Issue no 443 27th February 2009

top story

  • The third edition of Balancing Act’s Voice and data bandwidth forecasts highlights the key role that will be played by the introduction of new, cheaper international fibre bandwidth in 2009 and 2010. If operators pass on these savings to their customers, then the individual user market will grow rapidly. Without this happening, growth in the broadband market will be marginal.

    International bandwidth from Sub-Saharan Africa has increased from 11.3 Gbps in 2006 to 17.5 Gbps in 2007 to 26.1 Gbps. Overall international African bandwidth (including North Africa) was 96.3 Gbps in 2008. The use of international fibre increased as an increasing number of regional inter-connections came on-stream.

    The biggest driver of bandwidth growth is broadband connectivity. Although voice demand is growing as prices fall, most of the new demand has been compressed, therefore using more or less the same capacity.

    With only modest annual price erosion on retail broadband prices, broadband penetration will only grow marginally. With a “step-change” in broadband pricing where operators pursue a “low price, high volume” strategy, penetration in individual countries will increase by between 0.2% to 3.8%. The difference in the overall subscriber numbers between these two scenarios is enormous: a “low price, high volume” strategy produces almost five times as many subscribers as the much more cautious approach of sticking with high prices.

    One of the key drivers of broadband growth will be Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) fixed and mobile Internet. At present, mobile broadband is still quite limited in terms of price and availability, but making WCDMA, HSDPA, CDMA2000 1X available on a PAYG basis immediately lowers the entry barrier of a monthly subscription price and will stimulate casual and low volume usage.

    The third edition of the Balancing Act Forecasts includes all North African countries as well as those countries from sub-Saharan Africa. A wider range of data has gone into producing this edition as Balancing Act has worked closely with a greater number of carriers on this edition.

    Other findings from the forecasts include:

    · Satellite bandwidth supply will increase over the forecast period (2007-2012) after and Nigcomsat-1. There will be at least 13 new satellites giving coverage over Africa by the end of 2010. However, much of this will be replacement capacity as many of the current satellites were launched in the 1990s and are reaching the end of their life. The most notable exception is 03B which will launch the first eight of sixteen satellites in 2010. It is selling bulk capacity to operators at US$750 per mbps, well below current satellite prices. . By January 2009 the operator had already advance contracts for more than 12 Gbps of capacity to African operators.

    · The number of countries solely dependent on satellite has dropped and will continue to drop over the forecast period. 24 countries still get all of their international bandwidth entirely from satellite but with the arrival of the new fibre cables on the east coast of Africa in Q2, 2009, this number will decrease to 13. Total Internet bandwidth supplied by satellite has dropped from 24.1% in 1998 to 7.7% in 2008, down from 11.5% in 2006.

    · Africa’s international voice traffic has consistently grown well above the world average for a number of years. In the period from 1998 to 2008, traffic grew at an above average growth rate compared to 12% seen around the world. Traffic growth has been driven by three things: an increase in fixed and mobile subscribers who are capable of making or receiving a call; the liberalisation of markets and licensing of new operators; and a decrease in international tariffs. However, this new growth has largely been absorbed by by ever higher levels of voice compression.

    If as a carrier, you would like to supply data to Balancing Act for the fourth edition of the Forecasts at the back end of 2009, please send an e-mail to Russell Southwood: info@balancingact-africa.com All data is kept in the strictest confidence and is not published except in aggregated country form.

    http://www.balancingact-africa.com/subforecasts.html

    http://www.balancingact-africa.com/publications.html

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Residents of Lule zone in Rubaga Division in Uganda have opposed the erection of a telecommunication mast in their area. "The zone is a densely populated residential area and, therefore, the construction of the mast will have a negative impact on the lives of the people living there," a letter by the residents to the managing director of Orange Telecom read.

    - Subscribers of the newly re-branded telecommunication company, Rwandatel will roam with telecoms in 70 different countries by April this year. The service is currently active in Uganda with Uganda Telecom (UTL) and in Libya with Al-Madar, and Belgium as well.

    - MTN Cameroon announced the launching of its Voice SMS or SMS Vocal service.

    The Voice SMS will permit MTN clients to send voice messages instead of written messages.

    - ­Econet Wireless's newest network, in Kenya is reported to have signed up 200,000 subscribers since it launched last November - and is aiming for one million customers by the middle of the year. Econet Wireless trades under the Yu brand in the country.

telecoms

  • Lebanese investors have launched a new mobile phone network in south Sudan, with the infrastructure to reach 1 million subscribers in the region's increasingly crowded telecoms market, officials said on Monday.

    Vivacell is the second active network operating solely in south Sudan, where it will also compete with three nationwide mobile operators.

    Lebanon's Fattouch Investment Group launched the operation after buying NOW (Network of the World) in 2007, Vivacell officials told Reuters. NOW is a south Sudanese company that secured a GSM licence for the region but never launched a working network.

    The 2007 purchase was not widely publicised at the time. "This is the NOW licence. Vivacell is a commercial name," said south Sudanese Telecommunications Ministry Undersecretary Stephen Juma.

    South Sudan was given two mobile phone licences under a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war with northern Sudan. One went to NOW, the other to local firm Gemtel.

    The peace accord also allowed for four nationwide mobile operators and three of them -- Kuwait's Zain, South Africa's MTN, and Sudan's own Sudani -- have already set up operations in the south.

