Issue no 597 23rd March 2012

telecoms

  • India and Mauritius’ MTNL, a public sector enterprise, announced on Monday in a statement that it was to launch 3G services later this year and said it would finalize its plans to deploy the service at a board meeting next month.

    The company’s new chairman and managing director AK Garg and new director Kuldip Singh are slated to attend the MTNL Mauritius’s board meeting.

    The operator announced it also has plans to roll out 3G services in other African markets if it is given governmental permission to do so. MTNL’s Mauritius arm has already won a 3G license and will be the third company in the country to offer this facility there after Orange Plc and Emtel. China’s ZTE will supply the hardware and software updates.

    “Mauritius receives over 1 m global tourists every year and offers a Rs 2,000-crore annual revenue opportunity for telcos, with international roaming accounting for 15% of operators’ earnings,” the company said in announcing their intentions.

    MTNL had been searching for new markets across the continent as its operations in India continue to be loss-making and it has to repay 7,000 crore of bridge loans it took to buy 3G and mobile broadband airwaves in 2010.

    Bikmaysar
  • Vodacom has been been ordered to pay a politically connected fixer $21-million (R159-million) this week by a court in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but the episode could end up costing the mobile operator almost twice that amount.

    On the phone from Kinshasa this week, Moto Mabanga, the South African based fixer who was awarded the money by the court, said he reserved the right to go after the $19.6-million (R149-million) he felt he was still owed.

    The Mail & Guardian initially reported on the dispute between Mabanga’s company, Namemco Energy, and Vodacom in August 2010. At the time, Mabanga, who consulted in the DRC for Vodacom, was suing the mobile conglomerate for R396-million in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

    The amount related to consulting work Mabanga did for Vodacom in the DRC between May 6 and July 31 2007 and September 12 2007 and August 31 2008.

    The disputed amount of $40.8-million relates to a “success fee” that Mabanga claimed was negotiated between himself and Vodacom.

    According to the consultancy agreements between Vodacom and Namemco Energy, Mabanga was tasked with advising Vodacom on economic, sociopolitical and security conditions in the DRC, providing advice and assistance on “government relations issues” in the the country, advising and assisting in the relationship between Vodacom and its DRC partner, Congolese Wireless Network (CWN), ensuring that Vodacom’s DRC staff were safe and not harassed or obstructed from doing their jobs, identifying parties interested in buying CWN’s 49% shareholding in Vodacom Congo and securing visas for Vodacom staff to enter the DRC.

    This week Mabanga said he had had to change his course of action, switching his legal challenge from South Africa to the DRC, after he heard about a year ago that Vodacom was seeking to sell off its business interest in the DRC.

    “If it had sold its 51% in Vodacom DRC, it would have been difficult for me to recoup the money I was owed,” said Mabanga.

    “So we went to court in the DRC to attach 5% of its shareholding in Vodacom DRC.”

    In April last year, the high court in Kinshasa ruled that Vodacom had to provisionally place shares to the value of $40.8-million in an escrow account.

    In January this year, the court in Kinshasa awarded a reduced claim of $21-million to Mabanga, against which Vodacom lodged an appeal for a stay of execution. The appeal was dismissed this week, paving the way for Vodacom to pay Mabanga the $21-million.

    Asked to comment, Richard Boorman, Vodacom’s head of corporate affairs, said: “We have not yet received the full judgment on the ... matter. Once we have the relevant documentation, we will decide on an appropriate course of action.”

    When the initial judgment was handed down in January, Vodacom released a statement that it would object to a ruling by a DRC court, a move that Mabanga insists shows the company’s lack of respect for the DRC’s judicial system.

    The Vodacom statement issued by Boorman at the time said: “We would clearly have material objections to any judgment by a Democratic Republic of Congo court in which a monetary award was granted to Namemco while the contractual dispute is currently being heard in court in South Africa, which has jurisdiction on the issue.”

    Vodacom’s objections stemmed from the fact that its contract with Namemco Energy stipulated that any dispute would be decided under South African law.

  • Kenya's telecoms regulator, the CCK has dismissed calls for surrender of broadcasting spectrum in the 700MHz band for use in deployment of LTE services as ill-timed and impracticable.

    Last week, the country's largest network operator, Safaricom said that it might consider withdrawing from a joint LTE network with the other networks if they are not able to use the 700Mhz spectrum.

