Issue no 499 8th April 2010

top story

  • Although by 2012 Africa will be connected to the rest of the world by no less than 12 cables (if you include Atlantis II and LION), there remain a number of nagging issues that will spoil what should just be an unadulterated good news story. The old enemies of protectionism and state interference look set to ensure that there will still be some countries (including one of Africa’s largest) that will not be able to get access to really low price, competitive fibre. Russell Southwood looks at some questions that may not go away.

    The speed of progress with fibre on the continent – both national and international – has been dizzying. The latest arrivals are EASSy and LION and shortly Glo One and Main One will open for business. Also there has been a scramble to connect countries by fibre to the landing stations with the steady completion of national fibre backbones and announcements of new cross-border links. One of the latest to put its head above the parapet has been the Maroc Telecom link to Mauritania. But beneath all this undoubted good news are a number of nagging questions.

    What has happened to the signing of the ACE CNMA?

    The CNMA for France Telecom’s ACE cable was meant to have taken place in Q1 of this year but there’s no sign of it yet. Rumour has it that it is proving much harder to get commitments to investment and landing station costs from the many smaller countries that it is intended to connect. The map published on the Orange web site shows it connecting 24 countries and its initial announcement covered only about half of these countries.

    The challenge for ACE is that it was late into the game and therefore many of those 24 countries are small economies where even with much cheaper bandwidth, chances of them generating much demand are fairly low. Furthermore, although the map shows the cable landing in South Africa, it’s hard to identify who would be a landing partner as most are already taken by other projects. There was a point where it looked as if WACS and ACE might come together but that moment passed and ACE has to make a business case without key players.

    Why isn’t DRC going to be connected to an international landing station?

    DRC has really dropped the ball on getting an international landing station in place and may not succeed. Initially when WACS was discussed, it looked likely that Vodacom would run the landing station. In the event, the Government decided that its failed (and failing) incumbent OCPT would be given the landing station rights. Well, however stupid that might seem, that’s Government right but it seems to have then failed to find the money to participate in WACS, hence no landing station.

    In an interview with local paper Le Potential Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Posts, Telephones and Telecommunications, Simon Bulupiy Galati said he was more determined than ever to resolve the question. He even claimed that OCPT has been “allocated a reasonable amount” to modernize itself, although the Minister acknowledged the company’s operating deficit. The Minister was demanding speedier completion of the fibres serving Kinshasa, Matadi and Mwanda, as well as the opening of the link to neighbouring Brazzaville for before the 50th anniversary of independence celebrations in June this year. There has been talk of a Chinese loan for a fibre route from Kinshasa to the coast but no sign of it yet being built.

    A landing station in DRC is shown on the ACE map so it yet may happen, otherwise DRC will end up as the one of the largest countries in Africa without a landing station. The problem is that Government has come late to the party and whilst its role should be to ensure equal access, it has in this case probably ensured no access as the likely outcome. There is another much smaller country where the regulator has intervened and the danger of no access may also come about.

    What about those countries that will have a monopoly ACE landing station?

    Five countries in West Africa will end up with a single ACE landing station: Gambia; Sierra Leone; Liberia; Guinea; and Guinea-Bissau. The question in these countries that have little Governmental capacity to make timely and wise decisions, is who will operate the monopoly landing station and how?

    In Sierra Leone, the Government gave back the international gateway monopoly to former incumbent Sierratel as a way of boosting its income. The problem is that boosting Sierratel’s income will not deliver cheaper bandwidth to business and citizens in the country. In Liberia, LTC has almost as little operating existence as OCPT in DRC. Therefore in a country with an extremely lively and competitive mobile market, who will act as a neutral party ensuring equal fair access for all the parties? In Gambia, Gamtel already has a terrestrial link to Senegal but it is unreliable in the rainy season. Government has determined that Gamtel will operate the landing station despite questions about its operational effectiveness.

    Why is Senegal not licensing the international cables that will be complete well before ACE arrives?

    Senegal has had the opportunity to licence at least two international fibre cables (Glo One and Main One) that will arrive well before the ACE cable in 2010. The Senegalese regulator, which on important matters takes its marching orders from the Government, has chosen not to licence either of these two new cables.

    This is hardly surprising given the close political relationship that exists between Government and the Senegalese incumbent Sonatel. The latter now can rest assured that there will be no uncomfortable competitors for its ACE landing station when it finally arrives. So in this, as in so many other markets, Sonatel now has a stranglehold on any potential for emerging competitors. And the Government in choosing Expresso as Sonatel’s latest “shadow-boxing” competitor has ensured that nothing is likely to change in the near future.

    Why is it possible to send data more cheaply from Europe to Lagos than it is to send it from Lagos to Abuja?

    The arrival of multiple international fibre cables means that a duplex leg from the landing station to Europe will come down this year or next to the sub-US$1,000 per mbps mark. However, sending the same traffic anywhere in most African countries is several times more costly. There are those who explain how with distance-based pricing for both routes, actually using the national backbone is somehow different and therefore more expensive. And there are a very small number of telcos who’ve simply given up on distance-based pricing, including Vodafone Ghana.

    In competitive markets like Kenya, the cost of the Mombasa-Nairobi route has fallen rapidly despite endless vandalism problems. The same cannot be said for the majority of African countries. The challenge now is to provide efficient national backbones so that prices can fall into line.

    So many questions, so little time…Perhaps we will hear some answers soon.

telecoms

  • The concept of Mobile Number Portability could witness an early implementation as frantic efforts are being put in place. The Minister of Communication, Mr. Haruna Iddrisu has stated that the testing of equipment for take off would be done in June, this year, while full implementation would be conducted in 2011, a year short of the implementation date of 2012.

    According to the Minister, the National Communications Authority (NCA) was collaborating with the various operators to define the parameters for the implementation of the project next year. He said the implementation of the programme is in line with his Ministry's efforts at facilitating consumer choice in the telecommunication market.

    The announcement of the concept some few months ago has since created euphoria among mobile phone subscribers who are of the view that its implementation would offer subscribers the greatest of choice to switch between operators without necessarily losing old contacts or changing SIM cards.

    Mobile number portability is simply keeping your mobile phone number when moving from your existing service provider to a new provider.

    It means you will use the services and features offered by your new provider and not take your existing service and its features with you.

    It comprises two distinct, but related processes. The first is the process of porting numbers from one service provider to another, which is more customer-facing. The second has to do with the process of routing calls to a number that has been ported. This is more network-facing.

    Currently, if subscribers of a mobile network want to switch from one network to the other, they would have to obtain a new number from the new operator. This normally leads to loss of existing contacts or creates a situation where the subscriber needs to take up the task of making all their contacts about their new number.

    Mr. Kofi Capito, Chief Executive Officer of Consumer Protection Agency, and a consumer rights advocate, has welcomed the development, stating that an early implementation of the concept is good for consumers in the country.

    According to him, the technology for the implementation of the programme is readily available and being implemented the world over, including some African countries and, therefore, could not fathom why Ghana should tarry in its implementation.

    The Chief Executive Officer of Consumer Protection Agency reiterated that the implementation of the Mobile Number Portability would offer the consumer a convenient choice of mobile service operator. He noted that consumer's choice to switch in between networks would force Service Providers to do the right thing and ensure quality service provision.

    Some subscribers The Chronicle spoke to complained about the poor service delivery of some Service Providers, but said they are still hooked to those networks because they do not want to lose their number, which is well known to their friends and business clients.

    Other customers said they have been compelled to go for additional handsets to enable them use other networks that have better services, whiles maintaining their old numbers. They thus welcome the Number Portability concept, saying it would make service providers sit up, knowing that they would lose subscribers if they do not improve their service quality.

    Ghanaian Chronicle

  • Telecoms provider Neotel has called on the market to continue putting pressure on the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) to implement local loop unbundling (LLU), arguing that it is a key enabler to true competition in the market.

    LLU refers to the process of operators other than Telkom gaining access to Telkom's wires that link its exchanges to its customers' premises.