    There was a lack of clarity about the ownership of NOW before the 2007 purchase. South Sudan telecoms ministry officials have in the past said the government had a stake and also stated that NOW was entirely owned by private investors.

    Gabriel Alaak Garang, finance secretary for the south's dominant party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), told Reuters the SPLM had a controlling stake in a company called Wawat Securities Limited, that itself owned a share in the new Vivacell operation.

    “Fattouch owns 75 percent (of Vivacell) and Wawat 25 percent," south Sudanese Telecoms Minister Gier Chuang told Reuters. Vivacell's Commercial Director, Khalil Kassab, said he could not give details of the size of the company's investment or the number of subscribers.

    Reuters

  • The government of Guinea-Bissau reportedly plans to audit the accounts of its two state-owned telecoms operators - Guine Telecom (fixed line) and Guinetel (mobile) - in a bid to find a way of stimulating their recovery. The Guinean economy minister Helena Embalo told Portuguese news agency Lusa that currently both companies are being hamstrung by the ongoing ‘stalemate and litigation’, between their two shareholders - the Guinea Bissau state and Portugal Telecom (PT). In May 2008 the government took management control of Guine Telecom and Guinetel, amid accusations that PT had effectively walked away from the two companies.

    In a statement the government said: ‘with the prolonged absence of PT and its refusal to call together the governing bodies of Guine Telecom and Guinetel, abandonment has been confirmed’. It went on to say that it had rejected a call from the Portuguese firm to sell its stake in the GSM operator to a buyer of its own choice. The Prime Minister, Martinho N’Dafa Cabi, has now instructed the Transport and Communication Ministry and the Ministry for Economy to find potential buyers for both telcos. Guine Telecom and Guinetel are both majority-owned by the Guinean government and are experiencing serious technical and financial difficulties. Portugal Telecom Internacional (PTI) bought a stake in Guine Telecom 1989, but its decision to leave the country in June 1998, at the outbreak of the civil war forced the state to retake control of the operator, leaving the Portuguese company's assets in limbo.

    Although PT was rumoured to have formally concluded the transfer of the management of the two operators to the government on 7 July 2008, as it stands the government is understood to control 50% of the operator, PTI has 40% and the remaining 10% is held by employees. Embalo is now quoted as saying that the ‘misunderstandings’ between the government and PT emerged due to the Portuguese company halting investment in the two companies and accusing the Guineans of refusing to pay a debt of some USD30 million owed to Guine Telecom.

    Telegeography

  • The Independent Communications Authority (Icasa) unexpectedly withdrew an invitation to apply for mobile TV licences last week.Icasa wanted to finalise its digital migration policy and the frequency band plan before licensing these services, its press release said.

    But Icasa does not need to have the digital migration policy in place to license mobile TV, according to analyst David Moore of Africa Analysis. Moore said the mobile operators and MultiChoice have been ready to launch commercial mobile TV services since 2007, when their trial period was due to end.

    "All they need is for some spectrum to be assigned to them (and the licence of course), everything else is in place. The continued delaying of licensing is holding back the industry, and damages confidence in the local telecoms sector."

    He said the digital migration policy, which would govern the switch from analogue to digital TV broadcasting, should have been finalised before the switchover began in November.

    The communications department has committed itself to a November 2011 deadline, by which time digital migration must have been completed and the analogue TV signal would be switched off.

    "Attempting to finalise policy while you are in the midst of enacting that same policy will just cause confusion and trouble further down the line," he said. Moore speculated that Icasa could have unannounced plans for the spectrum .

    "Initially the department wanted a single mobile TV transmission network which would be shared by operators," Moore said. But the proposal was withdrawn after the operators reacted strongly.

    "This could be a delaying tactic in order to re-instigate that proposal," he said. Analyst Khulekani Dlamini of Renaissance Fund Managers also expressed surprise at Icasa's decision, but said it was likely Icasa's concerns centred around the availability of spectrum.

    Business Day

  • Telecommunications firm MTN Rwanda plans to invest $100 million to improve rural access and increase internet broadband services this year to counter new competition, the company's chief executive said on Friday.

    The Rwandan unit of Africa's biggest mobile company by subscribers, MTN, said it aimed to attract 700,000 new users this year by increasing coverage and dropping rates. MTN has over one million customers in the tiny central African country, representing a 90% market share over its only rival, Rwandatel, which launched in December last year, chief executive Themba Khumalo said.

    Khumalo said MTN Rwanda has laid over 200km of fibre-optic cable around the capital Kigali in preparation for connection to the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (Eassy) in September 2010. Project planners say Eassy will eventually link 21 African countries with a cheaper, high-speed Internet. This year, MTN Rwanda will lay 1,000km of fibre-optic cable to connect Rwanda's four provinces, he said.

    Later in 2009, Belgian-owned telecoms company Millicom International Cellular is expected to enter the market as the third mobile operator.

    MTN Rwanda is exploring the potential of mobile telephone banking, but Khumalo would not give details. Mobile phone banking has proved popular in Kenya where two operators now offer services.

    Reuters

  • - Portugal Telecom (PT) has confirmed that it is considering making an application for a mobile licence in Mozambique when the government’s auction for the country’s third operating concession goes ahead later this year. A report from Dow Jones Newswires says the company has confirmed an earlier statement made by chief executive Zeinal Bava, who had been quoted by Portuguese news agency Lusa as saying: ‘When the terms and conditions of the investment opportunities in Mozambique are known, PT will surely analyse it.’