    CCK Ag. Director General Mr. Francis Wangusi said the 700MHz band would become available for re-assignment to other services after the country migrates from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.

    He said though that it was premature to agitate for reallocation of spectrum that is not there in the first place.

    In a press statement, Mr. Wangusi said immediate surrender of broadcasting frequencies in the 700MHz band for 4G services would result in disconnection of many Kenyans who are still dependent on analogue TV transmissions. Digital TV signal is only available in Nairobi at the moment, meaning the existing analogue transmissions cannot be switched off before national digital TV signal coverage is met.

    The deadline for the switch off of analogue TV broadcasting in Africa, parts of Europe, Russia and the Middle East is June 17, 2015 in line with an agreement signed at the ITU in 2006. "As a member of the ITU, Kenya is bound by the provisions of this agreement," added Mr. Wangusi.

    Kenya has set 2012 as the switch-over date to enable the country have flexibility and time to address any difficulties that may arise before the 2015 deadline. This deadline, the CCK Ag. Director General said, was not cast in stone but could be postponed in the event of compelling challenges.

    He said spectrum that will be freed up as a result of the migration process shall be surrendered to CCK for re-planning and re-assignment. "The re-planning exercise shall involve deciding on the methodologies for re-assignment, including the use of spectrum auction," Mr. Wangusi added. Re-assignment shall consider various competing radiocommunication services that require access to this spectrum.

    Cellular News
  • On the eve of international arbitration, Swaziland's state-owned telco, SPTC has shut-down its mobile network after seemingly accepting that the service breached an agreement signed with MTN to be the monopoly provider of mobile services.

    SPTC is also a shareholder in Swazi MTN.

    Citing sources at the company, the Times newspaper reported that SPTC is said to have offered to withdraw the mobile and Fixedfone services after conceding that these two projects were in breach of the Joint Venture Agreement entered into with Swazi MTN in 1997.

    The joint venture between the two companies bared Swazi MTN shareholders from competing with it in the mobile market.

    "It appears SPTC was advised that they would not win the matter at the International Court of Arbitration. In the letter to Swazi MTN, SPTC conceded they launched ONE and Fixedfone much against the spirit of the agreement. They then offered to shut down these operations," a source added.

    The Times
  • Expresso Ghana will soon land a new undersea fibre optic cable called ACE in Ghana, Adom News can confirm.

    A top official of Expresso Ghana confirmed to Adom News the company is in the process of landing the cable in Ghana soon, but could not provide the exact date immediately.

    Expresso would be the third individual operator in Ghana to have landed a submarine fibre optic cable after Glo Mobile landed Glo One and MTN landed WACS.

    ACE is the acronym for Africa Coast to Europe fibre optics cable system, owned by a consortium of financiers consisting of seventeen telecommunications operators, including Benin Telecoms SA, Camtel, Companhia Santomense de Telecomunicações, Côte d’Ivoire Telecom, France Télécom, Gamtel, Maroc Telecom, Mauritano-Tunisienne des Télécommunications, Orange Bissau, Orange Cameroun, Orange Guinée, Orange Mali, Orange Niger, Orange Spain, Portugal Telecom, Sonatel and Togo Telecom).
    .
    The 14,000km ACE cable originates from France and terminates in South Africa, with landing stations in Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Canary Islands (Spain), Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Sao Tome and Principe, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Angola and Namibia.

    Even though it is yet to land in Ghana, it has already landed in Sierra-Leone, Liberia and some other countries outside of Africa, and will start operation later this year.

    myjoyonline
  • LAP GreenN Networks has petitioned the Lusaka High Court to order the Zambian Government to compensate it for the compulsory take-over of Zamtel in January this year.

    The Libyan firm has demanded that compensation should be at the market value of the shares pursuant to Section 11 (2) of the Lands Acquisition Act.

    The company has stated that the Government had no powers under the Lands Acquisition Act to compulsorily acquire the shares.

    In a petition filed yesterday in the principal registry by lawyers from Corpus Legal Practitioners and Malambo and Company, Lap GreenN is also seeking another order to compel the Government to yield possession of the shares, damages with interest and all losses related to the acquisition, wasted costs and expenses.