    "Let's not take the pressure off (the regulator to implement LLU). LLU will make a substantial difference to competition, and if we wait too long it will be too late and irrelevant. One or two players will end up owning the space if LLU doesn't happen soon," Angus Hay, Neotel's chief technology officer, said yesterday.

    The deadline to force Telkom to share its telephone exchanges is November next year.

    Lack of access to Telkom's exchanges has become one of the biggest constraints to competition and substantial price reduction. Without direct access to Telkom's copper cable, consumers will not experience the full benefits of the recent price reductions in broadband as internet service providers still rely on Telkom for connections to the lines.

    Commenting on the recent ADSL price reductions by internet service providers such as MWeb and Afrihost, Hay said the move was not sustainable without proper access to Telkom's telephone exchanges.

    "Everyone is reselling (Telkom) ADSL at ridiculously low prices, but it is not sustainable. As a result, there is one player holding all the cards and making all the money," he said.

    It is not clear what progress has been made by Icasa since the announcement by the Department of Communications more than three years ago that LLU should be implemented by November next year.

    But the department's director- general, Mamodupi Mohlala, told Business Day about two weeks ago that the department would issue policy directives with timelines to ensure that Icasa meets the 2011 deadline. "We are already working on it," she said.

    Although Neotel's business will also benefit from LLU, it is in the meantime speedily rolling out its optic fibre and wireless networks to ensure wider coverage not only in urban areas, including townships, with 300 new wireless base stations expected to be installed this year.

    Neotel also plans to introduce prepaid products and other services to consumers and small and medium enterprises in areas such as Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, East London and Stellenbosch. Neotel has almost 50000 customers. In the 2009 financial year it reported R1bn in revenue.

    "The consumer market has been challenging. But we are not surprised, we knew it would take time," said Wandile Zote, the executive head of corporate communications at Neotel. About 9-million consumers are covered by Neotel's wireless network.

    Hay said the group's intention was to offer value for money to customers and to differentiate the company from its competitors by providing compelling services. "We will bring real broadband to consumers," he said.

    Neotel would not respond to the latest move by internet service providers to cut bandwidth prices, Hay said, reiterating that Neotel's entry into the market resulted in price cuts of up to 40%.

    Business Day

  • The Uganda Communications Commission and the Broadcasting Council have been merged into one regulatory body that will oversee both communication and broadcasting matters in the country.

    The new policy directive issued on 15 March was communicated by the Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Aggrey Awori, and published in the Uganda Gazette.

    A body headed by the current chairperson of the Broadcasting Council, Godfrey Mutabazi, will be set up to manage the transition.

    It will be overseen by a board comprising members from the two boards of the merging organisations, which will be headed by the current head of the Communications Commission, A.M.S. Katahoire.

    Under the new framework, the ICT ministry will also take over the management of the national spectrum (airwaves) and the transmission infrastructure from the Ministry of Information and National Guidance.

    According to the directive, the transitional body will be merged at both the board and administrative levels.

    "The primary role of the transitional board and executive shall be to oversee and conclude the process of drafting a new law and establishing the merged regulator for both communications and broadcasting in accordance with best practices and international standards," the directive said.

    Awori mandated the transitional body to form working committees for the efficient discharge of its duties.

    "While the board will oversee the process of merging the two regulators, it will also continue to carry out the functions specified in the Uganda Communications Act and the Electronic Media Act of 1997.

    "Where the functions require specific focus, pertaining to communications, the members who were commissioners under the UCC may constitute themselves into a communications committee to handle the matter and keep the board updated," the directive says.

    Where the matter pertains to broadcasting, the directive added, members who belonged to the Broadcasting Council would constitute a broadcasting committee to deal with the issues and update the board.

    "The Broadcasting Council and the Uganda Communications Commission are instructed to work out the administrative details of the new structure," it further said.

    "The transitional body shall continue to carry out the functions of the two regulators until the functions of the merged regulator are provided for by the new law," it said.

    The two laws shall continue to exist and provide the regulatory framework for the transitional merger until a new converged legislation is enacted.

    "The Uganda Communications Commission and the Broadcasting Council may conclude the details of this arrangement through a memorandum of understanding on the modalities of the day-to-day operations," the directive said.

    The New Vision

  • Clients who have not yet identified their telephone numbers have up to July 10 to do so.

    Owning a mobile telephone is a pride for many Cameroonians. Mado L. who lives in the Biyem-Assi neighbourhood has two mobile phones. She is worried as to what will become of her two mobile phones in the months ahead as she has not been able to go the telephone operators to get identified. This is the situation many Cameroonians are facing today. For the past few months Cameroonians queued in front of mobile telephone companies to get their telephone numbers identified.

    The identification of persons with telephone numbers is a decision of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications to get mobile telephone owners in the country identified. Even though some people had obeyed the directive many are yet to comply. Some have identified their numbers but are still living in suspense as to whether their identification was authentic. François Donfack, who lives the Ekounou neighbourhood, has identified his telephone number but he keeps on receiving messages from the telephone company reminding him of the need to identify himself.

    In order to give all Cameroonians a chance, the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Jean-Pierre Biyiti bi Essam has signed an order reminding the public that the period of voluntary identification of the mobile telephone subscribers expired since February 28, 2010. Minister Jean-Pierre Biyiti bi Essam has thus accorded a period of grace to clients who have not yet identified their telephone numbers. The period of grace will begin as April 5, 2010. The Minister has therefore called on operators of mobile telephone companies to set up a process of notification by groups of subscribers within that given period. According to the order, all numbers which are not yet identified by July 10, 2010 will be deactivated, owing to imperatives related to cyber crime control in Cameroon.

    Cameroon Tribune

  • - The Mozambican government has launched an international tender to license a third mobile phone operator. See section “Jobs and Opportunities” below for the full details.

    - Bharti Airtel Limited will base its Africa headquarters in Kenya's Nairobi according to Mr Manoj Kohli, chief executive of international operations.

    - Zamtel management has said the company has been preparing its employees for possible retrenchment so that the workers could contribute to the economic growth of the company even after being separated from the institution as a result of the pending privatisation.

    - The telecommunications regulatory body, the National Communications Institute of Mozambique (INCM), has recognised that the quality of the two mobile phone networks in the country is deteriorating. According to INCM managing director Americo Muchanga, neither the publicly-owned M-Cel nor its South African rival Vodacom are providing services with the desirable quality. To change this situation, the government, in partnership with the INCM, has been drawing up a set of regulations on quality of service, which will oblige the phone operators to meet certain standards. Muchanga said these regulations should be approved by the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet) by June.

    - African mobile services provider Sicap has rolled out a series of mobile money services available on specifically designed ATMs. The ATMs can be deployed as a prepaid credit channel to the 95 percent African mobile users who use prepaid subscriptions and top up on a daily basis. They can also be used for money remittance services with cash withdrawals enabled, or connected to CRM platforms for automated customer care, as well as set up as a means for the unbanked to settle their utility bills.

internet

  • Access Kenya has commissioned a 140-kilometre metropolitan fibre optic cable covering Nairobi's Central Business District and other high-end residential areas.

    The launch of the metropolitan fibre follows the purchase of redundant capacity from Jamii Telecom, in late February.

    The optic cable, laid at a cost of $5.3 million (Ksh400 million and implemented together with India's ECI Telecom, is the culmination of over a year of research and development, followed by a year of civil work, according to Access Kenya managing director Jonathan Somen.

    Mr Somen said the new technology will accord the company's estimated 3,500 residential customers uninterrupted service.

    "Currently, 99 per cent of our network is built as fibre rings; if we experience a cut, the other half of the ring will immediately carry the traffic," said Mr Somen.

    Access Kenya has also built a core fibre network of four main nodes to manage traffic in order to minimise the chances of failure of equipment and reduce downtime to the customer.

    "We are using the latest fibre optic network technology - Carrier Ethernet - which is used by large carriers in the EU and North America," said the Access Kenya boss.

    He added: "Due to the network's design and coverage, new buildings can easily be connected."

    The company targets about 250 buildings in the first phase of the project.

