Issue no 552 28th April 2011

top story

  • Although a large number of African telcos use diesel generators to power their base stations and other telecoms equipment, the “green revolution” that should see them make more use of renewable energy solutions is yet to come. Mindsets like “this is how we are doing things here” are slow to change but sooner rather than later, telecom operators will need to incorporate “the green component” in how they operate their networks in Africa. This is exactly where Nedbank Capital’s new carbon credits scheme for telecoms operators comes in. Isabelle Gross spoke to Fritz Milosevic, investment banker at Nedbank Capital about this new scheme and how it can help telecoms operators to generate additional revenue via carbon credits.

    Leading telecoms operators across the world and with operations in Africa have already pledged that they are committed to reduce their CO2 emissions. The Vodafone group said that it would cut its own emissions by 50% by 2020 (from the 2006/07 baseline). Orange/France Telecom also announced something similar. The operator will reduce CO2 emissions for the group by 20% below its 2006 levels by 2020. South Africa’s MTN Group is on the other hand a signatory to the Copenhagen Communiqué on climate change and has released its first group carbon disclosure project report in 2010.

    Behind these big announcements of intentions, renewable energy powered solutions for BTS and other telecoms equipments offer real potentials to considerably reduce operating costs and also decrease African mobile operators’ heavy reliance on diesel. In a report published in February 2011, Balancing Act details how operators can realise savings by optimising the power consumption or their base stations and further bring down their diesel bill to zero by switching to renewable energy sources like wind or solar power (see link to the report at the bottom of the article). It also points out that “mobile operators shouldn’t take the lack of technical expertise as an excuse to do nothing. African mobile operators have to shift focus onto the cost side of the business that they are running. Energy expenditures are among the top items on their list”.

    Other “green” focus area for operators are data centres and mobile handset charging services as they also potentially can help generating carbon credits or lower operators’ carbon footprint according to Fritz Milosevic from Nedbank Capital. While the potential for carbon credit generation lies here at the heart of their network, mobile operator’s awareness about carbon credits remains very low. Therefore they are also very reluctant to spend any money (internally or externally) for carbon credit schemes.

    Faced with this contradiction and the inherent complexity of the current carbon credits market, Nedbank Capital has designed a service that allows telecoms operators to claim carbon credits for their “green” implementations. According to Fritz Milosevic, the program removes the need for telecoms operators to deal with the complicated carbon credits regulations and also optimises the revenue potential of selling carbon credits for telecoms operators.

    There are two main ways to claim carbon credits either via the clean development mechanism (CDM) or through a voluntary process. The CDM scheme is a 7 step compliant process that is costly and can take up more than half a year to complete. The voluntary standards for claiming carbon credits are less stringent as they look more at the sustainability of the project rather than the climate change aspects. The downside of the former scheme is that the carbon credits are worth less that the ones generated through a CDM project.

    But the most important thing according to Fritz Milosevic is that it triggers a thinking process and discussion on sustainability and what to do about it from a telecoms operator’s perspective. To join the Nedbank Capital’s carbon credit program, mobile operators are not required to have a minimum number of green BTS deployed or in the process of being deployed.

    According to a case study prepared by Nedbank Capital, mobile operators can generate an additional 6% revenue per year from every base station that uses renewable energy sources as its main power supply (assuming a 75% saving on power). It doesn’t sound much but with falling voice ARPUs and uncertain data revenue, mobile operators might find that it will improve their revenue headlines or pay partly for the overall cost of rolling out renewable energy power systems for their base stations.

    The scheme proposed by Nedbank Capital is there to motivate telecoms operators to think green when they roll out new network equipment or upgrade existing one. According to Fritz Milosevic, the program is targeted at all operators from the smallest ones to the large international operators. He explains further that “mobile operators should start to come under the scheme now. Wherever you are with your plans, come and talk to us. We can set up a program to support your rollout and provide with a monitoring mechanism that will help you to generate carbon credits or reduce your carbon footprint”.

    The change for “greener” power solutions in the African telecoms industry is slow but there are some encouraging signs. Gradually some operators are scaling up the number of their green base stations – from less than a dozen to over a hundred. Namibia’s mobile operator MTC announced on April 25th, the trial of a new method of generating power through wind. The special wind charger is mounted on the existing radio tower whereas the most common systems require a separate structure. It is not difficult to work out the immediate cost reduction, the building of an extra tower, on the overall cost of the green project.

    More and more African mobile operators (even the small operation that I recently visited in Liberia is thinking about it!) are inclined to experiment with renewable energy powered solutions. Awareness among telecoms operators has changed from an embryonic point to a toddler stage and African banks that are willing to offer innovative services and support with renewable energy projects should certainly be encouraged. 

    For further information on Balancing Act’s report “Energy for Cellular Base Stations in Africa: the quick fix approach and the long term perspective to saving energy”, please click here.

     


    Latest video clips on Balancing Act’s Web TV Channel

    Salim Fayad, Sakr on electricity generation, telecoms and renewable energy in Africa

    Grameen Foundation Ghana - Mobile Technology for Community Health initiative, e-health

    Philip Sowah, Managing Director, Airtel Ghana on the importance of mobile data

    Jonathan Tawiah, CEO, Ostec on providing managed services in West Africa

    Alhassan Umar, ITES Director, on Ghana’s plans to become a BPO hub

    George Babafemi, COO, eTranzact Ghana, an e-Payments solutions provider in seven African countries

     

telecoms

  • MTN Group Ltd.’s Swaziland unit lost a court bid to stop Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corp. from offering mobile-phone services in the country.

