Issue no 418
West African consumer broadband prices continue to tumble as operators try to find the price point that will attract a wider public beyond the relatively small numbers of corporate customers. The most recent company to slash its broadband prices to create a retail offer is Benin’s ISP OTI Telecom. It is the latest francophone country to introduce this kind of offer but undoubtedly others will follow. However, the challenge remains the high cost of international bandwidth on SAT3 for most countries on the cable. Isabelle Gross looks at what’s happening to broadband prices in the sub-region.
Benin’s leading ISP OTI Telecom surprised the market last week by lowering its broadband prices for retail customers to FCFA 25,000 (US$57.95) a month without tax. Equivalent prices for 512 Kbps are FCFA80,000 (US$185.43) and for 1,024 Kbps FCFA200,000 (US$463.58).
But according to Blaise Adetonah-Donhouede, the DG of OTI Telecom, the price that would really crack open the retail market would be more like somewhere between FCFA9,000-12,000 (US$20.86-27.81). At this level, for example parents who are paying for their children to do research in a cyber-café on a per hour basis will begin to see the financial advantage.
The fall in retail prices has been matched by new offers for professional and corporate users: a 512 Kbps connection without tax for FCFA100,000 (US$231.79) and a 1,024 Kbps connection without tax for FCFA220,000 (US$509.93). Cyber-cafes also benefit but with a slightly higher price on the lower capacity connection: 512 Kbps for FCFA130,000 (US$301.25) and 1,024 Kbps for FCFA220,000 (US$509.93). However, the cyber-cafes get a free ADSL modem-router, a maintenance pack, a guaranteed maximum 12-hour call-out, personalised technical support and two IP addresses with 512 Kbps connection and four with the 1,024 Kbps connection.
By comparison with DSL broadband offers in South Africa, what you see is what you get in Benin. An equivalent residential 512 Kbps connection from Telkom South Africa costs US$129.51 a month which at first sight seems cheaper than OTI Telecom’s price. But OTI Telecom imposes no restrictions on download amounts. But in South African there are potentially three additional amounts that will be added to the bill at the end of the month. Firstly, the access charges paid for a 512 Kbps connection add a further US$43.17. Secondly, the connection is “shaped” which means that it’s impossible to use VoIP so you can pay an additional US$22.33 for an unshaped connection. Thirdly, in order to have unlimited downloads you pay an extra US$64.01. All of which gives a whole new meaning to “slice-and-dice” pricing.
But Adetonah-Donhouede of OTI Telecom says that such a pricing structure just wouldn’t work in Benin because his customers would spend a great deal of time contesting their the detail of their bills if they had multiple payment options. It’s already reached the situation where customers ask for money off if the connection is down for more than 24 hours!
A comparison with prices in the West African sub-region put OTI Telecom and Benin in a good position. In Senegal for example Orange offers a 512 Kbps ADSL connection for FCFA19,900 (US$46.12) without tax a month. In Côte d’Ivoire Aviso offers the same connection on a similar basis FCFA40,000 (US$92.71). In price terms, these are both at the low end of the range for Burkina Faso’s Onatel offers a 512 Kbps residential connection for FCFA40,000 (US$138.84).
In Togo and Ghana, residential connections are still limited to 256 Kbps. Togo Telecom’s “Helim” residential connection for this capacity costs FCFA70,000 (US$162.25) and Ghana Telecom’s “Broadband4U” connection costs US$92.30)
The impetus for lower broadband prices is driven by two key factors: the level of competition in the market and the price of international connectivity. The exception to the first driver has been Orange in Senegal which has been the continent’s only de-facto monopoly that acts in a price-progressive way. However, it will face competition this autumn from Sudatel-owned Expresso.
OTI Telecom has 15 POPs and a very high level of access to Benin Telecom’s network which has enabled it to secure 60% of the 2,000 DSL subscribers in the country. But it secured this position when Benin Telecom was cash-strapped and in chaos at the end of the last Government. Its D-G can easily see that Benin Telecom will re-exert control over its delivery of DSL and OTI Telecom will become a “virtual operator”. If a single entity controls the supply chain for DSL broadband and there is no wireless alternative at a low price, then the fall in prices is unlikely to continue.
The second pressure preventing lower broadband prices in West Africa is the continuing high cost of wholesale SAT3 connectivity. This varies between US1,300-15,000 per mbps per month depending on the country involved. The lower the prices, the higher the volumes sold and the greater the pressure on the existing SAT3 cable. And Nigeria, which should be the sub-regions largest market is to some large extent still “choked off” by the continuing chaos (both financial and maintenance) at Nitel.
By Q2, 2009, Seacom and TEAMS will be offering wholesale connectivity on the east coast between US$500-1,000. The Glo One cable may start operating Q3, 2009 and will undoubtedly offer cheaper prices to a number of countries and two other pipeline projects are in the wings. Once they are in place, there can few further excuses for not offering significantly cheaper consumer broadband price at or below the price point Adetonah-Donhouede of OTI Telecom suggests.