    Access Kenya, the first ICT company in Kenya to be listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange in 2007, when its revenue was $8 million (Ksh 600 million).

    The firm's 2009 financial results released this week indicate that its revenue stood at $26 million (Ksh2.07 billion), a 32 per cent increase on its 2008 revenues of $20.9 million (Ksh1.57 billion).

    However, even though the firm's Internet division's revenue increased, it recorded a $400,000 (Ksh30 million) loss in its IT division, according to Access Kenya board chairman, David Somen.

    The firm currently derives most of its revenue from the corporate market segment, which accounts for over 42 per cent of its total revenues, while the remainder is shared by the residential data market and IT divisions.

    The East African

  • Uganda is laying the wrong fibre optic cable for the national backbone infrastructure, local and international experts have said.

    Uganda is using the G652 type whereas it should be using G655 for the kind of data Uganda will need to transmit.

    But despite instructions from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Parliament to halt the second phase until the technical issues have been resolved, the Chinese company, Huawei Technologies, has refused to stop.

    Every day the works continue, the company is using up more of the $106m (sh212b) for what experts say will prove to be a 'white elephant'.

    The National Transmission Backbone Infrastructure and related e-Government Infrastructure is a project funded by a concessional loan from the export/import bank (EXIM) of China.

    Uganda has to pay back the loan over a period of 20 years.

    The Chinese government sourced and recommended Huawei Technologies to carry out the implementation.

    There was no tender and according to inside sources, no proper needs assessment study prior to implementation.

    One source said a project document from Malawi was simply copied and the word 'Malawi' changed into 'Uganda'.

    The project involves building a 2,100 km fibre optic cable network linking 20 major towns, making Internet accessible and affordable to the majority of Ugandans and enabling e-Government.

    Ultimately, it is meant to be linked to the submarine cables that have recently arrived at the East African coast and provide faster and cheaper Internet access to Uganda.

    The backbone infrastructure is very instrumental for Uganda's development.

    It will determine whether the country will catch the ICT train or miss it.

    The UN has established that there is a direct link between the spread of Internet and economic growth. The International Telecommunication Union found that every 1% increase in Internet penetration results into a $593 increment to GDP per capita.

    Yet, contrary to neighbouring Rwanda, the country might miss the train due to an inadequate network and outdated technology that experts predict will constantly break down.

    Questions about the type of cable were raised as far back as June 2009. In a brief to the ICT minister, the Project Implementation Unit recommended a shift from G652 to G655.

    It argued that the cable used has Four Wavelength Mixing, a "phenomenon that introduces signal distortion that is extremely difficult to overcome".

    It also said the cable has very high levels of chromatic dispersion, "a phenomenon that introduces errors during signal transmission".

    More concerns about the type of cable were raised in a document drafted in September by the parliamentary committee on ICT.

    The committee found that the bandwidth per fibre was too small. Bandwidth is the amount of traffic the fibre can carry simultaneously.

    The G655 has a capacity of transmitting 40 gegabites per second whereas the current one can only transmit 2.5Gb, upgradable to 10Gb.

    Experts say this is insufficient for Uganda's current needs. It cannot provide for future growth bearing in mind that other countries, like Rwanda, may tap on the same infrastructure.

    "The G652 cable does not have enough provision for future upgrade path for higher data rates, multiple channels and longer distances," said the ICT committee.

    One expert explained that it will be like driving traffic from a 10-lane road converging onto a one-lane road; leading to huge traffic jams.

    "Projects like e-health or e-education using video-links may become difficult if not impossible to run across the country because they require huge bandwidth," the expert said.

    Makerere University had planned to set up five up-country centres allowing students to attend classes at the main campus through a video-link. Such projects, the expert said, may be excluded with this type of cable as data and video traffic grows across the country.

    The committee also established that the reachable dispersion distance for the current cable is less than half of the G655.

    This is the distance from where the optical signal, or light, dissipates or phases out.

    According to the ICT committee, the reachable distance of the G652 is 80km, whereas the signal for the G655 can reach over 210km.

    When the signal phases out, it needs to be regenerated through 'boosters', which are expensive to build and maintain.

    It will also greatly contribute to 'down time' of the infrastructure, meaning the system will shut down.

    Another concern raised is the number of cores of fibre that has been installed.

    The cable being laid is only a 24 core fibre whereas experts recommend 96 cores as a minimum to ensure that future growth in data and video usage is not interrupted.

    The number of cores determines the number of separate channels. Security sensitive information, for example, is preferably transmitted through a separate channel.

    "The advantage of more cores is that they can be distributed over a much wider area," an international ICT expert told The New Vision.

    "In some instances, the cores not used by the Government could be leased to third party providers, making it a profitable business."

    Uganda will need this additional income to pay off the Chinese loan.

    Apart from the type of cable, experts have also raised questions about the price.

    Rwanda spent $38m to cover a distance of 2,300km to connect 35 sites.

    Uganda, on the other hand, will spend $61.6m to cover 2,100km.

    That means that Uganda will spend about $30,000 per kilometre on the project, whereas Rwanda will spend $16,000 per kilometre.

    This is despite the fact that Rwanda is using the G655 type, the one recommended by experts, which is slightly more expensive.

    MPs and officials of the National Information Technology Authority (NITA) are particularly worried that the Chinese company is continuing the works without any supervision.

    The Auditor General in his December report already criticised the lack of proper supervision during the first phase.

    He noted that the Project Implementation Unit was only set up six months after the works had started.

    "By this time, substantial amount of work on the contract had been undertaken," the report says.

    "Capacity was still lacking in terms of numbers and expertise, with the unit manned by only six technical staff, out of which only four were field-based."

    NITA and the ICT committee have demanded the immediate suspension of the works pending an entire review of the project based on a proper needs assessment study.

    "A full technical audit is urgently required to save whatever is left of the $106m, and immediate steps need to be taken to rectify the situation," said a source.

    "Otherwise potentially fatal technical problems are facing both the National Backbone Infrastructure and e-Government."

    Missing the ICT train, NITA says, will be catastrophic for the future of Uganda.

    "Wasting $106m is bad enough. But the loss of the money is nothing compared to the long-term consequences of missing the ICT revolution."

    The New Vision

  • Vodafone teamed up with Opera to produce a browser for low-cost, non-smartphone (dumb?) handsets for use in emerging and developing markets and now it's launching services to use the new capability. By Ian Scales.

    Despite the accelerating penetration and plummeting cost of smartphones (they will make up half mobile user base in the US by the end of 2011) they're still unlikely to be widely affordable in emerging markets for a few years yet. And neither is the 3G and 4G infrastructure which, ideally, is required to support them.

    That means the high penetration enjoyed by 2G in many markets can't yet be matched by Internet access - a big shame to say the least given the huge economic and social benefits already garnered by the broad availability of voice and SMS. Online access via mobile could provide an even greater boost for these economies.

    That's where Vodafone is claiming Opera Mini comes in.

    The magic of a mini browser for small screens on dumb phones is not in the browser itself but back in the network where, in this case, Opera servers filter content - taking out the bandwidth-gobbling and, strictly speaking unnecessary, graphics and other superfluous stuff and then compressing what remains to send over the network. The result is up to 90 percent compression, and the result of that is 2G online services (Edge and GPRS) that can be pegged at prices users can afford.

    Vodafone says it's worked with the Norwegian company to embed its Opera Mini 5 browser in 20 devices. Opera Mini is also downloadable to over 250 GPRS-supported handsets currently in use on Vodafone's networks and the operator claims it's going to be offering highly-affordable data tariffs to go with the new capability.

    The offers are to be rolled out initially in India, South Africa, Turkey, Tanzania and Egypt with other markets expected to follow in the near future.

    TelecomTV

  • - The much awaited East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) has finally landed at Msasani Peninsula shoreline in Tanzania. Zantel and TTCL which are investors of the EASSy project in Tanzania and will be responsible for selling and distributing capacity to other network operators and internet service providers.

    - "Tunisiaoilonline", a new portal dedicated to Tunisian oil and gas was recently launched in Tunis. The new website offers professionals, stakeholders and visitors, several services such as "targeted ads", "environments" and "listings of Tunisian and global companies" in the sector.