    Lap GreenN wants the court to declare that the decision to compulsorily acquire the shares was null and void, a violation of its fundamental rights, contravention of Article 16 of the Constitution and sections 3,5, and 6 of the Lands Acquisition Act.

    According to the grounds upon which redress is being sought, the compulsory acquisition of the 75 per cent shares for the sum of US$257million was illegal.

    "That further, the purported acquisition of the shares under the Lands Acquisition Act was not urgently required and that the committee set up to investigate the sale of Zamtel was an illegal body as it was not set up pursuant to the Inquiries Act or any Law," reads the petition.

    The petitioner said the committee had no investigative powers which were a preserve of law enforcement agencies such as the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Drug Enforcement Commission (ACC) and the Zambia Police Service.

    LapGreenN contends that the Government failed to take into account that it was never involved in the valuation of Zamtel and was a successful bidder to purchase the shares after beating other bidders.

    Other details contained in the petition indicate that at the time Lap GreenN acquired the 75 per cent shares, Zamtel was in considerable financial difficulties.

    According to the audit report, the petitioner said, the organisation had K542, 154 billion assets compared to liabilities of K903, 240 billion and only 200 000 subscribers compared to Zain's 2.3 million subscribers.

    Lap GreenN indicated that during the run-up to 2011 general elections, the then opposition Patriotic Front president, Michael Sata on several occasions stated that the PF Government would reverse the sale of Zamtel.

    "After the September general elections which ushered the PF Government into power, the President made an announcement that his Government would reverse the sale of shares having made that pre-election promise.

    The petitioner complained that in determining the action the Government acted unreasonably or took into account irrelevant considerations like the assertions of wrong-doing by the previous government, ministers and advisers as alleged by the report of the commission.

    Lap GreenN contended that it had nothing to do with such actions. The petitioner contended that it acted in compliance with the provisions of the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) Act Number 6 of 2006.

    Times of Zambia
  • - Mobile Telecommunications giant, MTN, and the British High Commission have partnered to present communication materials to the Ghana Police to help in driving public awareness for the use of the 18555 Crime Fighters Short Code.

    -  A new mobile phone tracking application has been introduced into the Nigerian telecommunications market by TracknShield Limited.  TracknShield, once installed on a mobile phone, makes it possible for the owner to trace the whereabouts of the phone through a text message in the event of loss of the phone. He added that even if the SIM card that was in the phone is removed, the software makes it possible for the phone to be traced and prevent a new SIM card from working with the stolen or lost phone.

internet

  • On Monday 19th March the internet activist and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange conducted an interview, via video teleconference, with Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki.

    According to Ghassen Dridi, communication adviser for the Tunisian president; Wikileaks is organizing the discussion with Tunisian interim President Moncef Marzouki as a part of a series of interviews with international leaders. The interview sought to highlight Tunisia's role as the country that triggered the chain of democratic uprisings, often referred to as the "Arab Spring."

    During the interview Assange asked the Tunisian president about his role as a human rights activist prior to becoming Tunisia's first democratically appointed president. President Marzouki answered, "I am still the human rights activist that I once was, though it is hard to keep up with activism. My career as a politician makes things tough for me."

    Touching on the subject of the ongoing crisis in Syria, Marzouki emphasized Tunisia's opposition to military intervention as a means of settling the unrest. The Tunisian president asserted that, "even arming the opponents of Assad's regime would endanger lives of Syrian citizens. Nobody can calculate the outcome of this act."

    Since its inception in October 2006, Wikileaks - a non-profit media organization created for the purpose of anonymously disclosing confidential information - has been responsible for leaking thousands of classified documents primarily associated with the U.S. government's international activity.

    Tunisia Live
  • By now, word is out that Malian army officers toppled President Amadou Toure’s government and suspended the constitution over the state’s handling of a Touareg rebellion in northern Mali. Something seemed amiss when the official Twitter account of Amadou Touré, the Malian President, denied a coup attempt and then went silent after days of consistent Tweets.

    Most Malians may not use the Internet, but that doesn’t mean the Internet can’t provide the outside world with a glimpse of what is happening in the streets of Bamako. In fact, this marks the first time the world has been able to watch military leaders speak to the public immediately following a transfer of power. Within a day, videos from state TV were already on YouTube. To some degree, it is surreal to watch a group of Malian soldiers in fatigues calmly address a frightened nation after they eliminated democratic rule moments before. In the video below, the army explains why they felt a coup was necessary and then cites goals of empowering the army to unify all cities & organize free and transparent elections as soon as possible.