If you need to know more about African broadband prices and retail broadband users, Balancing Act last month published:
African Broadband, Triple Play and Converged Markets
Cost: African price (GBP250/US$500); Rest of the world (GBP400/US$800); and Universities and NGOs (GBP125/US$250)
- The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), said that there are now 53,332,149 million active lines on the network as at end of June 2008, adding that consequently, this figure has pushed Nigeria's teledensity to 38.09 per cent, which represents about 38 phones to 100 of Nigerian population of 140 million.
- Celtel Kenya has launched an offer on its 'Unlimited Talk' service. The promotion will see subscribers access the service at Sh65 daily for Celtel to Celtel Calls between 6am and 6pm for a short period. According to the firm this translates to a 35 per cent reduction on calling rates.
- Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe's largest mobile cellular operator, has increased the number of connected lines on its network to 870,000, cementing its dominance on the local market. Douglas Mboweni, the company's CEO said Econet released 220,000 additional lines after increasing the capacity of its pre-paid system to take the stock of its connected lines beyond 654 000.
- Zain has announced that the application forms and prospectus of its impending capital increase will be available at all National Bank of Kuwait's (NBK). Every Zain shareholder of record on 10 March 2008, the date the company held its ordinary and extraordinary General Assembly Meeting will be eligible to subscribe to a number of capital increase shares equal to 75% of the total number of shares they held on this date.
- The Central Statistics Office (CSO) indicated that Mauritius teledensity, which is defined as the number of fixed telephone lines per 100 inhabitants, which was 28.4 in 2006, went up to 28.6 in 2007, while Mobile density or the number of mobile cellular phones per 100 inhabitants increased by 19.3 per cent, reaching 73.4 in 2007 from 61.5 in 2006.
According to a report in the Vanguard newspaper, President Umaru Musa Yar Adua has agreed to the transfer of 15 per cent of the Federal Government shares in Nitel to NigComSat. Thid will pave way for NigComSat to offer direct telecommunication service to Nitel subscribers.
This development follows the recent refusal of the regulator NCC to give the government-owned satellite bandwidth, license to provide telecommunication service to subscribers in Nigeria. President Yar'Adua set up a committee headed by the Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan to recommend ways of resolving the matter between the two organisations.
According to the Vanguard’s source, President Yar'Adua has already approved the recommendations of the Vice President Jonathan-led committee. The recommendations include: the appointment of a private sector professional to head the board of NigComSat; the granting of the 15% shareholding in Nitel; and the retention by Government of 100% of the shares of NigComSat.
According the to the source briefing the Vanguard, one motivation for involving NigComSat is that NigComSat could re-launch sales in Nitel’s SAT-3 fibre. Since NigComSat is not exactly blazing a path with its own sales (see Internet News below), this seems an odd reason for bringing the two together.
Egypt's Mobinil expects to finally launch its 3G network on the 1st Sept 2009. The company had expected to receive access to the radio spectrum on 17th January, but the radio frequencies were not released until March 27th. The company had hoped to launch its network last month, but again missed its deadline.
"The Egyptian Company for Mobile Services, Mobinil, will launch its 3G mobile network in Egypt on September 1, immediately before the start of the month of Ramadan," the Middle East News Agency said, citing remarks by Commercial Vice President Guillaume Van Gaver. The company also delayed the paying of its EGP750 million instalment for the license by ten weeks due to the delay in releasing the radio spectrum.
Mobinil recently reported that its first-quarter net profit grew 14% to 451 million Egyptian pounds ($84 million) from EGP397 million a year earlier. The company's revenue also surged 27% to EGP2.3 billion from EGP1.8 billion in the first quarter of 2007. According to figures from the Mobile World database, ended Q1 '08 with just over 15 million subscribers and a market share of 51.5%.
Middle East News Agency
IDG News Service reports that Ugandan telcos have expressed concern about the way the industry regulator has allocated WiMAX broadband spectrum and possible looming increases in the costs of spectrum licences. As it stands the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) charges USD7,500 per year for 1MHz of bandwidth and has allocated 30MHz each to the trio of WiMAX licensees, MTN Uganda, Uganda Telecom and Infocom.
However, the UCC has also allocated spectrum to other parties that are not currently offering services. ‘With the increasing number of operators in the data communication sector including mobile WiMAX, the challenge now is it requires a very accurate and proportioned allocation of frequency spectrum to avoid interferences,’ Hans Haerdtle, the managing director of Infocom said. Eric van Veen, the chief commercial officer of MTN Uganda, said the deregulation of the telecoms sector in 2006 and the proliferation of licences that followed has led to crowding of the market to the point that there are entities that have been allocated spectrum but are not using it or are inactive. ‘As a big operator we are concerned. There has got to be a practical and equitable way of distributing spectrum such that spectrum is given to those players who need it and are ready to offer the service,’ van Veen said.
Vodacom confirms it has withdrawn legal papers served on the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA), but will not state why. The mobile communications giant brought an urgent interdict against the authority on Monday, to prevent it from implementing regulations that would stop mobile operators from locking consumers into long-term contracts. The regulations were expected to take effect on 17 August.