    - In keeping with international trends, Zimbabwe’s newspaper, The Standard has embraced social media as a means to reach its legion of readers online. The Standard now has a Facebook fan page on which readers can engage in open discussions on topical issues as well as providing links to our best stories.

    - Myscoop (http://myscoop.co.za/) is a South African blog aggregator. A visit to their homepage gives you access to links of blogs in the region either by topic e.g technology, business or you can use the top navigation bar to traverse and find the blog which writes about your chosen category. Another functionality available at Myscoop is the ability to view their blogosphere statistics. These are charts and figures of the South African blogosphere, with access to the summarized content of the listed blogs.

    - There has been significant improvement in the communication sector with growth being registered in key areas in Ghana. Statistics collated this year reveal that, total phone subscriptions went up from 11,570,430 in 2008 to `15,318,225 while internet users climbed from as low as 45,000 last year to 2,500,000 this year.This was made known by the Minister of Communication, Haruna Iddrisu when he took his turn at the Meet-the-Press series in Accra to touch on issues to do with the Ministry.

computing

  • A ban on import of used electronic equipment took effect last week, amid continuing controversy over how to deal with the growing environmental hazard.

    The ban was ordered in a law approved by Parliament last year, but importers have been pushing to overturn it so they can continue to sell second-hand computers and other equipment.

    The National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) is defending the law and pushing ahead with plans to establish a state-of-the-art recycling centre for electronic goods. In the process, however, Nema has become embroiled in a battle with an existing United Nations-backed recycling project.

    The complicated battle suggests Uganda is still struggling to come to grips with electronic waste, one of the fastest-growing sources of hazardous waste worldwide. Aging or discarded electronic items have become the fastest growing form of waste in the world, totalling about 50 million tonnes a year.

    Much of this trash is heading toward developing countries like Uganda. It is estimated that 60-80 per cent of all electronic waste and second-hand electric equipment from developed countries winds up in developing countries which lack capacity, policies, safeguards and enforcement tools to manage it safely.

    The 2009 ban was Uganda's attempt to get control of this growing problem. Yet no sooner was it enacted than two trade groups - Dealers in Reconditioned Electronic Equipment (DIREE) and Uganda Electronics and Technicians Association (UETA) - petitioned Parliament to rescind the law.

    They argued, among other things, that the ban would hurt Ugandan consumers by depriving them of low-cost, used computers and other electronic equipment. Nema responded that the benefits to consumers are less than meets the eye. While used computers cost less than new ones, the average amount of money spent on maintenance and the need to replace aging equipment more frequently offsets those lower costs.

    Nema argues that Uganda can protect its environment and achieve economic benefits by becoming a centre for the safe disposal and recycling of electronic waste. It is planning to build a Shs 300 million electronic waste management centre at Namanve industrial park.

    "We have around Shs300 million from our environmental fund and we are going to use it to set up the recycling centre," Nema executive director, Dr Aryamanya Mugisha, said.

    Nema is negotiating with Second Life Uganda, a Netherlands company, to operate the facility. Its goal is to have the facility up and running by early next year.

    According to Dr Aryamanya, the plant will be used as a storage point for phones, computers, printers and other discarded electronics goods. It will sort goods, recycle and re-export items that can be salvaged and destroy the rest in an environmentally safe way.

    "... In Uganda, we do not have much capacity in terms of electronic management. So through this we will set up capacity programme to train people to do the work and in the process employment will be created," he said.

    Nema's plans has created some tensions between Uganda's government and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation. Earlier, Unido selected Uganda as a pilot country for computer refurbishment based on the country's Unido District Business Information centre (DBICs) programme and the government's commitment to developing the ICT sector.

    Under the programme, Unido supported a computer refurbishment center operated by Uganda Green Computers Ltd. While Unido is no longer involved with Green Computers, it is planning a similar project with Microsoft Corporation. But in a March 2 letter, Nema asked the secretariat of Basel Convention, a 1992 comprehensive global environmental agreement on trans-boundary movements of hazardous wastes, to investigate the Unido-Microsoft project.

    Dr Aryamanya said no environmental impact assessment was carried out prior to the establishment of the Uganda Green Computers Refurbishment Centre, contrary to environment laws.

    "Some individuals are claiming to be from Microsoft and others claiming to work with Unido. They took advantage of lack of communication and worked with Ministry of Industry to try and establish a computer refurbishment centre in Uganda," Dr Aryamanya said in an interview.

    Mr Bruno Otto, the head of Unido operations in Uganda, says they were not copied in Nema's letter and the Nema official they dealt with was Mr Onesimus Muhezi, the former director environmental compliance and monitoring, who was recently sacked.

    "Our involvement in this project as Unido was to provide the technical training support, market survey and also equip the centre and that was it," he said. "I think there was a big misunderstanding between us during the meeting..... But what was the intention of the letter?"

    “I think what we did before the policy came into place does not cancel what is there now” the Unido official said. Mr Bruno said that this really causes a diplomatic embarrassment and if Nema has a problem with green Refurbishment Centre they should use a dialogue to solve their differences.

    The chairman of Green Computers, Patrick Bitature, said that the company is more or less not in business, but he declined to discuss the matter further.

    The Monitor

  • Players in the ICT sector are positioning themselves ahead of a planned government project to introduce electronic learning in public schools.

    The decision by the government to create and deploy digital learning nationally will result in massive demand for educational content, computer hardware, software, internet bandwidth, consultancy services, and an array of communication solutions.

    "There has been a lot of activity in the ICT industry, with the main examples being use of ICT in development initiatives and the uptake of internet services in the corporate world. The move to digital learning could not have come at a better time," said Joseph Waruingi, the managing director of Plato East Africa, a firm that offers interactive educational software that tutors and evaluates the progress of users in primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions.

    "We have flagged our e-learning software to reflect the current curriculum developed by the Kenya Institute of Education (KIE). We are more focused on science subjects whose teaching is relatively consistent internationally," he said, adding that the current buzz surrounding e-learning will boost demand for the adoption of the concept in home learning environments.

    Others like the Belgium-based Televic Education are looking at providing the requisite technical support.

    "In collaboration with the ministry of education, we have started the delivery of e-learning content and solutions to two schools against a target of about 240 secondary schools and teacher training colleges," said Dirk Verbeke, the export manager at Televic.

    He said the project was being funded by the Belgium government to the tune of about Sh830 million.

    Digital learning will require huge spending on computer hardware for over 19,000 public primary and secondary schools.

    With the recent proposal by the government to ban the importation of refurbished computers, dealers in new computers stand to gain from the government's e-learning supply contracts.

    In addition, e-learning is now bringing into focus teachers' computer skills, with the tutors expected to buy personal computers to upgrade their skills.

    Most of the current crop of teachers were not taught computers in their professional training, leaving most of them without the relevant skills to guide their students.

    Officials of Copy Cat Ltd told Business Daily the firm has partnered with Jamii, a savings and credit society, to offer laptops on credit.

    Publishers are also seeing an opportunity in the new knowledge delivery model.

    Kenya Literature Bureau (KLB) and Oxford University Press have over the last few years digitised some of their titles in anticipation of learning in the digital age.

    "We have now released six titles in CD (compact disk) format, four of which are story books. These can be used for learning at home or in a classroom," said David Mwaniki, a marketing manager at KLB.

    He added that the publisher will soon digitize 24 more titles.

    Firms that provide high level online learning resources hope to capture future clients from an early age as they expect the introduction of e-learning in primary schools will nurture a culture of web-based learning.

    "We will be providing some free content for students and teachers. From there, they can upgrade to pursuing higher education qualifications using online learning materials," James Ngatia, a manager at Octopus ICT Solutions said.

    Business Daily

  • TechMasai had the pleasure to interview Mr. Jonathan Gosier, an innovative software developer and entreprenuer based in Uganda.

    He is the the founder of software development firm and start-up incubator Appfrica.

    TechMasai: What is Appfrica and how did the idea develop?

