing infrastructures and intelligent networks, and strengthening its ability to deliver the services and applications that run on them. For the six months to August, Datatec reported a 16% rise in revenue to $1,67bn, an operating profit up 44% to $43,3m and headline earnings a share of 15,65c.

    Business Day

  • ISSUE 334: BATTLE FOR CHEAP EDUCATION COMPUTER HOTS UP

    I read about the cheap laptops in Balancing Act today. I have been wondering at Negroponte's success at deceiving the ICT4D world for quite some time now. 100 USD is ex factory cost, excluding payments for R&D, sales&marketing, distribution, transportation, duties , taxes and profits. Everyone who has ever had anything to do with industrial production knows that it costs 3-5 times as much to take the product from the factory door to the final user. This is true for clothes, egg beaters, cars and small computers. And I doubt if Dell/ Intel's factory door cost of their low end laptop is much higher than $100.

    Negroponte has deliberately ignored these costs from the beginning. What he basically says is that computers will be available at his factory door for $100 a piece, come and collect them... and, by the way, you have to pick up 100,000 at a time.... and well, come to think of it, you must pay before we start the production.

    But the costs of all the services mentioned above will not go away just because he choose not to mention them. So if governments are the prospective buyers of the computers, they will have to foot the bill for an additional $100-200 per unit, depending on if the governments will grant customs and tax relief. But if they do that, they will hurt the domestic PC markets by giving a subsidy to a new and major player. Because the little green things will soon leak out of the schools and find their way to the market.

    These aspects affecting the realism of the initiative have rarely (if ever) been discussed. The effects of flooding the Brazilian PC market with 100,000 subsidised PCs should not be taken lightly. I mean, there are rules about these things...

    Olof Hesselmark

    Sweden

    MORE OLPC LINKS AND COSTINGS

    http://www.infodev.org/en/Topic.3.html

    http://www.olpcnews.com/

    Of course, two of the most important issues from our point of view are

    1) cost

    of a minimum-1 million-unit rollout in a developing country relative to that country's discretionary (non-teacher-salary) portion of its education budget (OLPC News has very good analysis on this) and total cost of ownership, which is something that needs a lot more scrutiny. And that's not even touching the question of priorities.........

    Kerry McNamara

    InfoDev

    Corrections:

    Brain failure on the names of the Ink people. It should have been Gerry Morgan and Jonathan Renaudon-Smith.

More

  • * Cassandra Gabriel has been appointed as chair of the board of the Universal Services and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA). She will succeed Chose Choeu.

    * Moss Gondwe has been appointed at Oracle SA. to head up the public sector team. The sought-after Gondwe was sourced from IBM.

  • - BROADBAND SUMMIT 2007

    26-27 February 2007, Southern Sun, Grayston, South Africa

    South Africa faces a huge broadband demand, from all sides. However, the broadband access media and business strategies in South Africa still do not resemble the international standards. In order to reach these standards you as ISPs, mobile and/or fixed operators, need to assess the current and future potential of the African broadband market.

    http://www.iir-conferences.co.za/eventInfo.php?e=1202

    - SMB ROADSHOW 2007 - MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

    26th March 2007, Nile Hilton, Cairo, Egypt.

    IDC's SMB Roadshow provides a comprehensive and trustworthy platform for discussing strategic IT issues directly impacting the SMB sector. Debate led by recognised experts and based on best practices and sound technology analysis provide objective and critical insights required by leaders in this sector. This event will target IT decision makers - by vertical industry sector - within SMBs across the region.

    http://www.idc-cema.com/events/smbeg07

    - eLEARNING AFRICA 2007

    28-30th May 2007, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi, Kenya The subject is Building Infrastructures and Capacities to Reach out to the Whole of Africa, reflecting the significant efforts of African countries to set up their national and regional ICT infrastructures to create access to education, training and services for all.

    www.icwe.net

    - TELECOMS WORLD AFRICA

    31st July - 2nd August 2007, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Key decision-makers in South Africa and leading international players will share their expertise and forge invaluable business relationships in a highly interactive environment.

    www.terrapinn.com/2007/telecomza

    - WI-WORLD AFRICA 2007

    27 – 30 August 2007, Michelangelo Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa. In Africa, fixed-line infrastructure is lacking and there is a major problem with copper wire theft. Wireless communication is therefore a great alternative.

    www.terrapinn.com/2007/telecomza

  • * IMPLEMENTATION MANAGER – NIGER

    The company is currently looking for a Senior Implementation Manager with expertise in the following areas; Management of AXE, OSS, CS3, MM implementation. Applicant must be fluent in English

    advertising@balancingact-africa.com

    *CALL FOR PROJECTS FROM THE COMMONWEALTH SECRETARIAT

    The Commonwealth Secretariat is inviting governments, NGOs and academic institutions to submit project proposals that can help bridge the digital divide.

    The call for projects comes on behalf of the Commonwealth Connects Programme, an initiative to improve information and communication technology (ICT) skills in the Commonwealth and use them as tools for development.

    http://www.commonwealthconnects.com/

    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.



    News Update is a free e-letter produced by Balancing Act that covers African internet content and infrastructure developments, It goes out to government, the private sector, education and NGOs. To subscribe, send a message saying "I want to subscribe" to info@balancingact-africa.com

Web and Mobile Data_old

  • Diverse views prevailed at a workshop of telecoms experts in South Africa about the legalities of licensing television on mobiles in South Africa. Speaking at a workshop on the country’s new Electronic Communications Act (EC Act), SABC policy head Lara Kantor said that content to cellphones could be classified as broadcasting and therefore be subject to regulation.

    The importance of what Kantor argued is that if radio or TV content on cellphones is not classified as broadcasting, which is constitutionally regulated by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), it could then fall under the regulation of the Film and Publications Board (FPB).

    In turn, this raises the possibility of the same content falling under two jurisdictions, and the possibility of “forum shopping” by broadcasters playing off Icasa and the FPB.

    The workshop also discussed the meaning of “unidirectional” which was part of the definition of what kind of communication constitutes “broadcasting” in terms of the EC Act.

    The question was whether “unidirectional” communication meant that the issue was not the receiving device (whether TV set, computer or cellphone), nor even the actual content at stake, but rather whether the feed was being pushed out or if consumers had to pull down the signal when they wanted it.

    In this logic, video content received on cellphones via 3G would not count as ?broadcasting?, but that which came via DVB-H transmission was unequivocally ?unidirectional?. Even if exactly the same content is involved, in this interpretation, the 3G service would then not be regulated by Icasa.

    Kantor disagreed, saying it still counted as ?broadcasting?. She suggested that Icasa could still exempt it from licensing. If not, then the regulator should convene an inquiry, she said - arguing in favour of a light touch regulatory regime

    A further issue raised by Kantor was where digital broadcasting meant a range of new services, such as an Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) or shopping services. She noted that these might require a ?Communications Service? licence, in addition to a ?Broadcast Licence?.

    However, she also raised another approach, whereby such services could be seen as incidental to the key business of the company. In this light, they should be bundled as part of a broadcast licence, and not require any extra regulation.

    The traditional wide-ranging licence system in South Africa restricted telecoms companies to telephony and broadcasters to broadcasting. The EC Act recognises convergence by redefining licence categories to allow for competition in communications infrastructure, services, broadcasting and signal distribution.

    The debate on cellphone TV licensing took place at a workshop presented by the LINK Centre and the Mandela Institute, and supported by Telkom and Webber Wentzel Bowens.

    Highway Africa News Agency

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