According to ICASA spokesman Sekgoela Sekgoela, the authority has not received notice that the action has been withdrawn and is treating the matter as an ongoing case. “We do not want to pre-empt the court, and since the matter is sub judice, we cannot really comment on what will happen for now.” The legal notice has been taken under consideration by the authority's legal department.
ICASA's new regulations are good news for consumers, as they are being given the option to choose the length of their cellphone contracts. The authority wants providers to offer contracts from six, 12, 18, or 24 months, and consumers can pick which suits them best.
ICASA's gazetted regulations also stipulated: “Post- and pre-paid offerings or packages that include handset subsidies must clearly indicate the subsidy and the monetary value of the services offered.”
Providers would have been expected to show clearly how much of the subsidy remains on any given contract, as well as the cost consumers will need to pay if they decide to opt out of an existing contract. Both stipulations must be shown on the bill at the end of every month.
However, Vodacom previously said certain aspects of the regulations are unclear and confusing. It has also said it was not consulted on the new regulations. The company had planned to take up the matter with ICASA for clarification.
While reports state Vodacom has withdrawn the interdict because ICASA agreed to hold back on the regulations, the authority has no knowledge of the withdrawal, or the agreement. At this stage, ICASA says the regulations will not come into effect until after the court case, while Vodacom is adamant its withdrawal of the legal action means there would be no court case.
Vodacom says it cannot comment, because matters discussed between the legal teams of the parties involved are confidential. It says releasing information to the media could put ICASA and Vodacom in a difficult position. ICASA has also confirmed that none of the other service providers were involved in the legal action.
- The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has commenced a review of the Rural Communication Development Fund (RCDF) policy, as well as the design of new technology projects to be completed between 2008 and 2013.
- National Telecommunications Operator, Globacom, has commenced commercial service on its fixed line operation as it connects key corporates in Lagos and Abuja. In a press statement, it said it is also ready to introduce fixed line services to individuals in key cities around the country.
- Workers of the Central Regional branch of Ghana Telecom held a peaceful demonstration last Tuesday in support of Government's proposed sale of 70% shares of the company to Vodafone Plc.
- In Nigeria, SMS tariffs may soon be reduced following the outcome of a Consultative Forum which the regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, had with the various network operators. Costs of SMS in the country range currently from N5.00 on-network to as high as N15.00 off-network, depending upon the network, while interconnection between operators stands at N5.00. In parallel, the NCC has set the ball rolling on its plan to register all SIM cards of pre-paid mobile phones in the country with the setting up of a 25 person working group (WG) in Abuja.
- Two international telecommunications manufacturers (Ericsson and ZTE) contracted by Zimbabwe mobile phone operator Econet have resumed work after temporarily suspending the project during the March and June elections.
- In Sierra Leone, Africell has revealed that its subscriber base has increased to more than 500,000 users. According to IDG News Service, the company has exhausted the numbers available in the 077 code and has been forced to apply for an additional national dialling code, 088. Africell launched a GSM network in 2005 and at the end of March 2008 claimed a 31.1% share of the market, just behind leader Zain with 33.4%.
- Mobile operator Telecel in Central African Republic had its mobile licence upgraded to a global licence. For the upgrade, Telecel has agreed to pay CFA Francs 3 billion (US$7.1 million). With its new licence, Telecel will be able to upgrade its mobile offering to 3G as well as launch fixed lines and Internet services.
- Mali's seven-digit dialling system will move to eight digits from 31 October 2008 pursuant to a decision by the Telecommunication Regulation Committee (CRT).
South Africa currently does not have enough bandwidth to meet the 2010 guarantees but last week the Department of Communications went out of its way to reassure everyone hat the matter was in hand.
Telkom is due to increase capacity on its undersea cables, says Rosey Sekese, Department of Communications deputy director-general for ICT infrastructure. Sekese addressed last week's briefing on the progress being made in getting the country ready for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. She said the guarantees consisted of two parts: to ensure broadcast signals could be transmitted from the stadiums to the international broadcast centre, located at Nasrec, in Johannesburg; and then be transmitted out of the country to the rest of the world.
Sekese is confident Telkom would have the required increased capacity installed by the Confederations Cup, scheduled for next year, and that broadcast signals would be sent via Telkom's SAT-3 cable, on the West Coast, and on the SAFE cable that runs out of Durban. National signal distributor Sentech would have a second teleport built at Nasrec to increase satellite transmissions. Sekese also said Telkom would make its own satellite facilities available.
A spokesman for the Seacom cable told ItWeb that his company has been in negotiations with a number of international broadcasters. The Seacom cable is due to go live in Q2, 2009.
Sekese responded:“Our role, as government, is to guarantee that the infrastructure will be in place, and this is what we are doing. How the broadcasters secure bandwidth and what they pay for it is a commercial arrangement with which we don't have anything to do,” Sekese said. No mention was made of government's new Broadband Infraco, which is to lay an African West Coast cable which may not be ready for 2010.”