    Mr Gosier: Appfrica is a software company that aims to get East African techies involved in creating some of the solutions to the problems their countries face. NGOs (non-government organizations) spend billions of dollars a year coming up with all sorts of solutions designed by people in their countries of origin.

    They spend billions flying people to African countries to deploy these solutions. They spend billions interacting with governments. And whether those ideas work or not, they’ll spend billions doing it all over again.

    Appfrica exists partly to help support Africans who have similar ideas and ambitions. Beyond that, we exist to support East African tech entrepreneurs in general. The best way to change the narrative of Africa is in the same way it was changed in developed countries – through business development, hard work and a little bit of trial and error.

    TechMasai: Who do Appfrica target and what is your main objective?

    Mr Gosier: My primary focus with Appfrica is to do two things. 1) make innovative software for the global market and 2) mentor and invest in Africa’s technology leaders of tomorrow.

    TechMasai: What is the start-up scene like in Eastern Africa. Uganda especially?

    Mr Gosier: It’s interesting. There’s a lot of companies like Software Factory, Digital Solutions, Beyonic, Node Six and Mount Batten that are all doing amazing things. On the other hand, at least in Uganda, we’re missing that collaborative culture that you’re starting to see more of in places like Kenya with the iHub. But things like the Uganda Linux Users Group and the Google Technology User Group are beginning to change that.

    TechMasai: What do you think can be done to help develop and foster the emerging technology sector in Eastern Africa?

    Mr Gosier: If people want to complain about the state of Africa, complain about the powerful African diaspora that have ‘made it’ but who are too busy to pass on knowledge to the people coming up after them. It’s not always about money or giving someone a job, it’s more about serving as a good example and helping to create the society we want to live in in the future. For me I want Africa to have a healthy tech sector, that’s the future I want to live in. That’s why I run my business the way I do, I’m trying to create a space that’s favorable to this type of progress.

    TechMasai: Local government support in the African technology sector so far been limited. What can be done to help encouage local policy makers to invest and support the sector?

    Mr Gosier: I think many governments are simply being outpaced by the private sector. It happens in developed countries to. It’s a generational thing, hopefully we’ll see this change with the next generation of Africa’s leaders. However, we do live in the present and to get people to do something about this now goes to back to the things I said above. Our leaders need to think more about the world they are creating, and not so much about the politics of now. The two do go hand in hand, but I see a lot of short sighted decisions being made that lead me to believe that this simple concept often gets forgotten.

    For instance, just this week the Ugandan government passed a law that makes it illegal to import and sell used computers in the country. In a country where a new computer can cost as much as someone’s salary for an entire year. I know they passed this law to try to combat e-waste but even if that’s the case, it’s like taking a hammer to a hangnail.

    TechMasai: What lies in the future of Mr Jonathan Gosier the entreprenuer?

    http://swift.ushahidi.com

    But we live in a global market and there’s no reason solutions developed in Africa can’t be shipped to serve consumers anywhere on the planet. It doesn’t mean you exclude the local market, but it does mean not limiting yourself. Good software is good software.

    TechMasai

  • - The Ethiopian Information Communications Technology Development Agency (EICTDA) is organising the annual ICT Exhibition and Conference that will be held from June 2 through 6, 2010 and has assigned iConcept Plc to coordinate the event. The exhibition is expected to attract a wide assortment of participation.

    - Nigeria’s National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) said that it would establish two software development centres in 2010. Prof Cleopas Angaye, the Director-General, disclosed this in an interview with newsmen in Abuja. Angaye said one of the centres would be located in the northern part of the country and the other in the southern part.

    - The University of Dar es Salaam has open e-Learning Centre. The Open Distance e-Learning (ODeL) was one of the alternative ways to address the crisis through enabling off-campus learners to learn and follow up lectures through ICT.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A bitter quarrel between Vodacom and Congolese Wireless Network (CWN) over the future of their joint venture in the Democratic Republic of Congo is heading for arbitration in Brussels after the two companies failed to resolve several areas of disagreement including a $484m capital injection and the possible liquidation of the venture (Vodacom Congo).

    Despite Vodacom Congo's poor performance in the past few years and its minuscule contribution to Vodacom's total earnings, if the business closes, it will be a setback for Vodacom's plans to be a significant player in the continent, which is dominated by local rival MTN.

    CWN chairman Alieu Conteh said after the meeting that Vodacom "seems to have closed the door" to a solution. "As CWN, we have to fight to protect our rights," he said, adding that the dispute negatively affected operations.

    The arbitration proceedings will be lodged under International Chamber of Commerce rules in Brussels with immediate effect, Bob Collymore, Vodacom Group's spokesman, said.

    "Vodacom firmly believes in the potential of the business in the Congo. We stand ready to fund further expansion and are hopeful that the arbitration will bring a positive result," he said.

    The relationship between Vodacom Group, which owns 51% in Vodacom Congo, and CWN has been strained for some time.

    More than two years ago the partners failed to amend the original joint venture agreement signed in 2001. The amendments would have included how funding for Vodacom Congo will be raised. The original agreement included that any shareholder unable to meet capital calls to raise funds could be diluted either through the sale of shares to the other or to a third party.

    Conflict between Vodacom Group and CWN deepened in the past few months after Vodacom proposed a capital injection of 484m, which would have diluted CWN's shares in Vodacom Congo. CWN refused the injection and accused Vodacom of fraud and abuse of trust, mainly over a loan that allegedly resulted in CWN incurring inflated interest and fees. CWN demanded that Vodacom pay back more than 166m in interest and fees paid to it by Vodacom Congo. Vodacom Congo's losses to date are 230m.

    Collymore said Vodacom "has thus far provided all the funding for Vodacom Congo at commercial rates that were explicitly agreed" to by CWN.

    CWN proposed a liquidation or sell-off to a third party of Vodacom Congo, which Vodacom rejected.

    Conteh wants a forensic audit to determine the root of Vodacom Congo's financial problems since Vodacom took over the management in 2001.

    "We are not opposed to the capital injection, but want a forensic audit done first. Then we will decide whether to inject the money," he said.

    Business Day

  • TELECEL Global, partners to Empowerment Corporation in Telecel Zimbabwe, intends to list the local mobile company on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange as part of initiatives to comply with the country's indigenisation strategy.

    Telecel Global has a controlling 60 percent stake in Telecel Zimbabwe, the country's second largest mobile company, while Empowerment Corporation holds the remainder.

    Telecel Global chief executive Mr Kai Uebach told a media briefing in the capital last week that EC had pre-emptive rights and would be given the first option to purchase Telecel Global shares at market rates.

    "We are definitely going to comply with the country's indigenisation laws - that is why I met with Minister (Saviour) Kasukuwere (Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment).

    "We are most likely to go public after resolving all outstanding issues. Listing is more transparent and will resolve some of the speculations. Through listing, we will raise more money because we will have broad-based shareholding," said Mr Uebach.

    He added that there were economic considerations to be taken into account. Telecel Global had secured much of the funds Telecel Zimbabwe had required for its growth.

    Apart from meeting journalists, Mr Uebach also held discussions with the Minister Kasukuwere on how the company intends to meet the indigenisation thresholds.

    He also met Minister of Transport, Communication and Infrastructure Development Nicholas Goche and authorities from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority on their plans to regularise Telecel Zimbabwe's licencing issue.

    Potraz cancelled Telecel Zimbabwe's licence after Telecel International abandoned its earlier obligation to offload 20 percent of its shareholding from 60 percent to indigenous players in the joint venture.

    Since then, the company has been operating without a licence after Telecel International appealed to the then Minister of Transport and Communication Chris Mushohwe, who left the portfolio before concluding the matter.

    Mr Uebach's meeting with Minister Goche could see a decision regarding resolution of the matter being made.

    TI had entered into partnership with locals who own 40 percent of the Zimbabwean subsidiary.

    The parent company had been allowed to raise its shareholding to 60 percent on the understanding that after five years it would roll back its stake by 20 percent.