    ­Users of Prepaid Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards in Seychelles will, in the future, have to register their telephones with their providers under a new law that will be passed soon, the Director General of Communications at the Department of Information, Communications and Technology (DICT), Dr George Ah-Thew announced Sunday in the Seychellois capital, Victoria.

    - Ghana Telecom will be renamed Vodafone Ghana Limited by the middle of this year.

    - South Africa's telecoms markets received a boost with the launch of O-Tel, the latest entrant into the rapidly hotting-up telecoms space. "O-Tel can provide anyone within Telkom ADSL or Vodacom 3G coverage with a telephone line for R99 (excl VAT) per month with no contract necessary," said Mohammad Patel, CEO of O-Tel.

internet

  • The telecommunications regulator has the right, under the Electronic Communications Act, to seal and prevent the use of equipment that is considered to be the source of interference with a licensed operator's operations, says the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA).

    ICASA was reacting to reports that its inspectors had confiscated WiFi equipment used by alternative telecoms operator Dabba a week ago in Orange Farm, a poor sprawling township outside of Johannesburg.

    Sites from which the equipment was taken include an Aids orphanage, a skills development centre and an Internet café.

    The regulator insists the devices confiscated were not type approved and that, although the 2.4GHz frequency upon which they were operating is not licensed, it is obliged by law to act in favour of a licensed operator.

    However, Dabba and Miro Distribution, which supply the devices, contend they are type approved by ICASA. Miro states this on its and the Wireless Application Providers Association's Web sites.

    “We are rigorous in ensuring the equipment we supply is type approved,” says Miro service manager Nadine Fenn. “The Ubiquity Nanostations are most definitely type approved and the required stickers should have been on the equipment.”

    ICASA says it was acting on a complaint laid by Telkom that it was experiencing interference with its equipment in that area. Subsequent investigations showed Dabba was the source of that interference and that Dabba's equipment was not type approved, it notes.

    “Telkom laid a complaint about interference with the authority [ICASA] on their 2.4GHz links. The authority is obliged by law to act and investigate all sources of interference in the frequency spectrum,” it adds.

    As with many other regulators, ICASA type-approves all equipment to prevent interference among users of the frequency spectrum and prevent dropped calls for mobile telephone users. Type approvals are also used to prevent hazards to health and the environment and the dumping of obsolete equipment.

    ICASA also says the 2.4GHz frequency band is an industrial, scientific and medical band used by these respective industries. Although this band is exempted from licensing, it must still adhere to type approval.

    "We are rigorous in ensuring the equipment we supply is type approved."

    Nadine Fenn, service manager, Miro Distribution. “However, it must be noted that in instances where interference occurs, the rights of the licensed operator supersede those of the unlicensed operator. In this case, the authority had to act in favour of Telkom,” ICASA says. “This is the context in which the investigation was launched, and the confiscated equipment is in the authority's possession.”

    Dabba MD Rael Lissoos says he still has had no official word from ICASA as to why the equipment was actually taken. “Every time I have contacted someone from ICASA I have been referred higher up the management chain, until one person said the only way I can get an answer is to write to the chairperson [Paris Mashile] directly,” he says.

    Miro's Fenn says it is going to donate equipment to Dabba to re-link the Orange Farm sites. “We cannot have the whole of Orange Farm going down like this and the equipment will be provided with copies of the type approval so that people can re-establish their connectivity as soon as possible,” Fenn notes. She says Miro works hard with ICASA and its clients to ensure all equipment is type approved.

    ITWeb

  • The MWEB Africa Group has launched commercial Wi-Fi solution that will allow laptop users to connect wirelessly to the internet in locations throughout the continent. The service will give owners at hotels, lodges, restaurants and café’s the ability to provide internet services to their patrons. Users of this service can purchase various preconfigured voucher denominations from the hotspot owner with varying time durations and megabyte caps “MWEB Africa offers an out the box turnkey solution that includes billing capability, access control and internet connectivity over our VSAT and WiMax infrastructures. It also offers a hotspot owner the opportunity to expand their business revenues by attracting more clients to their core business” says Harry Aucamp CEO of MWEB Africa.

    MWEB’s Wi-Fi solution offers a captive portal that automatically loads when a Wi-Fi user connects to the hotspot and can be customised according to the hotspot owner’s requirements. This represents a great opportunity for a hotspot owner to promote his brand. A hotspot owner may even rent out space on the captive portal at a premium to third parties, increasing the potential to earn further revenue from the hotspot.

    “Our Wi-Fi service boasts a fully customised and brandable Wi-fi solution so that the hotspot owner can offer customers a unique experience by showcasing their brand on customised login pages, as well as the use of marketing material for the venue owner”, says Aucamp.

    It will also allow a walled garden facility that permits the hotspot owner to set up free Internet sites which customers can access, as well as configure “free” browsing time feature, where guests, at the discretion of the hotspot owner, can access the internet free of charge for a stipulated time.

    Aucamp also stated, “Our hotspot solution linked to our VSAT platform is ideal for lodges and businesses that may not have access to traditional fixed line internet services. With our wide satellite coverage to over 26 countries across sub-Sahara Africa , this product will fit well.”.

    Wi-fi offers users unprecedented convenience as they are able to connect to the internet seamlessly and quickly anywhere there is Wi-Fi access available. No cables, no LAN points, means this is a truly portable technology that is available in most new laptops and portable devices.

    Firms scramble for share of Kenya’s Internet market

    Major shifts are taking place in the Internet business as players position themselves to reap from the undersea fibre optic cables.