In the meantime, government is on the verge of signing formal contracts with both Telkom and Sentech, to provide the domestic telecommunications infrastructure for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. This is according to deputy finance minister Jabu Moleketi, who spoke at the same briefing last week.
Under the agreement with soccer's world governing body, Fifa, the South African government has promised to deliver the 2010 World Cup successfully and, in turn, has partnered – in principle – with key stakeholders, like the telecoms companies.
According to Moleketi, government “has a number of contracts in place” to ensure successful ICT delivery to the event, and the Sentech contract is “ready for signing”.
He says the Telkom contract is being drafted.
NigComSat’s CEO Engr. T. Ahmed Rufai revealed that it was having difficulty penetrating its home market, Nigeria and reaching its wider African marketing goals.
NigComSat’s initial feasibility research showed that African countries were paying US$900 million to international satellite operators, of which Nigeria’s share was about US$100 million. His point was that these were payments that left the continent in hard currency. Global satellite sales were a massive US$62 billion, of which Africa was only US$1.2 billion.
NigComSat was proposed as a bold answer to these problems but as Rufai admitted, it was having difficulty cracking its core market, Nigeria. Whilst muttering darkly about
“the politics of satellite business which is like a cult accessed only by the elite players in the club”, he admitted:"I don't think we have up to 10 per cent of the Nigerian market. We got the biggest challenge from quarters we thought would have supported the vision we have. We were also misunderstood. The project was seen as a critical IT infrastructure to bridge the digital divide. We have not been able to capture the market as planned originally." It is a far cry from the 50 per cent of the African market which NigComSat promoters had originally stated in their business plan.
Leaving aside his allegations of unfair competition and poor marketing, what CEO Rufai may not have been able to admit was that customers in Nigeria in the private sector would probably go a long way to avoid placing themselves in the hands of a Nigerian state-run company. For an intervention like NigComSat to be successful, it has to have the trust and confidence of the market it is serving.
Regional examining body, the West African Examination Council (WAEC) last week launched its online result checking system for Sierra Leone called WAEC Direct Sierra Leone Online Service.
The service, which was made possible by Fleet Technologies Limited (FTL) in Nigeria, would enable past and present secondary school students at all levels to check their transcripts anywhere there is Internet access, including on mobile phones.
Students who sat for the West African Secondary School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) between 2000 and 2007; Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) between 1996 and 2007; and National Primary School Examinations (NPSE) between 1993 and 2007 can access their results from the online information system with a scratch card called WAEC Direct Access Card that costs Le 10,000.
Each scratch card has a 12-digit PIN code and allows only one user to check his or her results three times. Results checked from the system can be sent to private email addresses.
MD/CEO of FTL said that a software that could capture students' bio-data including passport photograph for forwarding to WAEC's central system, has been developed and added that other services such as SMS and email would be deployed to the website later.
- Cable company Seacom is ready to start laying its 15,000km 1.28Tbps cable along the African East Coast from next month. It is confident it will meet its self-imposed “go live” deadline of June next year.
- Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard has written to Sudanese regulator, the National Telecommunication Corporation voicing concern about online free expression in Sudan and the fact that his clients' access to the video-sharing website YouTube has been blocked since 22 July.
- To live up to the changing customer preferences in the tourism industry, Galileo Kenya has launched a marketing website to promote e-tourism. The website, www.goingsafari.com with a tag line, "All of Kenya in One Website," is a travel portal that will allow Internet users access a range of services in Kenya.
Local software developers should have a greater chance of winning work from the government as the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) has promised to procure more services locally to boost the indigenous hi-tech industry.
The agency faces a dilemma in procuring IT goods and services for the state as it needs to choose the most appropriate technologies , yet has a duty to encourage the local players. "We want to use our influence to help develop an indigenous IT industry," said SITA CEO Llewellyn Jones last week. "Obviously we need to buy the best technologies in the world but we have to do it in a way that will develop an industry in SA."
Ideally SITA's support could help to grow an export-focused industry taking products developed here into the rest of the world, said Jones.
SITA should use its buying power to give small companies an opportunity to tender in partnership with large multinationals when it commissioned major software systems, he said . "We are going to be imposing those kind of conditions on our procurement and engagement models to ensure we help the small and medium sized industry in SA."
Those plans may take longer to implement than expected, however, as Jones unexpectedly quit last month, apparently due to political interference in the tender process, leaving SITA searching for a new head.
The government invests R16bn a year in hi-tech services, making it the heaviest spender in SA. But SITA's chequered history and previous incompetence means it handles only 30% of the government's IT spending, with most departments still preferring to organise their own projects.
Isaac Mophatlane, the executive of public sector business for Business Connexion, said there had been a vast improvement in procurement policies but they were still biased towards global technology suppliers such as Cisco, Microsoft and SAP. Many enterprising companies had developed local solutions but had more success overseas, he said.