    It is understood that the company was actually offering 11 percent, which is being linked to James Makamba who fled the country in 2004.

    The Herald

  • Tanzania is to pay $6.8 million it owes the Tanzania Telecommunications Company Ltd (TTCL) as one of the many steps towards getting the firm firmly back on its feet.

    "As the government now moves to repossesses 100 per cent stake in the firm, we are determined to provide financial support to the company," Minister for Communications, Science and Technology Prof Peter Msolla said, adding that the Treasury is in the process of paying the company, following completion of reconciliation of accounts.

    Prof Msolla said that TTCL's long years of seeking credit without success will come to an end as early as July when it can secure loans from both local and foreign lenders.

    The delay to access credit is caused by the ongoing verification exercise in a process to acquire the 35 per cent stake of Zain Tanzania Ltd, that was offered back to the government in July, last year.

    TTCL acting chief executive Said Said told The EastAfrican that inadequate financing was hindering the company's productivity and that it was still struggling to recover about $6.8 million outstanding invoices from various government institutions.

    Mr Said added that the firm seeks to apply for a $180 million loan under government guarantee, a sum that would stabilise the firm and enable it to execute its business plans.

    When TTCL was under the management of SaskaTel International between 2007 and 2009, it had asked for government guarantee for about Tsh180 billion ($133 million) capital, according to sources.

    Finance and Economic Affairs Permanent Secretary Ramadhan Khijjah told The EastAfrican that the recovery of the debts was going on.

    TTCL is handling the fibre optic cable in Tanzania, and already countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Zambia, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi and Zimbabwe have asked to be connected.

    TTCL currently provides voice and data communication services to over 300,000 business and residential customers in Tanzania.

    The company also provides network services to other licensed telecom operators.

    After connecting to the fibre cable, telephone and Internet charges went down by 80 per cent and 50 per cent respectively.

    The East African

  • Indications emerged that all is still not well with Zain as pioneer GSM investors in Nigeria, Econet Wireless International, is determined to return to the country by getting Zain's deal with Bharti Airtel reversed so that it can exercise its right of first refusal on the 65 per cent stake that Zain is selling to Bharti.

    An online report had quoted an analyst with Goldman Sachs, Hugh McCaffrey, who in a report said: "in the worst-case scenario, we do not rule out Bharti relinquishing ownership rights in the Nigerian asset."

    McCaffrey, who met with Strive Masiyiwa, Chairman of Econet Wireless in the report added that "Econet management intends to reverse the transaction and exercise its right of first refusal on the 65 per cent stake in the Nigerian asset.

    "However, an issue that may potentially affect the closure of the transaction is the ownership dispute from minority shareholders of the Nigerian unit," the Goldman Sachs report said.

    "Econet management would also likely claim damages against Zain. If successful, in a worst-case scenario, Bharti would have to relinquish ownership rights over the Nigerian assets and perhaps renegotiate the amount it paid to Zain to acquire its African assets, in our view."

    The Goldman Sachs analyst also wrote in his report that the Econet Wireless management believed that Zain's Nigerian unit will not be available for sale until its ownership dispute is resolved.

    During McCaffrey's meeting with Masiyiwa, the analyst was informed that there are two court cases challenging Zain in Nigerian and Dutch courts. These are the suits by Econet Wireless International, which holds five per cent, and Broad Communications, whose chief promoter is Mr. Oba Otudeko, Chairman of Nigeria's biggest bank, First Bank of Nigeria. Broad Communications hold 14 per cent of the network's equity

    Bharti has, however, taken precautionary steps such as securing indemnities and warrants to prevent it from any potential legal ownership disputes, according to international news reports.

    Vanguard

  • - France Telecom (FT) chief executive officer Stephane Richard has said his company may invest up to EUR7 billion (USD9.3 billion) in deals centred on Africa and the Middle East in the next five years, Bloomberg reports. It is understood the proposed investment would be part of an FT plan to double the revenue it currently generates from emerging markets – currently worth about EUR3.3 billion, or 7% of annual sales. In an interview, Richard said: ‘If we can buy a portfolio of assets to arrive more rapidly, that’s very good … If it’s necessary to buy licences country by country, that works also.’ In particular, FT is focused on filling gaps in its West Africa footprint, Richard said.

    - The government of Libya is reportedly planning to sell stakes in two mobile operators, Libyana and Al Madar, according to Bloomberg. Under the first phase of the sale plan, an initial 5% stake in the two wholly state-owned companies will be divested for a total of USD400 million, with the government planning to the offer further stakes of up to 40%. Beltone Securities International, a subsidiary of Egyptian investment bank Beltone Financial, is said to be advising on the sale.

    - The Crowdfund the South African venture capitalist start-up has raised a million rand. After being formed last March, they raised the money through the collaboration of 229 investors. Crowdfund seems poised to take on the South African tech scene by storm, since they are the first investors of any kind targeted exclusively at the tech scene in the country.

    - Egypt's Orascom Telecom said that its Algerian subsidiary Djezzy appealed to the Administrative Court of Algiers to request, "An injunction to immediately suspend the payment order received pursuant to the rejection of OTA's appeal to the tax administration on April 1." In a company statement, officials also requested "The dismissal of the entire tax adjustment for the years 2004 through to 2007, on the merit of the case." Meanwhile, the telecom operator provisionally paid $254 million, representing the balance of principal amounts due under the tax claim. In accordance with Algerian law, remaining penalties (currently $175 million) are suspended until final decision by the Administrative Court.

    - Nigerian fixed-wireless operator Starcomms has announced its financial results for the year ended 31 December 2009, reporting a 53% year-on-year rise in gross profit to NGN18.896 billion (USD124 million), compared to NGN12.385 billion in 2008. The company’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) in 2009 leapt 633% to NGN7.334 billion, up from NGN935 million a year earlier, which Starcomms attributed to a 13% rise in service revenue, operational efficiencies from a greater scale of operations and effective cost control. The company’s operating loss improved 85% from NGN4.448 billion in 2008 to NGN666 million a year later; if the naira remains constant or improves, Starcomms says it expects to see a much better bottom line performance in 2010.

Digital Content

  • Phoebe Mapelu's job as a community health worker in Kenya's Kajiado District always meant going from door to door - sometimes with long distances between homes - to check up on patients on life-prolonging antiretroviral therapy (ART).

    "In a day, I can visit 15 people. It's hard because they stay far away from each other, but they need you," she told IRIN/PlusNews. "I am their bridge to the health facility or the doctor."

    Mapelu's life has been made considerably easier by the growing use of mobile phone technology, even in rural areas like Kajiado. Even though she still has to make visits, she can track her patients more easily through calls and text messages.

    Mobile phone use in Kenya has risen rapidly from 200,000 users in 2000 to an estimated 17.5 million today.

    "Making a visit does not mean you will get them at home; they have work to do too, but since they started using these phones, I am now able to know whether a client is home or not," she said. "They are also able to call me if they want me before my scheduled visit."

    Sarah Karanja, study coordinator of the Weltel Project, an initiative to use mobile phones to improve health systems, says the use of mobile phones to track patients has taken a burden off health workers.

    "Eighty percent of those [health workers] we talked to in Nairobi and Kajiado said they feel relieved - health workers need that kind of relief," she said. "Patients, on the other hand, feel they are cared for which is good for their health and wellbeing."

    An ongoing Weltel study uses a weekly text message to study mobile-phone effectiveness for health; the message to the patient reads "Mambo", Swahili for "how are you", to which the patients can respond "Sawa", OK, to show they are fine, or "Shida", which means problem, to show they need attention.

    Patients who respond Shida and non-responders are followed up with a call from the clinic nurse to identify and handle any problems.

    Initial study findings reveal that 80 percent of patients are comfortable with the use of mobile phones to manage their HIV care and treatment.

    "Now I don't have to wait... I can ask if she is coming or not," said Meshack, a patient in Kajiado. "When I leave home to attend to my business, I can let her know and I can tell her my problem anywhere."

    According to Daniel von Rege, field coordinator for the medical NGO Médecins San Frontières - which runs a large HIV programme in Kibera, a slum in the capital, Nairobi - the use of mobile phones leads to better follow-up of patients.