    High interest in buying opportunities has driven industry top dogs like Safaricom, Zain, Access Kenya, and Wananchi Group to prey on small Internet Service Provider businesses in search of value buys.

    Infrastructure suppliers like Kenya Data Networks, UUNET and Swift Global are also making strategic moves to have a grip on the market segment.

    So intense is the scramble for the small ISPs, which deal directly with end users, that they are projected to be swallowed up by the bigger players looking to broaden their revenue streams beyond corporate internet services and secure more infrastructure.

    The lower end of the market, where small ISPs have managed to survive on smaller profit margins amidst stiff competition are particularly vulnerable.

    They will be forced to operate within tighter profit margins and in order to survive, seek business friendly terms from large players who will own much of the bandwidth through equity ownership in the cable projects.

    The undersea cables will link Kenya to the rest of the world at cheaper rates compared to the current satellite connectivity. Two of them - SEACOM and TEAMs - are expected in June while EASSy - the third one - is scheduled for completion next year.

    The cables will be a watershed since the sector was fully deregulated six years ago with the end of Telkom Kenya’s monopoly, through Jambonet on international connectivity.

    “The metro fibre will give us the edge to provide better connectivity for our clients even as it secures us much needed infrastructure in coming years,” said Jonathan Somen, AccessKenya Managing Director.

    The company has spent Sh700 million on its metro fibre project. Internet business and access in the country has for a number of years remained a corporate affair with 80 per cent of the three million users being in Nairobi.

    The entry of the cables is expected to increase the number of Internet users to over 10 million in the next five years. The bigger cake anticipated from the faster and cheaper medium has attracted more players into the field in the last year, many seeking a front row seat in the inner circle.

    For some like Kenya Data Networks, this has meant capitalizing on a metro fibre optic project that the firm hopes to leverage once international fibre arrives to provide connectivity to rural Kenya and neighbouring countries.

    To hook more users into its 3,500 kilometre pipes (the terrestrial fibre optic cables) it has been laying across the country, the company offers free Internet services and on net calls to subscribers using its Internet access based service dubbed the Butterfly.

    Telkom Kenya is offering its Orange Internet wireless access service at one shilling per minute after a subscriber invests Sh3, 500 on a plug in and play modem.

    AccessKenya on the other hand charges a Set up fee (one time) of Sh12, 500 and a monthly access fee of between Sh4, 000 and 5,000 depending on speed.

    UUNET Kenya on the other intends to use the opportunity brought about by the cables to start offering television services via the Internet.

    The company has invested in Seacom and last year announced a Sh680 million network upgrade to help it take full advantage of the Seacom cable.

    The UUNET (K) Managing Director, Mr. Tom Omariba, said time for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) and Digital signal Distribution is ripe as the sub-Marine fibre cables will guarantee high bandwidth capacity and better quality.

    Swift Global is banking on a franchising effort in its bid to cut operational costs by 20 per cent in order to maximise profits.

    Nick Odero, the company’s General Manager, said he projected the concept would increase the company’s countrywide footprint by 40 per cent.

    Africa Online already competes in the corporate and home markets and has been since its acquisition by Telkom South Africa been focused on expanding its network.

    “We are focused on offering a reliable last mile network that will enable the delivery of the Fibre Optic Capacity to the user at their homes and offices,” said Ken Munyi Africa Online CEO.

    The fibre cables are expected to spur a number of social and commercial activities in the country mainly due to the expected drop of the current cost of connecting to the Internet to a tenth of current costs.

    One megabyte now costs Sh519, 168 ($ 6,500) per month but with the submarine fibre optic connectivity this is expected to fall to Sh33, 000 ($ 500) per megabyte per month.

    Other than the reduced costs to the operators, the undersea cables will link villages or remote towns to other cities in the world via fibre arteries such as the National Optic Fibre Backbone (NOFB) and the metro fibre projects that have already been put in place by players like Kenya Data Networks and Telkom Kenya.

    Business Daily

  • - TEAMS has been given the first submarine cable landing operator licence in Kenya. The firm paid an initial fee of Sh15 million, besides making an up front annual operating payment of five million shillings for the current financial year. At the same time, the CCK approved the award of second licence to Sea Submarine Communications (SEACOM), but the firm will only get the green light to connect with local Internet providers upon paying the license fee of Sh15 million.

    - At an update on Nigeria’s deployment of broadband services, NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Ernest Ndukwe, said that the NCC has identified three companies that will execute the project, now awaiting federal approval. The scheme could not begin as expected because of delay in the approval of the NCC's budget which was done only last October.

    - Uganda Telecom (Utl) has introduced an SMS payment to access its Internet hotspots. In this way, the operator can eliminates the on-site attendants, scratch cards and IT specialists. "There are three payment plans for surfing durations of one hour, three hours and six hours of sh2,000, sh5,000 and sh10,000 respectively. The cost of each plan includes the charge of the SMS.

    - March 15 is the deadline for all cyber cafe operators and internet service providers in the country to register with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) or face wrath of the commission. These categories of services providers are only required to obtain a class licence from the commission at the cost of N10,000 only.

    - Foris Telecom, a WiMAX operator in developing countries, and Runcom Technologies, an ODFMA pioneer, announced the successful completion of a Site Acceptance Test (SAT) of the first Mobile WiMAX network in Maputo, Mozambique. The SAT completion is the last stage before the commercial launch of the WiMAX services, scheduled to start in April 1st, 2009.

    - UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw has been the victim of Nigerian fraudsters who sent out hundreds of e-mails in his name asking for money. The e-mails claimed he had lost his wallet on charity work in Africa and needed 3,500 US dollars to get home.

computing

  • Zinox Technologies Limited, promoters of Zinox brand of computers said it has the capacity to push three million personal computers in the Nigerian hardware market in one year as part of efforts to enable Nigerians own their personal computers.

    Considering the appalling recent report of the World Bank on information technology penetration in Nigeria, the Chief Executive Officer of Zinox Technologies Limited Chief Stan Ekeh said that Zinox as the leading brand in the Nigerian PCs market has a national assignment to raise PC penetration rate in the country and the rest of the West African sub-region to appreciable level by end of this year.

    "If the government wakes up today and buys 2 million PCs and empowers Nigerians, things will improve. .

    If you are not consuming your goods, who do you expect to consume it for you? If government buys 3 million PCs, Nigeria will become the most visible nations in Africa in six months. If they do this, they are civilising the people." It enlightens people. And how much does it cost, 3 million PCs cannot hurt a nation? By doing this, you would have created a job, you would have created activities, you have given hope to the poor.

    "The government can wake up today. Zinox has excess capacity . Zinox alone can produce 3 million PCs in a year.”

    " We have the main materials who are Nigerians, who will benefit and we will take responsibility. The government must support people. There is no country in the world that produces 100 percent of any items. If you have the raw materials, intellectual capitals, you have to get from somewhere. So if government wakes up today and say, every student in Nigeria should get a laptop, you change their thinking, you culture them. I think that it is best way to culture people. You culture them intelligently.

    " The best way to culture a place today is the level of intellectual capital. The government must build capacity. If you ignore the local entrepreneur, nobody can develop your country for you. If you buy computers and give Nigerians, the teachers and the students, you are building the nation. You are creating excitement."You are making the people to become more ambitious. Can't the nation give free internet acces to Nigerians. How much does it cost?

    'The only way to explode Nigeria is through technology. Because that is the only thing that absorbs the size of unemployed youths we have in this country. Nothing else including the Niger Delta. That is the only way it could be resolved. " Ekeh who is so passionate about youth empowerment said.

    On IT education in the Nigerian universities, he said that IT Education is growing but noted that the government needs to do more by empowering the Nigerian students with IT tools and knowledge needed to face the challenges of the 21st century knowledge economy.

    "We have a contract with AfriHub in some universities. It is not enough. Can't the government close her eyes and out outsource companies to deliver? I build digital centres in institutions of higher learning . It is critical. Education today is no more important but is the quality of education today that is critical. If you go to university today and you cannot use computer, you are illiterate." he said

    Vanguard

  • A group of young engineers from the Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RDB/RITA) have developed a new software that will help in the human resource management in the country.

    The software called E-Attendance was designed to fundamentally transform personnel management in Rwanda, and will be used to ensure efficiency in both government and Private Sector institutions.

    Nkubito Bakuramutsa, the Deputy CEO of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in charge of ICT during the launch of the software, said that it had come at the right time.

    "This computer software will allow easy and efficient control of attendance and punctuality of all employees in organisations. This is one of the most time consuming and costly overhead activities in many institutions," Bakuramutsa is quoted as saying in a RITA statement.

    He further explained that the system would provide management with real time employee information and vital labour data. All this, he said, would reduce the hassle of manually processing piles of sometimes dusty paper reports.

    Bakuramutsa also confirmed that RDB will be one of the first institutions to adopt the E-Attendance electronic system. Thereafter, countrywide deployment of the system in all Government and Private Sector institutions will kick off at a reasonable cost.

    Created recently, RDB is an agency that was formed after merging several government controlled agencies in order to improve service delivery. Grace Gasani, the Project Team Leader, while addressing the media, explained the different features that come with the E-Attendance software.

    "The solution includes more exciting features like a photographic ability to identify any person entering an organisation. This it does by identifying an image and comparing it to the one stored in the database, it then automatically registers the individual's attendance," Gasani explained.

    She added that the system will also include optional access control. A process where by access to a door or gate is controlled by providing a terminal that has a programmable signal output which is activated with each valid card-swipe or PIN entry.

    The New Times

  • The Federal Government of Nigeria has asked the overseas agency of the National Land Survey of the Swedish Government to assist in digitizing and networking land administration in the country.

    The Minister of State for Works, Housing and Urban Development, Chief (Mrs.) Grace Ekpiwhre made the plea on Friday when she received in her Mabushi Abuja office the Africa Area Manager of SwedeSurvey AB, Ms Sheila Holland who led a delegation from the agency for discussions in the Ministry.

    The Minister stated that there was a "need for networking in land administration in the country so that information can easily be accessed by all stakeholders for the information and use of all parties.

    "We want to partner with you to do whatever you can do to assist us to move our land management system forward. We invite you to arrange a training programme for all the states with your technical experts coming from Sweden. We want the participating States and Local Governments to use such a training programme to discuss and address the issue of networking and seamless integration.

    "But, we have started on a very small scale and the Federal Ministry of Works, Housing and Urban Development is trying to give leadership. We have a digital Federal Land Information Management System and a few States in the Federation have also followed suit," the minister said.

    Responding, Ms Sheila Holland, Area Manager, Africa of SwedeSurvey AB, the overseas agency of the Swedish National Land Survey indicated their preparedness to partner with Nigeria beginning with an evaluation of what has already been put in place and providing a customized training for the country's requirement.