"We have technologies developed here but the government doesn't take them seriously. The only way you are going to get the next Mark Shuttleworth is if the government has faith in the local industry." Business Connexion did well in selling home-grown software to the government, but nobody was keen to trust smaller non-listed companies, he said. The government should let local players run proof-of-concept pilot projects to prove their systems worked rather than simply overlook them, Mophatlane said.
Jonas Bogoshi, a former SITA employee who is now CEO Of GijimaAST, agreed that the traditional method of IT procurement was failing. Three studies have shown that worldwide, 20%-30% of all IT projects fail to achieve any benefits; less than a quarter deliver enough monetary benefits to cover the implementation cost; and three-quarters exceed the time schedule by 30%, and half came in over budget. "We need to be honest about the success rate, " Bogoshi said.
UN System contributes to the reinforcement of national information management capacities in Mauritania
28 Mauritanian institutions and 44 information professionals participated in the first training course on the documentary software “Win Isis” from 14 to 17 July 2008.
The activity was organized by the United Nations System to reinforce national capacities in information management in collaboration with the Information and Documentation Center (CID) of the United Nations and the World Bank, the UNESCO Office in Rabat and the University of Nouakchott.
This introductory training course in French, enabled participants to discover the most important functions of the software and included practical exercises to get acquainted with the software in an autonomous manner.
The beneficiaries of the training course are all members of the “Ribat” network (réseau national des bibliothèques et de centre de documentation) which was in dire need of such capacity building activity to revitalize the network. The training also permitted the network to sensitize its members on the importance of a coordinated action to manage documentary resources in Mauritania.
The training course was an effective coordination action where each institution played an important role in supporting documentation management in Mauritania.
CDS/ISIS is an advanced non-numerical information storage and retrieval software developed by UNESCO to satisfy the need of many institutions, especially in developing countries. The CID, in its role as national distributor in Mauritania, holds the national register of users, organizes information sessions on “Win Isis” and ensures the necessary support to install the software for new users in Mauritania. The University of Nouakchott represents an infrastructure adapted to the development and the application of new technologies in the various sectors. It also contributed to the success of the training by providing a training room equipment for the training session.
The Win Isis software is in constant demand in Mauritania as the software enables the streamlining of information processing activities by using modern (and relatively inexpensive) technologies.
It also permits an integrated documentary management system with the possibility to integrate traditional and digitalized collections and the creation of portals and virtual libraries. However, the software also renders information accessible and avoids repetitive reinvestments in studies and reports financed by the various governmental structures.
Open source software is a viable option for small and medium-sized (SME) businesses because of its flexibility and scalability. This is according to Synaq MD, Yossi Hasson.
Hasson says that it is time for open source software to lose its “geek” image and be deployed more widely in the SME sector. “It’s extremely effective in the workplace,” says Hasson, citing his own company which is a 15-person organisation that runs almost everything on open source software. The only exception is the company’s accounting system.
“There is place for both open source and proprietary in any SME environment - it’s really about the right tools for the job,” he says. “For example, in a desktop environment in which users just need a simple web interface, basic word processing and a spreadsheet, an open source package such as Ubuntu running OpenOffice would be perfect. These users don’t need the bells and whistles of a Microsoft Office.”
Hasson also points out that for growing companies that need a CRM or workflow management tool, open source software is “absolutely the way to go. Open source allows for rapid change, customisation and greater flexibility.”
Hasson says there are many open source “big ticket” tech solutions - CRM, BI, mail tools and the like - which can be and are readily tailored to SME requirements.
“SME versions of heavyweight proprietary solutions generally offer fewer features than their big brother counterparts which is why they are more affordable for the SME. But what if the particular whistle that has been left out is one the SME needs? And what if there are still features in the ‘lite’ version that the SME can easily do without?”
“With an open source option, SMEs can have a solution that not only fits their precise needs, it will be easy to scale as the business grows,” he explains. He acknowledges that some SMEs may be reluctant to go the open source route because of concerns that a shortage of open source skills would make it more expensive to maintain than a proprietary solution.
However, he points out that there is a general shortage of IT skills across all platforms and he says that is is a worldwide phenomenon. “It’s important to bear in mind that while there may be more individuals with MS skills, they are not all good skills. Many of them may be merely average”.
- Makerere University's Faculty of Computing and Information Technology (CIT) last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Computer Board of Mauritius and the country's investment authority, Invest in Mauritius. The understanding has laid the basis for over 300 Ugandans going to Mauritius for employment.
- The Kano state government of Nigeria has distributed over 2,000 laptop computers worth over N200million to the academic staff of six government owned tertiary institutions in the state.
- In Tanzania, Citibank has launched online treasury interactive trading platform. The trading platform allows clients to reduce the cost and time involved in executing deals. It is a flexible system which removes language and logistical barriers.
- The Information Technology (Industry) Association of Nigeria (ITAN) recently launched an initiative called OldSchool Computer-in-School Initiative, (OS-CISI.) The objective is to deploy computers with educational materials to Old Students' (OS) primary/secondary schools at the first level and then to OS nominated schools at the second level. The third level is to deploy PCs to randomly selected schools across the six geo-political regions of Nigeria. The OSCISI initiative is projected to be executed in three phases over a period of 7 years (2008 - 2015) and it is to deliver more than 1,000,000 PCs/laptops (brand new/ fairly used) during the period.