    Remember the displacement of people during the election violence, or even in the floods? Phones remained the only viable way to reach people

    "Mobile phones help reduce cases of stigma because they create a sense of privacy," he said. "Health workers are known and some patients do not want them to visit their homes or go to the facility frequently because this will give away their status; when you give them a platform to interact with the facility without a physical visit, then you improve their stay within the care and treatment programme."

    He noted that one drawback to the use of mobile phone technology was cost. "In Kibera, for example, many people cannot afford the cost of airtime and they have to prioritize between buying airtime and food," Von Rege said.

    "Many families in these poor settings have one handset that is held by the head the family, normally the man, so it is hard to reach any member of the family who needs your services... they only have access to the phone occasionally," he added. "It is further challenging when they may not want other family members to even know their status."

    According to Weltel's Karanja, however, in areas where the health centre is a long distance from a patient's home, the cost of airtime is still cheaper than the cost of transport to the clinic.

    "Remember the displacement of people during the election violence, or even during floods? Phones remained the only viable way to reach people," she said.

    IRIN

  • "Tounisi.com", a new one-man show starring Tunisian actor Jaafar Guesmi, has left its audience questioning the balance between their real and virtual lives.

    "The show, comic as it is, left me to play with a number of intriguing questions," said one audience member, student Besma Riahi. "Have we become addicts of the internet? Are we sickened by modern technology?"

    The play, written by journalist Naoufel Wertani and directed by Sahbi Omar, is a well-crafted blend of sarcasm and seriousness. The play criticises the alienation of Tunisians who live their life online, Guesmi said.

    "Through the show, I meant to lead people to think about what drives Tunisians to head for the virtual world to express their concerns and voice their emotions," he said. "I think too many taboos led most citizens in the Arab world to hide behind their monitors, and with their passwords, to tread away from the supervision of family or society."

    In the play, Guesmi pours out his rage against the "mouse that ate up the book" – his reference to the computer mouse that has usurped the role of books in Tunisian society.

    The actor admitted that he, too, has deserted books. Guesmi said that he regrets the change, despite his "utter respect for modern technology, which facilitated communication among people, brought them closer together and gave them a wider margin of freedom".

    Critic Bechir ben Mansour agreed that the internet has brought freedom to Tunisia.

    Tunisians who use the internet "have a health addiction," he said, "because the internet made available to them everything they were deprived of because of politics, ethics, traditions and religion."

    "Tunisians are not sickened by the internet," he said. "Rather, they are sickened by repression."

    Traditional media also stifled the flow of information, Asma Cheniti said. The show portrays Tunisians who "were given an opportunity by the internet to communicate their ideas as well as political and social trends, especially given the lack of channels of communication. Even opposition papers that claim to be democratic only accept ideas that serve their own partisan agenda".

    Facebook is the only medium that Tunisians can use to express themselves, Asma said. Nearly 1.5 million of Tunisia's 10 million people use Facebook, according to statistics released in February.

    The internet has nevertheless introduced new social problems, said Tarek Hadded after viewing the show.

    "Guesmi has not exaggerated," he said. "Tunisians are indeed torn apart between their actual life, which requires them to abide by rules and restrictions imposed by society, and their virtual worlds through modern technology."

    "Chatting online, we are likely to find Tunisians completely different," Hadded said, "either rigorously strict, or zealously liberal, beyond all boundaries."

    Playwright Naoufel Wertani said that he hopes his play compels thought and debate.

    "I tackled the topic because it has become widely debatable," he said. "The behaviour of most classes of society trigger different questions concerning moral extremism and the inability to accept what is different."

    The play was written to avoid "lecturing and advising" the audience, Wertani said. "Alternatively, the show sought to give them food for thought and to pose questions."

    "Tounisi.com" coincides with a new Amnesty International in Tunisia campaign aimed at lifting restrictions imposed on the internet.

    The campaign asks participants to indicate whether they think the internet "is a tool for freedom and for breaking free from attempts at curbing freedom of expression and the right to assemble. Can the internet constitute new horizons in the battle for one's rights, being a means of disseminating ideas and winning over advocates? Can the virtual world positively impact a milieu dominated by tyranny and blocking?"

    Magharebia

  • According to the MicroFinance Group, there are approximately 12 million micro and small businesses in Nigeria with an estimated 2.3 million micro and small enterprises in Lagos State alone.Micro Finance Bank License holders are in excess of 800 in Nigeria.

    40% of all bank account holders in Nigeria operate micro and small businesses with unmet loan portfolio in excess of US$ 420 million (N54,6 Billion)

    The Country is home to 70 Million mobile subscribers under an addressable market of 140Million people with only 22 million Bank accounts.In May 2010,the Central Bank of Nigeria will be licensing Mobile Money providers which had already excluded the Mobile Network operators and therefore, opening the opportunities for Banks and small independent players which are still struggling to access finance and may find it challenging to launch operations within the stipulated time after licensing and also develop agent networks that will serve a market potential of estimated 100Million unbanked with agent outlets requirements in excess of 60,000.

    The investment safari will help in matchmaking the MFI’s, Potential MobileMoney providers with investors from all parts of the Globe, accessing the most viable economic region in the sub-sahara Africa.

    The Mobile Payment and Micro Finance Banking Safari is co-produced by MobileMoneyAfrica, African center for Mobile Finance Inclusion and Nigerian Television Authority,Lagos Channel 10.It is the premier investment event to promote Mobile financial services in West Africa. The April event will bring together leading investors, entrepreneurs, and service providers for two days of high-level presentations, conversations, and networking.

    Focus Areas:

    Raise fresh funds for your mobile payment and micro finance Bank.

    Network with technology providers from across the globe.

    Explore new partnership with experienced providers.

    Invest into a new emerging sector in Nigeria.

    Understand the cost outlay in rolling out and managing a mobile money network.

    Network with potential agents that will serve your Business at the Mobile money agent workshop.

    Venue:Victoria Crown Plaza Hotel, Ajose Adeogun,Victoria Island.Lagos – Nigeria.

    Date: April 28th – 29th, 2010.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Telecel Zimbabwe now has close to a million subscribers, the company's international partner, Telecel Globe, revealed Telecel Globe chief executive Kai Uebach told a media briefing in Harare that Telecel Zimbabwe had invested heavily in developing its network. It was rolling out in the region of 170 base stations countrywide.

    - The number of mobile phone subscriptions in Egypt rose by 642,000 to 56.49 million in February, according to communications ministry data. The figures amount to a penetration rate of about 72 per cent, although industry executives and analysts estimate that some 20 to 25 per cent of the market involves second phones.

    - It’s one of those ideas you hear repeated from all sources: mobile phones are the main way connecting to the internet in Africa. Now there are definite figures to back that claim. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has reported that use of mobile internet surpassed fixed internet in the last quarter of 2009 - and has extended its lead to 300,000 users in Q1 2010. According to the ITU, it wasn’t until the end of 2009 that mobile internet actually overtook fixed usage. African net surfers connecting through mobile phones or portable modems increased to 3.8 million at the end of the year, overtaking fixed by 100,000 people. It now reports that this figure has increased to 4.2 million, putting it 300,000 users ahead of the current 3.9 million fixed subscribers.

More

  • - Engr. Ernest Ndukwe finally retired from public service yesterday after concluding his 10th year and second term in office as the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC). He temporary hands over to Engr. Stephen Adedayo Bello, the senior of the two Executive Commissioners at the commission on the order of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.

    - South Africa’s Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda has announced the appointment of Quraysh Patel as the chairman of the board of the ailing state-owned entity Sentech.

    - Telecel Zimbabwe managing director Mr Aimable Mpore is back in the country after successfully appealing against the withdrawal of his work permit.