    She expressed their readiness to assist the country in putting standards in place "in order to ensure that the systems that you have built will easily be able to integrate with one another. This will considerably reduce the cost of producing the data in all the different States, and will allow you to seamlessly integrate with other systems within the country.

    "Land is a very important asset. We agree with you on that, and Sweden has managed through the National Land Survey and other authorities that are now integrated to be able to capitalize on the land resources in the country.

    She said considering the size of Nigeria and its population "I think that this will also be a huge profitable investment for Nigeria, to really map all the land, make sure that you have it in some way in a register, so that you are able to administer the land and make a return on your investment."

    Daily Trust

  • - A group of South African developers have released a new version of Linux. First we had Impi, then we had Ubuntu. Now a group of South African developers have released Kongoni, a new Linux distribution. Named after the Shona word for GNU - the mascot of the Free Software Foundation - Kongoni is built on a base of Slackware Linux but is meant to emulate BSD-Unix with its package management.

    - Uganda’s Parliament's committee on ICT has finalised a new policy that will regulate the importation and disposal of electronic gadgets in the country. The Policy contained in the draft, National Information Technology Bill is now before the committee for scrutiny.

    - A Rwandan National Data Center is to be established soon, facilitating government institutions' access to and exchange of information. This was announced by Nkubito Bakuramutsa, the deputy CEO in charge of ICT at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

    - The "Chifa" chip card will be used in all Algeria by 2011-2012, said Tayeb Louh, Minister of Labour, Employment and Social. Speaking to the press in the margins of the signing ceremony of an agreement between the National Social Insurance Fund (CNAS) and the British "Cromwell Hospital," the minister pointed out that all social insured people nationwide will receive their "Chifa" chip card within the next three years.

Digital Content

  • AccessKenya is diversifying its revenue model to entice more consumers to use the Internet for leisurely pursuits.

    The listed ISP unveiled a Sh10 million information portal that it is banking on improving the quality of content and marks the introduction of a new division within the group to focus on creating value-added services.

    Marketing manager, Petra Somen, will head the new content division, and develop the portal in conjunction with African Laughter, an ICT solution provider that focuses on developing Websites.

    The Website, which offers reviews of local entertainment facilities as well as providing up-to-date information on events and news, is banking on revenues made from advertising to boost its development.

    “We have deliberately scaled down our pricing to attract more businesses to the website. Our rates vary from Sh1,000 to Sh6,000,” said Jenny Luesby, director of African Laughter.

    “We saw the need to increase the number of Kenyans going online was to provide them with content that they could relate to. We are confident this new portal will enhance our core business which is the provision of internet services,” said Jonathan Somen.

    In developing its home.co.ke portal, AccessKenya is adopting a model first used in the ISP industry soon after the market was liberalised. In the late ‘90s, as ISPs sought to attract Kenyans to the Internet, many built up information websites which consumers would use to navigate the web.

    Despite early successes, most of those websites were phased out as users became more Internet-savvy and turned to more universal tools such as search engines to find the information.

    The firm said it was developing the portal to take advantage of a second liberalisation period, which is expected to see larger numbers of Kenyans go online.

    Much of the activity in the Internet sector is being spurred by the coming of international fibre optic cable projects which are expected to reduce the cost of communication by up to ten times.

    Mr Somen said the information portal would be a test case for future projects along the same concept.

    “Content is extremely important to the growth of the industry and while it may seem we are deviating from our core business, we are enhancing our offering in line with changing trends in the market place.

    Business Daily

  • The number of Opera Mini users climbed more than 90% over the course of 2008.

    Mobile web use in South Africa surged 93% between January 2008 and January 2009 with the average browser viewing 264 pages in the first month of this year. This is according to Opera Software's State of the Mobile Web for January 2009.

    The report from the browser maker found that global Opera Mini usage in January 2009 was 12.1% higher than in the previous month with 20 million users. Page views grew by an even larger amount, climbing 18% to 7.6 billion global pages viewed over the course of January 2009.

    South Africa ranked sixth in the list of top ten Opera Mini users. Users in Russia accounted for the largest number of Opera Mini users, followed by Indonesia, Ukraine, China, India and then South Africa.

    In terms of page views per user, Ukraine took the top spot with the average user viewing 530 pages in January 2009. Indonesia (507 pages) was followed by Russia (416) and India (354). South African users viewed an average 264 pages.

    Mybroadband

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Maroc Telecom, Morocco's leading telecoms group, will stay on a strong track of growth this year despite greater competition, company chairman said on Tuesday.

    "Our performance for this year will be good. Our business will remain on a strong path of growth. We have invested in new services that will generate more growth," Chairman Abdeslam Ahizoune told a news conference on Tuesday.

    Maroc Telecom, which is 54-percent owned Vivendi, said on Monday evening that its 2008 net profit rose 18.5 percent year-on-year to 9.5 billion dirhams ($1.10 billion).

    Ahizoune dismissed speculations by analysts that the arrival of a new competitor in the mobile-phone market could trim Maroc Telecom's profitability, which comes mostly from its mobile operation.

    "We welcome more competition in the market, which would improve the growth of the telecoms sector. We have more room to cut prices and benefit consumers," he said. Wana, the telecoms arm of Morocco's biggest conglomerate ONA won the contract for the country's third wireless phone network earlier this month.