    There isn’t a conflict of interest in the state-owned telecommunications company starting services as it is no longer a shareholder in MTN Swaziland Ltd., High Court Judge Bheki Maphalala said in the Mbabane-based court yesterday. The company’s 41 percent shareholding in MTN Swaziland was transferred to the ministry of finance, he said.

    Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications is also no longer the industry regulator after that responsibility was taken over by the communications ministry, Maphalala said. MTN Swaziland is the only mobile-phone operator in the southern African nation, and is 30 percent owned by South Africa’s MTN Group. The country’s King Mswati III owns a 10 percent stake in the company.

    “We are dissatisfied with the judgment both in facts and in law,” MTN Swaziland spokesman Mpumelelo Makhubu said in an e-mailed response to a request for comment. “We are going through it and will consider options thereafter.”

    Bloomberg
  • Zamtel will establish more than 500 base stations to cover about 80 per cent of the country with its mobile network. Zamtel CEO Hans Paulsen said his company would undertake an aggressive expansion strategy that would make the mobile phone unit more relevant to customers and the country at large.

    The rebranded telecommunications firm's mobile unit, formerly Cell-Z, will grow by 25 per cent in the next five years. Paulsen said Zamtel would make sure it maintained its dominance on the fixed landline service and then lead Zambia's internet revolution through the Zamtel broadband service.

    Paulsen said the fight to capture a significant portion of the market-share would start with the setting up of 565 base stations (masts) across the country for both 2G and 3G systems on mobile phones. The first site is expected to be switched on in June this year. The sites would have 450 of them for the common 2G (Second Generation) and the other 115 for the 3G system.

    This would mean 80 per cent of the country would be covered by the Zamtel mobile network. "In the last six months, we have grown by 32 per cent, and that is with the old, tiring and boring brand. But now with the new brand and more services and better infrastructure, it will be possible to grow even bigger," he said.
     
    He said Zamtel had signed an agreement with Chinese Telecommunication giant ZTE whose partners Huawei would be unrolling base stations. He said with the 32 per cent growth in the last six months, Zamtel mobile customer base had risen to just more than 500,000 and expects it to grow more.

    The company policy being that it spends 15 per cent of profit on marketing, Zamtel mobile and the two other services-land line and broadband- would become more relevant to Zambians. He said the new circle on the rebranded Zamtel logo signified the infinity Zamtel would go as far as possible to meet the customer’s needs. (Imagine saying that with a straight face).

    Times of Zambia
  • A Nakuru court has ordered Airtel Kenya Managing Director Rene Meza to appear in court within one week in a case where the municipal council has sued the mobile phone company for defaulting on rate payments.

    Magistrate Elizabeth Tanui directed that the MD appears before her in the next one week to avoid the chance of an arrest warrant being issued against him. The prosecution in the case has asked the court to issue the warrant. Meza on behalf of Airtel is accused of owing the Nakuru Municipal Council Sh5.5 million as rates for wall branding advertisements.

    The charges against him states that on November 29 last year at various sites, plots and premises within Nakuru municipality, he did wall branding advertisements for Airtel Kenya without authority from the council.

    The prosecution told the court that Meza was served with the notice to appear in court for the plea on March 25 but failed to attend. However, lawyers representing Airtel told Tanui that there were ongoing negotiations between the phone company and the Nakuru town clerk to settle the payment.
     
    The lawyers are seeking for a deferment of the matter as a payment agreement is discussed. They added that the MD was not in court due to the ongoing negotiations. The council is claiming Sh5,542, 967 from Airtel.

    Tanui further ordered the Nakuru Town Clerk to furnish the prosecution with sufficient instructions and details of the ongoing negotiations to enable them decide how to proceed with the case.

    Last week, a regional manager for Safaricom Limited was also arraigned before the same court facing charges of doing wall branding without authority from the council. Wood Gitobu pleaded guilty to the charges and was fined Sh10,000 or in default three months in jail. The council demanded Sh3.8 million from Safaricom for the advertisements.

    Nairobi Star
  • An app that allows users to visualize development indicators using powerful charts and maps, a web-based tool to measure the impact of global events on progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, and an interactive app that lets users make their own comparisons of countries’ performance, were announced today as the top winners of the World Bank’s first-ever “Apps for Development” competition.

    World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick said, “One of the reasons we threw open the doors to our data was that we recognized we don’t have a monopoly on innovation. These apps clearly demonstrate how the software development community can harness technology to analyze and tackle some of the world's long-standing problems. It’s fantastic to see the creative approaches each of the finalists took, and it’s also great to see that the submissions came from six continents.”

    Last year, the World Bank issued a challenge to software developers from across the globe to take on some of the world’s most pressing development problems by creating digital apps using the Bank’s freely available data. The response was overwhelming, with 107 entries from 36 countries across six continents, and nearly a third from Africa.

    A panel of expert judges, including technology gurus such as Kannan Pashupathy of Google, Ory Okolloh, co-founder of Ushahidi, and Craig Newmark of Craigslist, selected the winners. A total of $55,000 was awarded in cash prizes to competition winners.