    Since Wednesday’s coup, a handful of journalists, Malians, and media outlets have commented in real-time on events in Bamako. Kudos to CPJ for such quick analysis, MaliActu.net for such unique video, and Tommy Miles for his unmatched coverage:

    Perhaps the best review of how word of the coup spread online comes from Mohamed Keita, Africa Advocacy Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. He has written an in-depth look on how social media spread news of the coup, with dozens of sources. His conclusion: traditional media is limited in times of fast-breaking news.

    Mali Actualités, a Malian news site has released recent video from state TV ORTM onto YouTube. Six videos totaling 6,000 views have been uploaded since the coup.

    Tommy Miles, a self-described “West Africa watcher” has created a list of 20 Twitter accounts to follow for news about Mali. He has posted and re-tweeted more than one hundred pieces of information. Especially interesting are how the Mauritania government supposedly supports the Malian coup, transcripts from TV announcements, and links to media articles.

    GlobalVoices has posted a dozen or so Twitter reactions from Malian citizens. The consensus: great surprise by the recent events.

    Phil Paoletta, an American living in Bamako has provided a steady stream of observations. One of the most interesting is how state TV so casually alternates from military speech to music videos.

    Jules Cavendish, a reporter for a variety of international publications, happens to be in Bamako and has provided poignant commentary on the situation (ie. “Could the irony of Toure’s legacy be that democracy only lasted as long as he was around?”)

    Martin Vogl, freelance journalist working for the BBC and AP, was considered one of the most credible resources for international media to cite.

    Fabien Offner, a West African journalist, made a couple of updates, including how one presidential candidate’s home was vandalized.

    Bruce, an expat living in Bamako, has posted detailed accounts of his past couple of days on his WordPress blog, including insights from the US Embassy.

    MaliJet has extensive coverage of the news, plus dozens of reactions and some images as does Journal du Mali.
    Hashtags have included #Bamako #Mali #ORTM #SanogoShow.

    The military claims to have formed a transitional council that will organize elections. The group also plans to restore power to a democratically elected leader, but a date has not been set.

    Note: Although state television and state radio were taken over (as is protocol for African military coups), the Internet was not explicitly shut-down.

    Oafrica
  • Djibouti Telecom SA, the Horn of Africa nation’s only mobile-phone operator, said it signed a partnership agreement with Level 3 Communications Inc. (LVLT) to provide an Internet network.

    The agreement forms part of a plan to make Djibouti an “indispensable hub of telecommunications in the region,” Director-General Abdurahman Mohamed Hassan told reporters in the capital, Djibouti City, on March 19.

    Level 3, based in Broomfield, Colorado, is a broadband- services provider. Djibouti is about the size of Massachusetts. The country has a $982 million economy with fewer than 1 million people that relies on services related to its strategic location on the Red Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, according to the U.S. State Department.

    Bloomberg
  • Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has come up to openly tell the world that Uganda is at peace in a YouTube message, aimed at clearing the air over allegations that Joseph Kony still exists in northern Uganda.

    The Invisible Children, in their latest campaign dubbed Kony2012, uploaded a video on YouTube and viewed by millions of online users, depicts Uganda as still in the conflict.

    But Mbabazi in his over eight-minute video told the world that Kony has not returned to Uganda since he was defeated by the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) in 2006.

    "Kony is truly an evil criminal," Mbabazi stated, describing the warlord who mutilated thousands, killed innocent people, forced children into war, used young girls as sex slaves and forced children to take arms against the government.

    "Joseph Kony is not in Uganda. United Nations and CIA agree that Joseph Kony has not based his criminal organisations in Uganda since 2006."

    The Premier said Kony is now based in the Central Africa Republic, DR Congo and Southern Sudan and ICC has issued an arrest warrant on the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) that has become a regional menace.

    "Uganda is not in conflict. It is a modern developing country which enjoys peace, stability and security," he assured, and explained that it is from this that Lonely Planets declared Uganda as the best place to visit in 2012 in the world.