    Ahizoune reiterated that the company expected revenue to grow by more than 3 percent this year and said the margin of its earnings from operations would remain as high as the 47 percent posted last year.

    The group's conslidated earnings from operations were up 13.5 percent to 13.9 billion dirhams and revenue grew 7.2 percent to 29.5 billion dirhams as it expanded its mobile customers by 12.5 percent to 17.1 million. $1=8.612 Moroccan Dirham Reuters

  • Orascom Telecom, the largest Arab telecom firm by subscribers, said on Sunday it was studying an offer for two of its information technology subsidiaries, to increase focus on its core mobile business.

    Orascom said it may sell LINKdotNet and Link Egypt to Mobinil, Egypt’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, in which it owns an approximately 35 percent stake.

    “The sale...represents another key step in the implementation of our stated strategy to dispose of our non-core assets and focus on our GSM business,” Orascom Telecom Chairman Naguib Sawiris said in a statement.

    Orascom did not say how much Mobinil had offered to pay for the two companies. LINKdotNET sells Internet services in the Middle East region and Link Egypt sells offshore software development services, according to its website.

    The sale would allow Orascom, whose shares have lost more than a third of their value this year, to raise cash, said Shrouk Diab, telecom analyst at Cairo-based investment bank Beltone Financial.“They are trying to cut capex (capital expenditure) across the board ... in response to global economic conditions,” she said.

    Buying the two companies would allow Mobinil to boost its data offering to better compete with the Egyptian subsidiary of United Arab Emirates-based Etisalat ETEL.AD, she said.

    “It is part of them trying to integrate and consolidate more strength in terms of the data segments of their revenue,” she said.

    In November, Orascom said it had agreed the sale of service firm OrasInvest to sovereign wealth fund Abu Dhabi Investment for $180 million.

    Reuters

  • Three Ethiopian private banks signed a Memorandum of Understanding to launch an ATM and POS network, in a move described as "the first significant cooperation between competing banks in Ethiopia 's fast-growing banking sector.

    By signing the MoU, Awash International Bank S.C., Nib International Bank S.C., and United Bank S.C. Banks agreed, in principle, to launch the network, which would be managed and operated by the Ethiopia-based IT Service Outsourcing Company, Offshoring 2.0.

    The joint venture will allow over one million of their customers to withdraw cash and make payments for purchases. The MoU signify gains both in quality banking technology and in cost-effective operations.

    "It is not just about Card Payment System, the Fettan ATMTM network will provide unparalleled access and coverage for the rest of the population that are unbanked and under-banked,"Leikun Berhanu, President of Awash International S.C.said at the signing ceremony at the Intercontinental Hotel in Addis Ababa.

    Another signatory, President of Nib International Bank, Amerga Kassa also backed the united way so as to reach maximum number of Ethiopian private bank customers.

    "No single bank in Ethiopia can afford to provide extensive geographical coverage and access, or create the know-how to do this properly," he said.

    "As a result this will lead to slow acceptance of Card Payment system by consumers, and it makes total business sense to unite," he added.

    Fettan ATMTM will install over 140 ATMs and over 340 POSs at every branch of the Consortium Banks across Ethiopia including all domestic airports serviced by commercial service, shopping complexes and merchants.

    "Through Fettan ATMTM easier adoption of business and technology innovation enables participating members to offer unprecedented transaction services to their customers anywhere 24 hours a day," Berhanu Getahun, president of United Bank said on his part.

    The Fettan ATMTM network also aimed to lead sharing on a variety of other innovative products and services including 'Debit Cards", which the member banks' customers would be able to use to purchase goods in specified shops and hundreds of ATMs nationwide.

    The signatories however said the Fettan ATMTM Consortium would develop detailed business proposals to be discussed with each bank's board prior to final decisions on investments and service implementation.

    CEO and Founder of Offshoring, Technology Services PLC, Yemiru Chanyalew part said shared technology for banking and cash machine services are common in many parts of the world.

    He said, since banks need to transact payments and communicate information efficiently and securely; the Fettan ATMYM Consortium planes to provide these services in Ethiopia .

    "There are gains from economies of scale as fixed costs are shared across more transactions and more efficient technology can be used" he said Yemiru added they were not decided yet on technical platform, "but within six months, we plan to finish on the platform and will enter to the market with the technology." According to the Founder of Technology Services PLC who facilitated the formation of the Consortium, the preliminary figure invested for the networking would be around 40 million Ethiopian birr, subject to change given unpredictable market situations.

    Daily Monitor

  • Microsoft has unveiled a new initiative, BizSpark, that gives start-up software companies low or no-cost access to its tools and technologies, with technical and marketing support to help them develop and take their products to market.

    Qualified start-ups get access to a range of Microsoft technology, such as Visual Studio Team Suite, for up to three years at negligible up-front cost. They can also access a network of organisations - startup incubators, investors, advisors, government agencies and even potential customers - with an active interest in software-fueled innovation and entrepreneurship.

    To be considered, start-ups must be private companies in the business of software development and less than three years old with under $1 million in annual revenue. Startups are nominated into the programme by a venture capital firm, startup incubator, economic development group, Web hosting company, or other approved pre-screener.

    The head of the developer and platform group at Microsoft South Africa, Dave Ives, says BizSpark is a great opportunity for the South African emerging business market to obtain low-cost solutions that will deliver their products and services to the market efficiently, and foster fresh ideas in terms of software and web development.