- In Algeria, VAT on laptops’ sales has been reduced from 17% to 7%, according to the provisions of the 2008 Supplementary Finance Act made public Thursday by the Directorate-General of Taxation. This reduction is effective till 31 December 2009, according to Article 24 of the 2008 Supplementary Finance Act.
- Software developer Red Hat has opened an office in SA in a bid to woo more companies from brand name software to free-to-use open-source systems.
- The Fedora project announced the release of Fedora 10 alpha, the first step towards the release of Fedora 10, codenamed Cambridge, in October. The alpha release represents a sanitised snapshot of rawhide, Fedora’s development branch, which undergoes rapid changes before becoming the next major release.
- A South African team participating in the Tall Ships’ Race this month will be using XO laptops to log their progress. The team has been sponsored by the One Laptop Per Child project and will use the low-cost machines to write up their daily progress.
- Yousuf Gabru, MEC for Education in the Western Cape, opened the first solar-powered school computer laboratory in the province. The Khanya Project of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) installed the laboratory at Bernadino Heights Secondary School in Kraaifontein.
BCR customers will no longer have to spend time travelling to the bank to get information about their accounts. Instead, they can use their mobile phone or PC.
According to Gilbert Lagaillarde, the head of personal banking at BCR, the bank has over the last four years been involved in innovations which has seen its customer base grow threefold. He pointed out that the queues at the bank's branches are growing ever longer, and that customers are getting sophisticated and more demanding.
"So we have introduced this system to meet expectations of our customers," Mr.Lagaillarde said.
The new SMS banking ensures that BCR clients can access their account information at every time of the day. Apart from accessing account information, users of SMS banking will also be offered services such as balance inquiry, mini statement, check book request, statement request and foreign exchange rates. The service will even help users to purchase MTN airtime.
Vivian Kayitesi, BCR marketing manager, explained the procedure, which involves a PIN code. "The code cannot be shared as it only accesses one's account. In case a client looses a phone; he should inform the bank so that they can cancel access to the client's information. If the client buys a new phone, he is issued with anew PIN number," Ms. Kayitesi said, adding that the SMS plus service is free of charge except for the communication fee.
In a further bid to shorten the queues at BCR's branches, as well as offering its clients a wide range of options, BCR has also launched an on-line banking facility which will help clients access their account information by logging on at the BCR website.
"This facility will facilitate our Diaspora clients to access their account information, thus reduce the cost of having to travel thousands of miles to check out their accounts status," Gilbert Lagaillarde said.
The head of personal banking further allayed concerns that the online banking system might not be safe from hackers, explaining that once a client has been issued a password he is required to change the password which has to be confirmed by the bank and thus the client will be able to access is account information on line.
"Through the registering process we request the password protection method that is efficient because you are the only one who knows it," he said.
He added that the bank also has the secret socket layer (SSL), a system that provides high-level security for communication over the internet such as web browsing, e-mail, internet faxing, instant messaging and other web based data transfers.
"This system is internationally recognized for providing end-point and mutual authentication and communication privacy," Gilbert Lagaillarde said. The online banking has no additional charges other than the banks standard charges.
Both SMS plus and the Internet banking packages were introduced after the success of the phone-banking package. "Phone banking has been a huge success and we were able to surpass our targets," Mr. Lagaillarde said, adding that so far there are more than 2000 users in less than one year.
"We hope that by unveiling different products we create a business-friendly environment for our customers," Gilbert Lagaillarde said.
Apart from the new services, BCR has also introduced the queue management system, which has helped the bank to address the issue of overcrowding in its halls.
The QMS manages allows for a more rapid service from opening accounts to depositing and withdrawing money. "Clients have expressed satisfaction on the QMS, especially at the Remera and Ruhengeri branches," Gilbert Lagaillarde said.
The bank has twelve branches countrywide where all its products can be accessed.
Social network users growing rapidly, Facebook tops list for first time The popularity of social networking sites is growing faster than ever, according to a new report by analysts Comscore.
The report released this week says that while growth in social networking is levelling off in the US, growth elsewhere in the world is as high as 25% a year.
The fastest growing region, however, is the Middle East and Africa which grew by as much as 66% between June 2007 and June 2008. European users of social networks increased by 35% in the same period and Latin America grew by 33%.
Worldwide more than 580 million people were involved with a social network during June 2008, compared with 464 million in June 2007.
In the Middle East and Africa the number of social networkers increased by 66% from 18 million in June 2007 to 30 million in 2008.
The most popular social network during this period was Facebook which, for the first time, surpassed MySpace.
More than 132 million users were involved with Facebook in June 2008, up from 52 million in June 2007. MySpace increased its user base by a bit more than 3 million users from 144 million to 117.5 million during the June to June period.