    The three winning apps all feature unique approaches to pressing development challenges:

    First Prize Winner - StatPlanet World Bank (Australia):  With this powerful app, you can visualize and compare country and regional performance over time.  The user can select from among the 3000+ indicators covering virtually every dimension of economic, social, and human development, and can select the manner in which the data is displayed. This app allows anyone an easy interface to these indicators - even without Internet connectivity - via a desktop version of the app.
    To view please click here:

    Second Prize Winner - Development Timelines (France): Development Timelines lets you put global development data into historical context and better understand how events such as war, education reforms, or economic booms and busts, affect progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

    To view please click here:

    Third Prize Winner - Yourtopia - Development beyond GDP (Germany): This interactive app allows you to sum up human development according to your own criteria and, through a short quiz, choose how important different dimensions of development are to you. You can then participate in constructing a multiple-dimension index of human development.

    To view please click here:

    Aleem Walji, Manager, Innovation Practice at the World Bank Institute, said, “This competition has brought software developers into the development conversation.  We see enormous potential in crowdsourcing solutions to persistent development problems, and we are especially excited when our data can be used as raw material to spark creativity and innovation.”

    The winners also included a Popular Choice Award, determined by online voting by the public, which went to WORLD (Macedonia), an app that selects data at random to generate concise statements about progress toward the Millennium Development Goals. In addition, the Large Organization Recognition Award was given to International Project Funding: US Foundations and the World Bank (USA), an app that shows funding for agriculture, fishing, and forestry projects from the World Bank and US foundations, as well as the percentage of land cover in each country that is occupied by forests or cropland.  Honorable Mentions were given to World Bank Widget (Finland), Get a Life! GAME (Netherlands), Know Your World (USA), Bebemama mobile app - Empowering mothers (Thailand), TreePet (Mexico), Economic Data Finder (UK), Indicators Lab (India), FACTCHA: Stop Spam, Advocate for the MDGs! (Kenya), MDG Chart Generator (Jamaica), and MDG Maps (Uganda). More information on the award winners is available at www.worldbank.org/appsfordevelopment/awards

    The Apps for Development Competition was launched in September 2010 by World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick as part of the Bank’s Open Data Initiative, an effort that unlocks the institution’s world-class knowledge and development data for researchers, activists, students, and development practitioners across the globe.  The initiative is rapidly expanding, in line with the huge demand for development data and information.

    As part of the Open Data Initiative the World Bank has recently developed its own app – “Mapping for Results" (maps.worldbank.org)—which visualizes the geographic location of programs at the global and regional levels and in 79 of the poorest countries. This interactive platform brings greater transparency and accountability to World Bank operations, strengthening the monitoring of results and enhancing the effectiveness of aid. In addition, the Bank’s AidFlows website (www.worldbank.org/aidflows) provides data and visual representations of donor funding and total disbursements to developing countries.

     The World Development Indicators database, used extensively by app developers and researchers, and the main source of data for the Open Data website, has been updated and provides access to over 1,200 indicators for 213 countries and territories, in many cases going back to 1960.  And the companion 2011 print edition of World Development Indicators has been released, with more than double the number of estimates of poverty incidence using countries’ own national poverty lines and over 60 new estimates of poverty incidence using the international poverty line of $1.25 a day. Reaching out to an ever-widening audience, the World Bank’s Open Data website - data.worldbank.org - with a growing number of datasets now totaling 7,000 indicators, is now accessible in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, and Spanish

     The World Bank has also expanded its offering of data and tools. A fully searchable catalog of more than 330 microdata sets, produced by the International Household Survey Network (www.ihsn.org) and the work of many countries to make their data more accessible, provides access to results from household and other surveys. Researchers can find surveys in developing countries by searching the questionnaires that were used and then accessing and analyzing the data to find solutions to development problems.

     “These data represent the work of dedicated statisticians in every country in the world. Now the citizens of those countries have the opportunity to use their data and create new tools, new products and new solutions with them,” said Shaida Badiee, Director of the World Bank’s Development Data Group and an Apps for Development juror.

  • - Sierra Leone’s Minister of Information and Communication Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo has made the first video call over the mobile network of Intergroup Telecom to President Koroma. Local newspaper Awoko Times reports that Intergroup Telecom, which intends to operate under the Smart Mobile banner, holds a concession to operate GSM-900/1800, 3G and WiMAX networks.

    - The Communication Workers Union (CWU) is waging a war against South Africa's two largest cellular companies in a bid to force the telecoms sector to stop using labour brokers, and hire staff on a permanent basis. The CWU, which is affiliated to SA's largest trade union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), is threatening a nationwide strike against MTN and Vodacom, because they use temporary staff in their call centres.

    - Intelsat's New Dawn satellite was successfully launched on 22 April, after an aborted attempt last month. The fixed satellite services company says the Arianespace launcher, Ariane5, lifted off from French Guiana at 5:37pm (EDT), followed by spacecraft separation from the launch vehicle at 6:12pm. Signal acquisition occurred at 6:29pm. Intelsat New Dawn is the first of eight satellites scheduled for launch over the next two years and is part of the largest satellite program in Intelsat's history, according to the company.

internet

  • Undersea cable operator Seacom is positioning itself to benefit from growth in internet traffic between African countries by partnering with local operators to provide seamless connections within the continent.

    Key to the growth of this traffic are multinationals which are setting up shop in Nairobi and the region, local companies expanding regionally and collaboration between universities and other regional institutions, Seacom's regional head Julius Opio said yesterday.