    “The key objective for BizSpark in South Africa is to support the local software economy,” says Ives. “Enabling the IT Sector is an area specified by the South African government for support and the encouragement of further development.”

    Access to technology is a key issue in the early life cycle of a startup. “By making it easier for local software developers to access the much-needed software, tools and services, they can get going with the design and marketing of new products into the local market and abroad,” says Ives.

    Microsoft has partnered in BizSpark with investment and development groups Internet Solutions, Rackspace Hosting South Africa, SEDA Nelson Mandela Bay ICT Incubator, The Information Technology Association of South Africa, The Innovation Hub and The York Group International.

    Rackspace, a global partner in Microsoft’s international BizSpark programme , will provide network hosting to the BizSpark participants. In the programme, startups can download free Microsoft software for development, test and demonstration purposes and use Microsoft software hosted production licenses free of charge for up to 3 years. Rackspace then provides hosted servers onto which BizSpark SPLA software licenses are installed.

    Brian Garvey, Rackspace channel and strategic alliances partner, estimates that up to 100 companies can be brought into the programme this year. “Not only does this potentially create 1000 new jobs, but the top 20 companies will be able to enter into an accelerated incubator programme.”

    After three years, organisations graduating from BizSpark will have to pay the same licensing fees as other businesses. And participants are obliged to pay a $100 program fee at conclusion or if they leave for any reason.

  • - The Vodacom group and UK-based Vodafone have been given the Competition Tribunal green light to continue with the merger, whereby Vodafone acquires a further 15% in the South African mobile operator for R22,5-billion. Vodafone would buy the stake from incumbent fixed-line operator Telkom. The remaining 35% of Telkom’s shares in Vodacom would be unbundled to its shareholders, who were members of the public.

More

  • - Selwyn Watkins has been appointed as Managing Director of MTI Engineering Services Limited in Nigeria.

  • * 2009 3G CDMA MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA REGIONAL CONFERENCE

    18-20 March 2009, Pavilion Centre, Cape Town, South Africa

    Under the theme “Empowering Communities with 3G CDMA", operators will be talking about their challenges and success. One will present a case study on enabling mobile payments, another on tapping into Africa's broadband backhaul network, one on ways to increase ARPU with EV-DO Rev. A broadband services and another on monetizing (the economics of) low-ARPU 1X subscribers, amongst other.

    On the Friday there is a course on Backhaul Dimensioning and one on Lessons learned from EV-DO deployments in the Middle East and Africa

    http://www.3gafrica.org/graphical/CDMA-Evolution-in-Africa-Registration.asp

    * TELECOMS FRAUD AND RISK

    23rd-26th March 2009 Hilton London Tower Bridge, London, UK

    http://www.iir-events.com/IIR-Conf/page.aspx?id=17135

    * 3RD ANNUAL AFRICAN E-GOV FORUM

    24-26 March 2009, Kigali, Rwanda

    The CTO is honoured that this year the Ministry of Science and Technology, Rwanda will be hosting the 3rd Annual African e-Gov Forum. Join key ICT stakeholders in the region, including Ministers of technology, heads of e-Gov projects, civil society leaders and representatives from IT organisations; mobile operators; infrastructure providers; foundations; development and donor agencies to discuss current issues and witness success stories on e-Gov in Africa.

    www.cto.int

    * 1ST EURO-AFRICA COOPERATION FORUM ON ICT RESEARCH

    25-26 March 2009, Brussels, Belgium

    For the first time in Europe, sub-Saharan African and European policy-makers and research organisations are being brought together to address the development of research collaborative projects in the ICT field. This 2-day event is co-organised by the European Commission (EC Directorate-General Information Society and Media) and the African Union Commission (AUC) with the support of the EuroAfriCa-ICT project, a FP7 coordination and support action aiming at enhancing ICT research cooperation between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.

    http://euroafrica-ict.org/events/forum.php or email at forum@euroafrica-ict.org

    *THE WORLD WIDE WEB CONSORTIUM

    1-2 April 2009, Maputo, Mozambique

    http://www.w3.org/2008/10/MW4D_WS/

    * AFTLD ANNUAL EVENT

    13-17 April 2009, Arusha, Tanzania

    Under the theme "Securing Africa’s Internet Infrastructure”, the AfTLD annual African ccTLD event for 2009 will include a detailed three (3) day technical training workshop on Attack/Disaster Contingency and Recovery Planning(A/DCRP) for technical managers and staff of ccTLDs. AfTLD. The event is jointly organized and generously hosted by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) and the Tanzania Network Information Centre (.tzNIC).

    http://www.aftld.org

  • SOFTWARE QUALITY EXPERT - ETHIOPIA

    The Danish Management are presently searching for an ICT expert for the ToR: Software quality expert to establish a software quality assurance guideline for e-government implementation. The activities and tasks of the assignment include to critically analyze the existing practices and environments of the Ethiopian ICT Development Agency and to develop a general guideline that can be used by the agency to effectively manage the progress, quality and coordination of software development work being done through a vendor.

    jml@ict.danishmanagement.dk

    or call +45 70 200 298

  • * Johannesburg Stock Exchange and EMC - South Africa

    EMC, the world leader in information infrastructure solutions, was recently awarded a tender to supply an enterprise storage solution to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). High volumes, growth and planned new business initiatives necessitated the Exchange implementing a new storage solution. At the outset, it was specified that the required solution would have to meet all the Exchange's capacity, consolidation and performance requirements.

    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

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