    Mbabazi said he had managed to tweet with the 20 celebrities that had been signed up to the Kony2012 campaign to visit Uganda, especially the northern region where the video claims that Kony is still active.

    He invited the celebrities to come and see how the people have managed to go back to normal life after the atrocious LRA group was forced out of the country to neighboring regions..

    "They will meet the people who lost family members to the murderous gangs of the LRA, and whose children were abducted and never to be seen again and those who were forced to flee.

    "You all come and see Uganda for yourself. You will see a very big difference from that was portrayed by the Invisible Children," Mbabazi assures.

    New Vision
  • Until last year, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the world’s leading watchdog of press freedom, had always considered at least one African nation an “Enemy of the Internet”. Fortunately, the trend has continued into 2012 – none of the twelve nations with the heaviest Internet censorship are found in Africa. Still, even a year after North African regime changes and Arab Spring, RSF has kept perennial Internet censors Egypt, Tunisia, and Eritrea in the lesser “under surveillance” category. Libya, no longer under the harsh rule of the Gaddafi regime, is finally off the list.

    African nations, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa are under relatively little government surveillance.

    The unchanged ranking of Egypt, Tunisia, and Eritrea in 2012 comes as no surprise. Last year, we noted how Egypt and Tunisia must still eliminate the possibility for future censorship. Our guess is that Tunisia will no longer be on this list in 2013. Eritrea continues to operate under a dictatorship that greatly monitors Internet access and will most likely be “under surveillance” for years to come. In fact, Eritrea is at the bottom of the Press Freedom Index, which covers all forms of media.

    Reporters Without Borders provides the reasoning behind their assessment of Internet censorship. Below are the methods of how each African nation on the list has censored its Internet in 2012.

    Egypt:
    Detention of multiple bloggers throughout the year
    Possible limited bandwidth during legislative elections in November 2011
    Good news: most bloggers have no intention of giving up

    Eritrea:
    No independent site is operated from within the nation
    Self-censorship in cyber cafes
    Government wages online offense against criticisms – including disinformation campaigns and cyber attacks against opposition sites
    Good news: Active diasporan community is able to spread information

    Tunisia:
    Continued punishment of outspoken bloggers
    Freedom of the entire Internet is not covered by upcoming legislation
    Limited Internet filtering was implemented in February 2012, and although halted due to financial reasons, could presumably resume in the future
    Good news: Restructuring of the Tunisian Internet Agency to work under international practices. Liberalizing the Internet market. Fighting filtering techniques.

  • Senegal’s telecommunications regulator, ARTP, recently published an annual report for 2011. Although their official website makes no mention of any report past the year 2008, Telecompaper has reported on the findings.

    The number of Internet subscribers in Senegal grew phenomenally in 2011. There are currently more than twice the number of Internet subscribers than a year ago.

    However, the largest gains were in the mobile Internet market. Although the number of mobile subscribers grew by a steady 12%, the number of mobile Internet users grew by staggering 680%. The mobile internet market was driven by factors like Sonatel earning a 3G license, the release of cheaper smartphones, and the popularity of social networks among young consumers. The elections likely played a role as well.

    Telecompaper
  • Mauritania may very well have the highest rate of online activism per Internet user. There were only an estimated 34,000 Facebook users in the country at the end of 2011, but thousands have spoken out against government repression in the past year.

    GlobalVoices editor Claire Ulrich recently conducted an interview with Nasser Weddady, an influential Mauritanian who is part of the diaspora. The answers to a handful of basic questions provide a unique glimpse into how Mauritanians are using the Internet:

    Quality over quantity: The Facebook page for last year’s February 25th movement is influential even though it claims only 750+ followers. Other pages have 3,000 and 10,000 fans (many are presumed to be Mauritanians living abroad).

    Formal Mauritanian blogs have largely disappeared in recent years, but Twitter is growing as a tool of communication.

    Young Mauritanians are also starting to learn Photoshop skills.

    Web censorship has, to date, been ineffective. Still, the threat looms.

    Also intriguing is Mr. Weddady’s comment how Mauritania is unique in that the people are tied to both the Arab world and Sub-Saharan Africa. Perhaps Mauritania can use this position to combine the social momentum of Arab nations with the economic growth of SSA. Plus, a strong economy can mean better Internet access – something Mauritanians are eager to adopt.