    "Today, the majority of internet content consumed in Africa is non-African, flowing from Europe and North America into Africa," Opio said at a Seacom media briefing last week.

    "We believe that the growth of the African ICT market, including mobile penetration and the eager adoption of social networking, coupled with the development of cloud services will result in a rapid increase in content on African soil."

    Seacom officially unveiled its IP network yesterday which increases the services available to its clients who buy data bandwidth wholesale and sell it onwards.

    The new network, the company said, will allow African data and internet traffic to remain local rather than go through Europe before being routed back to the destination African country. "It will allow direct routing between African countries through a single seamless network," a statement by the company read.

    The network which was designed in partnership with Dimension Data (owners of IS Kenya) and Cisco will allow direct connection between Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam or Nairobi to South Africa. "This should reduce the latency (time it takes for information on a network to get from one point to the other)," Opio said.

    Seacom's head of sales, Martin Sanne, said companies going regional or continental would spur the growth of continental traffic. Sanne added that Seacom would partner with European cable operator Interroute so that companies setting up shop in say Nairobi would have their networks configured so that they would seem to be on the same network as back home. Seacom said growth in traffic from India and Asia had grown as the interest of those economies in Africa grows.

    Nairobi Star
  • The long-awaited electronic ticketing system within the gates of the famous Maasai Mara game reserve has come into force. In an advert placed in sections of the press on Thursday, council clerk Pius Mutemi, said the council had entered into partnership with Equity Bank for a 10-year contract to collect park entry fees.

    He said the e-ticketing system, which has cost the council Sh25 million, will increase revenue collection and minimise corruption in the park. "The electronic ticketing system will reduce chances of corrupt practices. The bank won the tender through competitive bidding and we know it will do a good job," he said.

    He added that visitors to Maasai Mara can buy entry tickets to the park at 11 Equity branches countrywide. These include: Narok, Equity Centre, Mama Ngina, Changamwe, Malindi, Mombasa's Moi Avenue, Ukunda and Mtwapa.

    Finance Chairman, David Ole Setek, said the smart card system will net an additional Sh870,509,240 for the council. "This is an interim measure towards the realisation of an online electronic ticketing system, which is projected to be in place within 90 days. This should improve efficiency in serving our clients and enhancing revenue collection," said part of the advertisement.

  • According to a Zimbabwe All Media Products and Services (AMPS) Survey, 24% of urban adults are now using the Internet. Of these, 83% of the Internet users go online at least once a week and social networking site Facebook is the most visited by all age groups.

    While Internet cafes used to be widely frequented by tourists and visiting business people to communicate with associates back home and in the office, Zimbabwean youths have invaded the country's cafés to comb for fantasy and "adult" sites.

    Although its effects have not yet reached devastating proportions, web browsing has influenced a behavioural change among the country's youths, who have turned the cyber cafés in Harare into dating centres.

    The youths and juveniles pack the cyber cafés where they are hooked to web-enhanced dating and flirtations with people from across all continents to "fulfil their adulthood fantasies and frustrations" as a means of escaping from Zimbabwe's hostile economic and political climate.

    One of the busy Internet cafes, World Trade Centre, said an average of 300 to 400 people use its facility every morning and spend about US$5. The café charges US$1 to surf the net for 30 minutes. Most of the youths who visit the café prefer their email facility because it's cheaper and faster while others search different sites from showbiz to education but it does not tolerate people sending junk mail or opening explicit sites.

    Staff at World Trade Centre monitor the use of the Internet by every client and expel those found sending or surfing undesirable sites because its aim is to provide a clean service which will benefit the country educationally, morally, socially and economically.

    However, some youths successfully surf unsuitable sites in the absence of staff, but contends the number is small because the majority of surfers spend an average of 30 minutes -- enough only to read, write and send mail since most explicit sites are subscribed to and paid for using credit cards, which Zimbabwean youths do not have.
     
    Again Facebook is the preferred website of choice with very few people visiting Twitter. The cafe is usually busy during school holidays with schoolchildren spending about two hours downloading the latest music. Youths compete to download the latest music before it reaches Zimbabwe. In their social circles, it is considered backward or unsophisticated for a young person not to be acquainted with the latest US music charts.

    World Trade Centre also revealed that one of the popular platforms was Skype, a voice over Internet phone service which provides people with the opportunity to make real time video and voice calls or chat with friends and relatives, particularly in the diaspora. Internet dating sites Zimbabwean youths are hooked onto are Match.com, Dating Buzz and Badoo.

  • - Leading press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned Uganda’s Communications Commission for ordering the blocking of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter earlier this month. In their statement, the journalists’ rights group highlights the need for governments to take a hands off approach to the Internet and freedom of speech.

    - The State IT Agency (SITA) cannot comment on the nature or extent of a fault which resulted in numerous government Web sites going offline last week, “due to security issues”. Affected Web sites included large portions of government's primary landing portal (www.gov.za) and information hub (www.Info.gov.za). These sites provide critical public access to a variety of documents considered to be of significant interest or importance to the country's citizens, including speeches and statements, tender bulletins, events and the latest documents to be published for comment.

    - Habari Node Limited, Tanzania’s Northern region's leading Internet Provider, has expanded its network coverage to Kilimanjaro region. HNL has installed a base station at Kwa Sadala (Boma Ng'ombe) which will provide broadband connectivity to the area.