  • SATCOM 2010 AFRICA

    12-15 April 2010, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa

    SatCom Africa 2010 is Africa's only satellite exhibition conference. SatCom Africa 2010 gives you an executive business experience where you meet real decision makers, a content driven and networking focused agenda and new business, new markets, new opportunities.

    http://www.terrapinn.com/2010/satcomza/

    GREEN BASESTATIONS SUMMIT

    22-23 April 2010, Bath, United Kingdom

    Avren Events' Green Basestations Summit Europe 2010 will bring together thought leaders from operators, vendors and analysts to review the latest technology innovations, business cases and market drivers for greener networks. Building on the success of previous years' Green Basestations summits, keynote speakers including Digicel, Axiata Group, Telefonica and GSMA Green Power for Mobile, will share their experiences of trials and deployments giving you the chance to learn from, and network with, key contributors to this industry. With network energy efficiency high on the agenda for Operators as electricity costs continue to rise, the Green Basestations Summit will give the opportunity to discuss and share ideas and strategies for implementing sustainable Basestations.

    For further information visit Avren Events website

    http://www.avrenevents.com/home.asp?Event=GreenEurope2010

    TMT FINANCE AND INVESTMENT MIDDLE EAST 2010

    26-27 April 2010, Sharq Village Hotel, Doha, Qatar.

    The TMT Finance and Investment Middle East 2010 Conference and Awards Ceremony is the premier networking hub for executives of telecom operators, technology providers, investors, financiers and advisers active in mature and emerging markets of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. Now in its fourth year, the conference takes place again this year in Doha with support from Qtel, Booz&Co and Clifford Chance. The event features an outstanding academy of expert speakers from across the region and internationally debating opportunities in M&A, strategy, wireless broadband, financing, mobile payments and cloud computing.

    www.tmtfinance.com/me

    MOBILE PAYMENT AND MICRO INVESTMENT SAFARI

    28-29 April 2010, Victoria Crown Plaza Hotel, Ajose Adeogun,Victoria Islan, Lagos, Nigeria.

    The Mobile Payment and Micro Finance Banking Safari is co-produced by MobileMoneyAfrica, African center for Mobile Finance Inclusion and Nigerian Television Authority,Lagos Channel 10.It is the premier investment event to promote Mobile financial services in West Africa.The April event will bring together leading investors, entrepreneurs, and service providers for two days of high-level resentations, conversations, and networking.

    The focus areas will be as follows:

    Raise fresh funds for your mobile payment and micro finance Bank.

    Network with technology providers from across the globe.

    Explore new partnership with experienced providers.

    Invest into a new emerging sector in Nigeria.

    Understand the cost outlay in rolling out and managing a mobile money network.

    Network with potential agents that will serve your Business at the Mobile money agent workshop.

    http://mobilemoneyafrica.com/

    WSIS FORUM 2010

    10-14 May 2010, Geneva, Switzerland

    Half way to the final review of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and ahead of the two-thirds MDG review at this year's UN General Assembly in September, and ITU's own four-yearly World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-10) in May, the WSIS Forum will look at how far nations have come in meeting connectivity goals and progress in implementation of the 11 WSIS Action Lines set at the Summit in Tunis in 2005.

    For further information visit

    http://www.itu.int/wsis/implementation/2010/forum/geneva/

    AITEC BANKING & MOBILE MONEY WEST AFRICA

    11-12 May 2010, Lagos, Nigeria

    Technology presents great opportunities for the financial sector to extend reach, improve service and reduce costs. However, in the drive to implement the very best that technology vendors have to offer, the focal point of the banking process is often forgotten – the customer.

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa 2010 will therefore focus on the customer experience in relation to all technology implementation and services, challenging suppliers and bankers alike to evaluate their systems in the light of customer needs and preferences.

    For further information on the conference visit AITEC’s website

    http://www.aitecafrica.com/event/view/46

    NOG-11 AND AfriNIC-12 MEETINGS

    23 May-4 June, 2010, Kigali, Rwanda

    The African Network Operators' Group (AfNOG) and the African Network Information Centre (AfriNIC) are pleased to announce that the 11th AfNOG Meeting and the AfriNIC-12 Meeting which will be held in Kigali, Rwanda during May & June 2010. The jointly organised two-week events include the AfNOG Workshop on Network Technology (offering advanced training in a week-long hands-on workshop), several full-day Advanced Tutorials, a one-day AfNOG Meeting, and a two-day AfriNIC Meeting. In addition, several side meetings and workshops will be hosted in collaboration with other organizations. Further details are available at the AfNOGand AfriNIC websites

    http://www.afrinic.net/

    http://www.afnog.org/

  • MINISTÉRIO DOS TRANSPORTE E COMUNICAÇÕES

    INSTITUTO NACIONAL DAS COMUNICAÇÕES DE MOÇAMBIQUE

    INVITATION FOR BID

    Public Tender for Licensing the Third Mobile Telecommunications Operator

    The Government of the Republic of Mozambique has adopted, through its Resolution 50/2009 of 14 July, the licensing of the third mobile telecommunications operator.

    Under this context, the Instituto Nacional das Communicações de Moçambique (INCM), the Postal and Telecommunications Authority, under paragraph 1 of Article 18 of the Law 8/2004 of 21 July – Telecommunications Law, in conjunction with paragraph 7 of Article 20 of the Organic Statute of the National Communications Institute of Mozambique (INCM), approved by Decree 32/2001, of 6 November invites applications to establish and operate a third national public mobile telecommunications network and services in Mozambique, under the following terms:

    1. This Tender is issued by the Instituto Nacional das Communicações de Moçambique (“INCM”) and is aimed at granting the third mobile telecommunication license (the “License”) for the establishment, management and operation of the national public telecommunications network and services.

    2. This Tender is governed by the provisions of the Law 8/2004 of 21 July – Telecommunications Law, the Regulation on Public Tender for Licensing the Third Mobile Telecommunications Operator adopted by the Resolution 44/CA/INCM/2009 of 1 December and by the Tender Documents.

    3. The License to be granted through this Tender will be governed, but not exclusively, by the provisions of the Law 8/2004 of 21 July, the Decree 32/2001 of 6 November, the Decree 33/2001 of 6 November, the Decree 34/2001 of 6 November, the Decree 35/2003 of 9 September, the Decree 63/2004 of 29 December, the Decree 64/2004 of 29 December, the Decree 43/2004 of 29 September, the Decree 44/2004 of 29 September, the Decree 69/2006 of 26 December, the Decree 36/2009 of 13 August and the Decree 37/2009 of 13 August.

    4. The Tender Documents may be purchased every working days from 07:30 o’clock to 15:30 o’clock at the Secretary of the Instituto Nacional das Communicações de Moçambique Headquaters, at 123/127 Eduardo Mondlane Avenue , in this City of Maputo, from the 6th of April 2010 until the 5th of July 2010 by the amount of Two Thousand United States Dollars ($US 2,000.00), non refundable, for each copy.

    5. The Applications should be presented under the terms set out within the Regulation on Public Tender for Licensing the Third Mobile Telecommunications Operator adopted by the Resolution 44/CA/INCM/2009 of 1 December and in the Tender Documents. The Regulation on Public Tender for Licensing the Third Mobile Telecommunications Operator and the Tender Documents are integral part of the Tender Documents.

    6. Applications should be sent to the Secretary of the INCM Headquarts (address mentioned above) every working days from 07:30 o’clock to 15:30 o’clock, in this City of Maputo.

    7. The Deadline for submission of Applications is 5th July, 2010 at 15:30 o’clock. The time in which the Applications have been received by INCM will be the registry hour of the Applications at the Instituto Nacional das Communicações de Moçambique (INCM).

    8. The Applications and Technical Proposals shall be publicly opened at 10 o’clock on 6th July, 2010 at INCM Headquarters, at 123/127 Eduardo Mondlane Avenue, in this City of Maputo.

    Maputo, 6 April 2010

  • Softline Accpad and Internet Solutions – South Africa

    Softline Accpac has partnered with Web solutions company Internet Solutions in South Africa to launch a service offering Sage Accpac and Sage ERP X3 software as an online service where customers can rent the software and the company will deploy it for the customer. He says this is attractive, as clients receive the functionality of the software without having large capital costs, hardware upgrades and maintenance.

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

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



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