    Global Voices
  • Mr Winfred Monu, Tema Metropolitan Librarian on Wednesday called on stakeholders in education to help the 53 public libraries in the country to acquire the needed logistics for the implementation of e-libraries.

    Mr Monu, who made the appeal in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, said the benefits of e-libraries are enormous.

    He said it is about time Ghana gets e-library facilities, to allow the public libraries to acquire latest editions of reference books and magazines.

    This, he said would cut down on the cost of acquiring books by the Ghana Library Authority (GLA).

    Mr Monu said e-library would also be beneficial to on-line students, since all the information they need for research would be available, making it less time-consuming.

    He expressed regret that even though, some of the librarians of the GLA have received e-library training in India and the United Kingdom, to also train their colleagues the facility is not available.

    Mr Monu said he solicited funds from some companies in the metropolis to put up a 30-seater internet café to encourage students to learn how to extract information from the World Wide Web.

    He said his outfit is planning to educate Information Communication Technology (ICT) teachers in the metropolis.

    Mr Monu said the facility would also be made available to schools that lack the needed equipment for their ICT training.

    He, therefore, appealed to philanthropists and other public-spirited organisations to provide more computers and internet connectivity devices to the metropolitan Library to make the dream a reality.

    Mr Monu indicated that in 2011, the library recorded 2,020 juvenile membership, made up of 500 for the first quarter, 620, 550 for the second, 350 for the second, third and fourth quarters respectively.

    The adult membership also came to 1,577, comprising 457 in the first quarter, 320 in the second quarter, 350 for the third quarter and 450 for the fourth quarter.

    He said the book stock for the library as at July 2011 were, 7,094 juvenile lending and 360 reference books.

    The library also had 5,002 adults lending and 819 adult reference books during the same period under review.

    He said the greatest challenge of his outfit is the lack of fence wall, which has opened the premises to the nefarious activities of hooligans, while stray animals also disturb clients who patronise the library. GNA

    The Vibe Ghana
  • - The Netherlands-based company INISI has promised to set up an internet service provider in South Sudan, the firm's director Erik-Jan Klijn said in Juba after a consultative meeting with the minister for Information and Broadcasting Barnaba Marial Benjamin. The minister in a statement welcomed the idea, saying it will support the move to electronic systems for the government.

    - Broadband wireless access technology provider Airspan Networks has revealed that it is providing equipment and solutions for the WiMAX network launched in mid-March by Gambian ISP Netpage.

    - The first deputy speaker of the National Assembly (Angolan Parliament), João Lourenço, announced Thursday in Luanda that the institution's portal will be launched soon to facilitate the contact with the citizens.

computing

  • The American Carnegie Mellon University which has just established a regional centre in Rwanda, will largely aim to spearhead the development of science and technology in East Africa.

    The Carnegie Mellon University will also offer a 50 per cent discount on scholarships to prospective students from the East African Community (EAC) partner states, the regional body’s Arusha-based secretariat announced yesterday.
    “Research and development in technology is now a global enterprise and Carnegie Mellon realised that education also needed to be a global enterprise to meet the demands of highly skilled engineers and innovators,” said Prof Bruce H. Krogh, the university’s director in Rwanda.

    He said the West was no longer the sole source of technological breakthroughs and nor was it the dominant growth market for information and communication technology (ICT).

    During the official launch of the centre that took place at the Rwanda High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya, the don added that there was a likelihood of Africa outpacing the rest of the world in ICT growth
    He disclosed that Carnegie Mellon University chose to come to East Africa because the region had recorded significant growth in recent years.

    Prof Krogh cited ICT where EAC has an Internet broadband access with the most extensive in-land fibre-optic connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa.

    “For the case of Rwanda, there is a business-friendly, pro-ICT development programme (Vision 2020) under which nation-wide fibre optic cable will be installed throughout the country,” he said.

    Speaking during the official inauguration, EAC secretary general Richard Sezibera said the establishment of the university centre in the region comes at a time when the Community was finalising plans to set up the  EAC Commission of Science and Technology.

    For the Community to move forward, he pointed out, science, technology and innovation were critical drivers of growth. “Science and technology cannot be bound by boundaries. We have got to let the two drive us and not bottle us within our boundaries,” he said.

    He urged universities and tertiary institutions in the region to consider students from partner states as locals rather than foreigners when paying they tuition fees.