    - Kenyan cyber game diehards dedicated this year's event to Japan earthquake victims. According to the organiser Nathan Masyuko, this is because most of the computer products come from Japan. "If you carefully check out most of our computers, you will definitely find out that each of them has a component from Japan and that is why we decided to dedicate this event to the country just to raise awareness”.

computing

  • Ahead of 2012 general election, the Electoral Commission of Ghana has confirmed that it has jettisoned the idea of introducing electronic voting (e-voting) for the conduct of the polls. The commission said its decision was informed by the high technology involved in electronic voting and the fact that the people were unaccustomed to the system, hence its application could be cumbersome and tricky.

    The Deputy Chairman (Finance) of the Commission, David Adenze Kanga announced this at the end of a parley with the leadership of the four political parties with representation at the parliament. Kanga cautioned Ghanaians not to be in a rush to apply e-voting system, because it could result in problems.

    "Our own view is that we should encourage corporate bodies and institutions to begin to use e-voting for their own internal election so that people can get used to e-voting such that by the time the Commission is ready and we go national, people would have appreciated the difficulties of e-voting, if there are any," he explained.

    Daily Trust
  • FBC Holdings has introduced a mobile financial software application that provides users with free data from global financial markets including stocks, mutual funds, currencies, commodities, financial futures, oil and precious metals markets, together with extensive coverage of breaking business news.

    Known as Blue, FBC is the first African financial institution to distribute such software.

    FBC e-commerce director Agrippa Mugwagwa said in a statement the software was consistent with its strategy of extending convenience in the financial services space through virtualisation across multiple delivery channels.

    "We are taking advantage of the high mobile and data penetration rate in Zimbabwe to reach current and prospective customers with a wider array of financial services, from ordinary transactions to equities.

    "We find Blue a timely innovation which will deliver immense value to new and existing investors," said Mugwagwa.

    He indicated that adoption of Blue at FBC is a deliberate strategy to meet the requirements for the up-to-the-minute investment data by busy modern and mobile investors. SVP Global Marketing at JSM Niloo Kassam said they are delighted to be partnering with FBC in distributing this software.

    "Having understood the opportunity presented by mobile, FBC realises that Blue reinforces its customer proposition by providing a unique value-added service setting it apart from competitors," he said.
     
    He added that FBC will provide its customers with the opportunity to not only view local African exchanges, but also realtime prices from New York, London and over 160 other global markets, including currencies, gold and oil, all on one screen. Kassam said this is particularly significant as it represents their entrance into the important African marketplace.

    FBC signed an agreement with JSM Wireless UK PLC, a global provider of mobile financial software, to distribute the financial application, to its customers effective immediately.

    The software application enables bankers, brokers, dealers, fund managers, financial advisors, accountants, lawyers, retail investors and anyone exposed to financial markets to view high quality streaming market data over mobile devices.

    The Herald
  • The Africa Digital Multimedia Academy, which is supported by Pixel Corps, a US-based digital media firm, will next month open its doors, at the Regional ICT Training Centre (RITC) of the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST). Speaking to The New Times last week, the Director of RITC, Jerome Gasana, said that preparations for the opening are at advanced stages.

    "We concluded an agreement with Pixel and we are going to purchase some of the equipment that will be used in the academy," he added. Gasana disclosed that they are expecting instructors from the USA, early next month.

    He said that the centre would start with an initial batch of 10-20 students as a pilot phase. He added that the move is to assess the success of the academy in terms of training before more are enrolled. The academy will focus on quality video and film production, basic production skills like computer graphics, shooting/editing, and audio lighting.

    Other aspects of digital media production such as podcast technology and online streaming video broadcast, binary skills such as rot scoping, match moving, distance learning, visual literacy would also be taught. The criteria for selecting students will be based on knowledge of basic computer skills.

    Pixel Corps has specialised in computer graphics and video production for close to 30 years and has worked with some of the largest visual production companies in the US, such as Industrial Light and Magic and Lucas Film on the Box Office hit movie, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The government will fully fund the academy while Pixel Corps will provide the required technology.

    The New Times
  • - A regional ICT forum on the East Africa Public Health Laboratory Networking Project (EAPHLN) kicked in Kigali. The five-day workshop aims at establishing efficient, high quality, accessible public health laboratories network for the diagnosis, surveillance of tuberculosis and other communicable diseases. In May last year, the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors approved US$63.66m to support Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda to create a regional network of 26 public health laboratories.

    - The Nigerian government is implementing a new strategy for school girls, entering their first year of junior secondary schools, aiming to assist them with the “challenges” of living in a male dominated society. The program will deliver tools and background knowledge of Information Communication Technology (ICT) by the federal government. Minister of State Education Kenneth Gbagi announced the initiative in Lagos and said that the government would distribute 360 units, including computers, to a number of schools in the city.

    - Apple’s iPad 2 will go on sale in South Africa on Friday 29 April with competitive prices. The iPad 2’s pricing is in line with the iPad’s initial January launch price in South Africa making it far more competitive than many consumers expected. A 16GB iPad 2 with Wi-Fi costs R4,399 and increases to R7,599 for the top of the range 64GB iPad 2 with Wi-Fi and 3G.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Leading data center provider AccessKenya has invested an additional Sh5 million (US$60,000) in boosting its capacity of its data center in the country. It comes as the same company announced last week it believed data centers could become a force for the international community to invest in Kenya.

    The company, in a press release published on Monday morning, said it hopes its additional funding of the center will help assist the ICT sector in Kenya to grow and develop the continuing IT business.