Facebook's largest visitor base is still in America with 49 million users, closely followed by European users who number 35 million. The Middle East and Africa accounted for just short of 15 million Facebook users in June 2008.
Telekom Malaysia has agreed to sell its 60% stake in Guinea operator Sotelgui to the Guinea government. The government already holds 40 percent in the national operator and took over management of the company in 2005. Telekom Malaysia took over the company in 2005 but ten years later said it wanted to sell its shareholding in the company.
Telekom Malaysia is selling the stake for a token price of US$1, while the Government has also agreed to pay debts of US$2.04 million to Telekom Malaysia. But not only was the value of Telekom Malaysia’s stake written down to $1 but it will also make a currency exchange loss of MYR82 million (US$24.6 million) on the deal. The Guinea government is expected to prepare the operator for a new privatisation, after the completion of deal.
South Korea's LG Electronics has announced plans to establish a mobile phone factory in Kenya next year. The company is planning an investment of some Sh100 million (US$1.54 million) in the factory, which is expected to be a basic assembly facility only.
LG’s general manager Byung Su Lee said that the factory should lead to a cost reduction of around 15% in the price of mobile phones sold by the company in the country. It is also expected to export handsets to other countries in the area. The factory is expected to have a production capacity of one million units per year.
Ghana recalled its parliament from its summer recess last week to debate the issue of Vodafone Group’s proposed USD900 million offer for a 70% stake in the country’s national PTO Ghana Telecom (GT), amid rising opposition to the takeover. With parliamentary elections approaching at the end of the year, Ghana’s politicians are jockeying for position and the controversial takeover is providing much political capital.
The UK mobile giant agreed to buy the majority stake from the government last month on a debt-free, cash-free basis. The deal implies a total enterprise value of approximately USD1.3 billion for the telco, which has around 375,000 main lines in service and also operates the country's third largest mobile network, GT-OneTouch, with 1.4 million customers and a 17% market share at the end of March 2008.
At its last sitting on 18 July, however, the legislative chamber deferred any decision on the deal for a month, amid growing disagreement from opposition party members and a group calling itself ‘the concerned citizens of Ghana’ who described the deal as ‘undesirable’ and ‘unscrupulous’. Hundreds of demonstrators reportedly gathered in front of the country’s parliamentary building in Accra to protest against the deal, as its lawmakers gathered to reconsider Vodafone’s offer.
Communications Minister Benjamin Aggrey-Ntim said the document presented to parliament last week was essentially the same as the one which caused so much disagreement last month, but that some parts had been re-worded to reassure sceptics. Without confirming its source, Reuters reports that the rewording provides greater details vis a vis Vodafone's commitment to funding the completion of the national fibre-optic backbone project, which is not part of GT's assets but is included in the agreement. It is understood the redraft also includes a clause tying Vodafone to its commitment to invest USD500 million in the telco over five years and removes a contentious reference to the agreement being valid for 999 years.
Egypt's fixed-line telephone monopoly Telecom Egypt said its second-quarter net profit jumped 65%, beating analysts' forecasts. The company said it made 681.2 million Egyptian pounds ($127.8 million) in the three months to the end of June. Total fixed-line subscribers reached 11.3 million by the end of June, up 3% from last year.
Analysts had forecast the company's second-quarter net profit between 560 million pounds and 650 million pounds. The company said sales revenue from the second quarter was 2.4 billion pounds, up 1% from the first quarter. It did not give a comparison for the same period a year ago.
The company has said its full-year profit will grow at a faster pace than last year's 4.4%, driven by growth in Internet and data services and sales of services to other operators.
Revenue in 2008 will likely grow by 2 to 3%, down from 5% in 2007, the company has said. Chief executive Akil Beshir told Reuters in March the company was in talks to buy an existing telecom operator in the Middle East, Africa, or Eastern Europe to capture growth outside its home market.
Egypt plans to sell a second fixed-line licence in September, which would end Telecom Egypt's monopoly.
Telecom Egypt jointly owns Algerian fixed-line operator Lacom, the country's first private fixed-line provider. Telecom Egypt has said it has resolved differences with Algeria's government, which it had accused of preferential treatment toward the state-owned operator, and may invest more in Algeria.
Telecom Egypt said in May it was negotiating with mobile operators and Egypt's regulator to reduce fees for calls from fixed to mobile lines, which it said would boost usage. It has said it hoped to sign an agreement by the end of September.
- Mobile telephone operator Safaricom’s shares went below the Ksh5 price at which it sold during the initial public offering in May. The share price closed at an average of Ksh5.15 after hitting the Ksh4.95 mark for some deals in a market characterised by a bear run.
- Gateway Communications has opened a Central African regional office in Cameroon.
* Gateway Communications has announced that Lanre Kolade has been promoted to the newly-created position of Managing Director for the Central Africa region.
* ITU REGIONAL CYBERSECURITY FORUM FOR EASTERN AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
25-28 August 2008, Lusaka, Zambia
The purpose of the forum is to identify the main challenges faced by countries in the region in developing frameworks for cybersecurity and critical information infrastructure protection, to consider best practices, share information on development activities being undertaken by ITU as well as other entities, and review the role of various actors in promoting a culture of cybersecurity.