    “It will definitely help get foreign investors interested to know that local companies are putting additional funding behind important projects,” said Khalil Julal, a Mombasa-based analyst.

    The fund is part of AccessKenya’s continued investment in the storage facility that was first established at Sh15 million ($180,000).

    It continues AccessKenya’s diversification, as it was first started as and Internet Service Provider. The company said that it would help to improve their profit margins by moving into other IT sectors.

    Chief Technical Officer Raymond Macharia said the center will “be key in revenue generation” for AccessKenya.

    “We are looking at any business large or small with data that needs backing up. There has been an increase in the number of firms that have taken up ICT and demand for safer data storage facilities,” he said in the press statement.

    Macharia added that data storage is “poised” for massive growth as other firms continue to outsource their IT infrastructure and believes Kenya can be the leading African country in this effort.

    IT News Africa
  • The intensified price wars among mobile phone operators has adversely revenue collection in February, as collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) was short of target. The price wars resulted into lower than expected VAT collection in February, with only 93.6 per cent or 409.3bn/- of the target collected, according to Bank of Tanzania (BoT) Monthly Economic Review of March.

    The central bank attributes the collection falls to account of price wars between mobile phone companies and the power rationing. However, a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, Prof Jamidu Katima, says that the price war tells more than what the eye can see.

    "If that is true then, the phone companies where overcharging us, "Prof Katima, the chairman of Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority - Consumer Consultative Council (EWURA--CCC) told the 'Business Standard' in an interview. "Or else we should look critically onto the revenue collection data to authenticate the tax drop because it defies the principle law of demand and supply," he added.

    For his part, Principal Communication Officer with the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), Innocent Mungy also said that he could not believe that price wars were a result of a tax drop. "What I understand is that the more the people talk the more the VAT. Call rates are charged per consumption. I don't think it's true that the competition has lowered taxes...since when more calls are made, it means more revenue," he said on Monday.

    TCRA data shows that price war has increased subscribers' minutes spent from 188 minutes in last year's third quarter compared to 218 minutes of last quarter that ended in December 2010.

    On other hand, the monthly money spent per user dropped from 8,908/- of third quarter to 5,849/- of last quarter. This signifies that the price war has increased time spent on the phone as tele-tariffs are low.
     
    However, this shifted the consumers' budget line on decreasing side - hence low revenue. Yet, subscribers were attracted by low tariffs on short message services (SMS). The number of SMS sent in three months (October- December 2010) almost doubled to 680 from 453 million in the previous three months.

    The average money spent per user also increased to 1,663/- in Oct-December from 1,122/- of July-September 2010, painting a picture that subscribers have spent money saved on talking to send SMS.

    On cumulative basis, BoT indicates, tax revenue in the first eight months of 2010/11 amounted to 3.37trn/- (about 92 per cent of the budget estimate), while non-tax revenue reached 204.7bn/- which represents 80 per cent of the budget estimates.

    Domestic revenue collection was 90.8 of per cent of the estimates or 10.3 per cent whereas in the corresponding period in 2009/10 it was 9.8 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

  • Recruitment activity in Information Technology and Telecoms decline, but some skills still in big demand The March 2011 CareerJunction Index (CJI) Report was released last week, revealing the latest recruitment supply and demand trends in South Africa.

    Data for the CJI Report is sourced from the CareerJunction website, where over 800 of South Africa's top recruiters (both agencies and corporate companies) advertise their vacant positions to more than 1.6 million career seekers.

    The latest report points to more challenging recruitment conditions in the country and hence more job opportunities for potential career seekers.

    The CareerJunction Index spikes to 121.41 points during March 2011, significantly higher than in January and February – good news for employees and bad news for companies looking for skills.

    The Information Technology industry experienced a considerable decrease in recruitment activity over the last 12 months.

    The industry is not performing well in terms of recovery as demand for labour continues to decrease during the first quarter of 2011.

    Some IT skills are however still in demand. The latest CJI Information Technology job report reveals a shortage of Software Developers, Software Testers and Business Analysts.

    Recruitment activity has also slowed down considerably within the Telecommunication sector since the onset of the economic downturn.

    The South African industry is still experiencing a decrease in recruitment activity and lags behind in terms of recovery.

    The Telecommunication sector however did reveal skills shortages in the fields of Web Administration & Design and GSM Engineering.

    My Broadband
  • Listed financial services software provider SilverBridge will report a loss in the full-year to February, reversing its previous profitable position. The company says in an announcement to shareholders that it will report a headline loss per share of between 2c and 6c. The company's earning loss per share will be between 34c and 38c. A year ago, SilverBridge reported headline earnings per share of 39.7c and earnings per share of 39.8c.

    In the announcement, SilverBridge says the loss per share includes a goodwill write down worth 32c. This figure has been stripped out of its headline loss per share number. The company did not provide other reasons for the reversal of its previous profitable position. However, its first-half results for the six months to August indicated it had issues with growing revenue at the level it would have liked.

    In the first half of the year, SilverBridge reported revenue up 2%, to R52.2 million, but net profit slumped 68%, to R1.98 million. Basic earnings and headline earnings per share lost 78%, to 3.3c a share.

    The slump in the first six months of the year was the result of projects being delayed, or not being aligned with client expectations, it said. SilverBridge has three business units: SDT Financial Software Solutions, Acczone and Ones 'n Zeros. Its results should be published on 17 May.

    IT Web
  • - The growing use of plastic money has attracted the two major payments solutions companies, Visa International and Mastercard to set up base in Kenya. Visa International has announced plans to open a new regional headquarter in Kenya to serve the Sub-Saharan region which is expected to be operational in June. Last week Central Bank confirmed that MasterCard, Visa's main competitor has also applied to set up a base in the country.

    - JSE-listed Allied Technologies (Atlech) may be restructuring to better align its 36 operating entities in the future, incoming COO Jeffrey Hedberg has hinted. Altech's appointment of Hedberg will aid the company to double revenue to around R20 billion in the next three to five years as the company will embark on an aggressive acquisitive strategy, says CEO Craig Venter.

    - Mobile phone operator Econet Wireless Zimbabwe registered a 25 percent growth in after-tax profits to US$141 million for the year ended February 28, 2011. After-tax profits increased to US$141 million from US$113 million for the previous year as its capital investments and new products bore fruit.

Digital Content

  • Mobile phone operators are targeting county governments in the race for the rural market to grow their data businesses. And e-health and e-learning value-added services will be the next battlefront for telcos seeking to drive uptake of data services. In the past six months, the mobile market has witnessed intense price war on the voice front that has seen calling rates fall by more than 50 per cent.

    The cost of voice calls fell in August to Sh3 per minute off-net and Sh2 per minute on-net and consumers can now send short text messages at a rock-bottom price of Sh1, effectively halving each subscriber's monthly budget for airtime. This has forced mobile phone operators to diversify into internet to cushion earnings from falling voice revenues.

    Safaricom, whose voice segment has been accounting for nearly 80 per cent of its revenues, is seeking to unlock new revenue streams to maintain its profitability. The operator is widening its net to the corporate data market, through new technologies such as data storage and disaster recovery, cloud computing and managed IT services, which CEO Bob Collymore says will drive its growth.

    Controlling about 75 per cent of Kenya's mobile phone market share, Safaricom has been strong in retail where it provides internet through mobile phones and modems, but now it's eyeing the more lucrative corporate and government contracts. This is has put it up against firms such as Access Kenya, Kenya Data Networks and Telkom Kenya that control a larger pie of the corporate market.

    Last week, while in Diani, Mombasa for the Connected Kenya Summit, Collymore, said Safaricom is positioning itself to connect the county governments. This include services that ease processes such as registration of births and deaths, passport issuance, tax collection, security services and judicial system.

    "Our connectivity solutions can also be deployed to link key governance and administration units and systems across the board to ensure seamless delivery of services in all parts of Kenya," he said. "Use of our teleconferencing facilities will completely transform communication between and within counties. The same is true for communication to and from the Central government."

    Collymore arrived in Kenya last year during the week of the promulgation of the new Constitution to head East Africa biggest mobile phone operator. "We see the future of innovation as two-fold. It starts with listening to the questions Kenyans are asking and observing the challenges they are facing; and then answering those questions by providing solutions," he added.

    "A quick look at the issue of devolved government and one can immediately see that the government will struggle administratively to take services to the people."

    Safaricom is behind the virtual courtroom known as "Tele-Justice" that links different courts. The operator in partnership with Jamii and Cisco has connected the Nairobi and Mombasa court of appeal to allow for speedy hearing and ruling through a video link, commonly referred to as telepresence.

    Collymore said the operator is working on a technology that will be used to deliver quality education that not only allows children to meet their academic goals but exposes them to a new world. "We cannot remain static as a provider of pure connectivity; a seller of the dumb pipe. We have to move up the data value chain."

    It recently won the deal to provide connection between banks to facilitate the switch from paper to electronic cheques. It is set to unveil a tele-presence product into e-health, which allows a patient to consult a doctor through a "live experience" without having to travel to city hospitals. "A patient in Ugenya would just need to go to the nearest digital village at Sega for this service," he said. The operator says it has set up 800 digital villages and targets to push the number to 5,000.

    Its rival, Telkom Kenya's Orange has lined up a free short message service to help the growing menace of counterfeit drugs. Under its e-health package, it has entered a deal fronted by its parent company France Telecom with a pan-African SMS-based solution provider mPedigree, starting with Kenya and Cameroon.

    Subscribers will write a verification code hidden on each packet or bottle of medicine. Patients can submit this code via an SMS to check the authenticity of the drug against a database managed in Europe by mPedigree's partners. Telkom Kenya chief executive Mickael Ghossein says the firm would use health and education information as an entry point once it launches its 3G network in June.

    The agreements mark the first steps of Orange's healthcare division in Africa and the Middle East, where the group operates in 20 countries and serves about 60 million mobile customers.

    Telemedicine and online education, for example, help governments to ease the challenge of shortage of doctors and teachers while facilitating the achievement of Millennium Development Goals such as halving poverty by 2015.

    The Ministry of Information and Communications has announced plans to link all district hospitals through telepresence technology. The intention is to enable clinical officers and nurses to be served by a single doctor based on patient requirements.

  • Uganda Coffee Producers and traders can now market their fine coffee online using a Q system web portal developed by the Coffee Quality Institute, Uganda Coffee Development Authority has said.

    David Kiwanuka, the UCDA Manager in charge of Coffee Quality said the initiative to market the country's Robusta Coffee is a result of a two year research that sought to develop grades to promote the good quality.