* 3rd CONNECTING RURAL COMMUNITIES AFRICA FORUM 2008
26th - 28th August 2008, Lilongwe, Malawi
With strong support from the industry and public sector this ICT forum will be the continent’s most important forum devoted to last mile solutions.
* 7th IWEEK ANNUAL CONFERENCE
17 - 19 September 2008, Johannesburg, South Africa
iWeek has become a critical calendar entry for everyone with a stake in the Internet sector and is the only conference endorsed by the Internet Society of South Africa (ISOC-ZA). Anyone with an interest is welcome to attend free of charge.
* 6th ANNUAL CTO FORUM
6-8 October 2008, Abuja, Nigeria
If you are a telecom or satellite operator, equipment supplier, software developer, solution provider, a consultant, or any other stakeholder in the Telecommunications and ICT industry, and are seeking opportunities to expand in emerging markets, or are seeking the platform to meet policymaking and regulatory authorities, donor agencies and financiers to champion your business development goals, the Commonwealth ICT Summit is the event to attend.
* MOBILEACTIVE08 SUMMIT
13-15 October 2008, Johannesburg, South Africa
SANGONeT and MobileActive.org are pleased to announce that they will be hosting the MobileActive08 Summit. The theme of the event is “Unlocking the Potential of Mobile Technology for Social Impact”.
* CAPACITY AFRICA 2008
14-15 Oct 2008, Cape Town, South Africa
This unique event features a business-driven agenda that will address the latest market developments and opportunities and equip delegates with strategic information to enable them to grow their businesses. Dedicated networking opportunities throughout the programme will provide you with the optimum opportunity to build profitable partnerships and execute business deals.
* NORTH AFRICA COM
14-15 October 2008, Cairo, Egypt
North AfricaCom is the largest telecommunication event specifically designed for operators and telecoms professionals.
With 35 expert speakers, 700 communications professionals and a 50-stand exhibition in 2007, this event is the best opportunity for you to learn from your colleagues' experiences in other countries and find out the latest solutions that can improve your business.
* THE MOZAMBIQUE ICT CONVENTION 2008-08-14
15-16 November 2008, Maputo, Mozambique
The Mozambique ICT Exhibition has been initiated by the Ministry of Science & Technology to provide an educational platform for all government ministries, departments and organisations, as well as all major private sector enterprises and SMEs. They will meet together over two days to share knowledge, learn form local and international experts and network with each other in both the conference and the exhibition.
* TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICES AND CONSUMERS RIGHTS IN WEST AFRICA
22-24 October 2008, Cotonou, Benin
The conference aims at impulsing a new dynamics to the telecommunications sector through taking into account the concerns of consumers regarding quality and services rates at the national and regional level. The conference will also deal with all the aspects related to the regional regulation in term of telecommunication, the settlement of the West African ICT Consumer Associations Network as well as the advocacy techniques to be used during the campaign which will be conducted towards sub-regional institutions. The conference is funded and supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA)
* TECHNOLOGY: A PLATFORM FOR DEVELOPMENT?
30 - 31 October 2008, Chatham House, London, UK
Technology is now recognized as having the potential to transform the lives of millions in the developing world. This major international conference will seek to identify best practice for achieving the successful implementation of new technology.
* UBUNTUNET CONNECT 2008 AND OPEN ACCESS 2008
11-14 November 2008, Lilongwe, Malawi
For further information on the 1st UbuntuNet Alliance Annual Conference, visit
For further information on the 6th International Conference on Open Access, visit
16 – 26 November 2008, Lagos, Nigeria
* AFRINIC 9
22 – 28 November 2008, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
* EXPERTS FOR RICTSP PROJECT – COMESA REGION
- Project title: A study on Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for the COMESA region
Application deadline: Tuesday 19 August 2008
Contract duration: 50 man-days
- Objectives of the Assignment: The objective of the assignment is to draw-up a GIS roadmap for COMESA, highlighting the areas and programmes where it can be of immediate benefit, and facilitate the implementation in four identified areas. A prototype of a GIS System will be developed as part of this assignment, and the expert will be expected to coordinate the development of a Maps and GIS website on the COMESA Portal. This will be in close collaboration with other divisions of the COMESA Secretariat to ensure that the identified areas address their needs.
For further information contact Jane Moeller Larsen, Danish Management A/S
Phone: +45 70 200 298
Direct: +45 35 250 655
* Pinnacle Micro and HP – South Africa
Pinnacle Micro, the broad-based ICT distributor, has signed a distribution agreement with HP's Personal Systems Group. According to Louis Fourie, head Pinnacle Micro's HP business unit "This is an extremely important strategic move for us and allows our resellers to offer the marketplace an additional, market-leading range of products, including desktops, notebooks, thin client and PDAs. It is very likely that it will enable us to grow revenue from our current client base - and move into sectors of the corporate market that our reseller base is not presently operating in."
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