    "The dynamic, engaging and customizable portal allows users to showcase their coffee samples and connect with potential buyers from around the world. The samples are evaluated by professionally accredited cuppers in the country of origin against international specialty coffee standards before display on the web portal," said Mr Kiwanuka.

    Speaking during a workshop in Kampala recently, Kiwanuka said coffee that meets the standards for green, roasted and cup quality will be certified and licensed to feature on the web facility.

    Coffee Quality Institute in collaboration with UCDA and USAID's livelihoods and Enterprises for Agricultural Development project organised a cupping and certification training for 16 stakeholders to guarantee the Robusta coffee quality and standards.

    The Monitor

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Telkom Kenya has reduced the price of its on net calls for its post paid subscribers to Sh1 per minute aimed at attracting and retaining customers. Off net calls for these subscribers will remain Sh3.

    - Uganda’s telecommunications companies are looking to advertising as a means of increasing their customer base, after price wars in the country saw massive shortfalls in profits late last year.

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  • - The former head of the Mozambique's publicly-owned port and rail company, CFM, Rui Fonseca, on Thursday took office as chairperson of the board of directors of the Mozambican subsidiary of the South African mobile phone company, Vodacom.

    - Wael Ghonim, Egypt’s face of the revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, announced over the weekend that he was leaving Google in order to form an NGO to fight poverty and foster education in the country.

  • Ghana ICT and Telecom Summit
    28-29 April 2011, Ghana-India Kofi Annan ICT Centre Accra, Ghana

    The summit will bring together over 200 decision-makers from Ghanaian operators and international stakeholders with an interest in the market to share experiences, knowledge and ideas with a view to overcoming the industry challenges. The 2 day summit agenda will address all aspects of Ghanaian ICT & telecoms strategies for attracting investment, broadband connectivity for all, solutions to boost operator ROI, Regulatory challenges & opportunities, infrastructure development, VAS and local content for Ghanaians, subscriber acquisition and retention strategies, mobile banking, customer loyalty, future trends and more.
    For further information visit here:

    eLearning Africa 2011 - Spotlight on Youth, Skills and Employability
    25-27 May 2011, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

    The 6th event in the series of pan-African conferences and exhibitions will focus on Africa's youth. Africa has the highest percentage of young people anywhere in the world. How can it unlock the vast reservoir of talent? How can technology support education and training?
    For further information visit here:

    MMT Africa Conference and Expo
    10 - 13 May 2011, Nairobi, Kenya

    Some of Africa’s top mobile money transfer operators, financial institutions and high-tech innovators will gather for the annual MMT Africa conference and expo in Nairobi, Kenya which is still considered THE hub for mobile money transfer initiative and success.
    For more information visit here:

  • ITU App Challenge targets climate change

    ITU has launched a Green ICT Application Challenge to find the best and most innovative idea for a climate change focused app. The winning concept will be awarded USD10,000, thanks to challenge sponsors Research in Motion (RIM) and Telefónica.

    As well as the cash prize, the winner will be invited to present their concept to a prestigious audience at ITU’s Green Standards Week in Italy in September. In addition, the winning app may be developed and showcased during a side event to be held at the COP-17 climate change talks in South Africa in December. 

    Dr Hamadoun Touré, ITU Secretary General said, “We have seen how ubiquitous apps have become and how useful they can be. The Green ICT Application Challenge is our way of spurring a next wave of innovation tackling real world problems. We are excited to see what developers will create to influence this truly global problem.”

    Malcolm Johnson, Director, ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau: “The objective of this competition is to push contestants to think outside the box and develop concept papers for an ICT application that will be a truly valuable contribution to the green ICT industry. In particular, we want contestants to think about the issues faced by developing countries for adaptation and/or mitigation.”

    Challenge sponsors RIM and Telefónica both recognize that ‘green’ applications for web and mobile devices have great potential to contribute to climate change abatement worldwide. While there are many apps on the market that target carbon footprinting, this Challenge aims to move to the next stage, with apps that focus on, for example:

    Mitigation of climate change through energy efficiency in sectors such as smart buildings, intelligent transportation systems, smart homes, etc.
    Community engagement
    Eco-design
    Monitoring of climate change
    Measurement of GHG emissions
    Adaptation to climate change (e.g. use of applications for emergency telecommunications and alerting systems for disaster relief)
    Contestants are asked to submit a detailed concept paper with an explanation of how their idea helps combat climate change and provides an ICT solution to environmental or sustainability issues. Entries may be any kind of software tool or game, be it for the web, a personal computer or a mobile device. The closing date for entries is 17:00 CET, 17 June, 2011.

    More information, including rules and entry requirements, is available here:

    Sponsorship opportunities are available for the Green ICT Applications Challenge. For information, please contact: greenstandard@itu.int.

    More information on ITU’s work on ICTs and climate change is available here:

  • Enghouse Systems and Converged Communications - MEA
    Global enterprise software solution vendor, Enghouse Systems and Converged Communications FZ LLC (CCMENA) have signed a Master Distribution Agreement for the Middle East and North Africa region. Enghouse is the parent company for Mettoni, Arc Solutions, Datapulse and Syntellect, and under this agreement CCMENA will be the exclusive distributor providing customers and partners across the region with a range of contact centre, operator console, quality management and call recording solutions. In addition CCMENA will complement these solutions with their portfolio of value added professional services for consultancy, deployment and integration of communication solutions.

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