    The Citizen
  • Mrs Elizabeth Amoah –Tetteh, a Deputy Minister of Education, has presented 178 laptops to seven basic schools in the Kassena Nankana and Builsa Districts.
    Each of the junior high schools received 24 laptops. The schools include, Tedam Junior High, Kolgo JHS, Basina JHS Navro-Pungu JHS, Amenga Ete-Go JHS in the Kassena East District and Sandema Preparatory and Kadema JHS schools in the Builsa District. The presentation formed part of the government’s manifesto launched in the Basic School Computerization project to enhance teaching and learning.

    Ms Fauziatu Salifu Sidii, ICT Coordinator, said 400 basic schools in the three northern regions were expected to benefit for the project, adding the project would be scaled up when improvements were seen and also when more school infrastructure is put in place to satisfy the growing needs of schools.
    Miss Felicia Amangure , a form two student of Basina JHS, thanked the government and said hither-to she had learnt ICT without seeing a computer and this made the study of the subject challenging.

    Spyghana
  • When Mpasua Msonobari mingled with foreign students mainly from the US who came to Kenya to study African languages, little did he know he was sowing the seed for his future source of bread and butter.

    Attracted by his coastal accent and mastery of the language, the foreigners asked Msonobari — then a Kiswahili language student at Kenyatta University — to teach them the language.

    “I developed a good relationship with the foreign students. And they paid for the lessons. I used to charge them $20 (Sh32,000) an hour. I started learning how to make and save money while still a student,” he says.

    This ignited his passion to establish a business and make money through his prowess in Kiswahili. Other languages his centre teaches are Kinyarwanda, Luganda, Chagga, Kikuyu, Luhya and Luo.

    As the foreign students returned home, Mr Msonobari spread his tentacles overseas. He later turned his classes into an online Kiswahili centre — Kampamso Language Centre — to tap the global community.

    With its headquarters in Nairobi, the Kampamso Language Centre provides Kiswahili language and other African Languages consulting services for translation, training and dealing with all other Kiswahili language related services in the very dynamic yet not so popular industry in East Africa’s biggest economy.

    He was not surprised when students from different parts of the world registered in droves to benefit from his High Intensive Language Drilling (HILD) system meant to teach the language online. The system enables him to teach from the comfort of his office using Skype.

    He makes a tidy sum. By charging $20 (Sh32,000) for every student, in one hour when he handles a class of about 15 students at a sitting, he makes between KSh15,000 (Sh270,000) to KSh20,000 (Sh350,000) on a good day. Compounded, he rakes in between Sh350,000 (Sh6.3 million) to KSh600,000 (Sh10.8 million) a month.

    Msonobari, who is the chief executive officer of Language Africa, sealed contracts with multinational firms like Microsoft, and Google to translate their products into Kiswahili. He says by making Kiswahili available in certain computer programmes, integration process could be simplified.

    Msonobari also recently developed the Kiswahili version of the widely used computer programme Microsoft Windows 7.

    The project involved the translation of over 300,000 technical words in the Microsoft Windows seven glossary into Kiswahili.We had over 3,000 words in Microsoft’s glossary to translate into Kiswahili over a short time.” he told the Kenyan media at a press conference early last year.

    Because of his efforts, users with limited grasp of English can still access a broader range of computer programmes in Kiswahili — a widely spoken language in East Africa.in 2010, he helped develop the Swahili version of Google Search Engine.

    we says technology plays a critical role in the maintenance of linguistic diversity, promotes mutual understanding and dialogue as well as strengthening local economies.

    Communities are excluded from IT skills fluency, and the accompanying job opportunities for lack of technology in local language,” he says.

    Mission to unite East Africa
    It is estimated that over 150 million people speak Kiswahili. Many are illiterate and cannot understand English, a widely used language in writing computer programmes.

    Msonobari also plans to use his language skills as a tool to unite East Africa, and may be the whole of Africa.

    The Citizen
  • Mathematical models developed in the United States could help developing countries better allocate their limited health resources and improve the provision of life-saving technologies and disaster relief.

    Case studies of the computer models, which were designed at the Georgia Institute of Technology, were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, Canada last month (19 February).

    Julie Swann, associate professor at the institute's H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, said the models were intended for decision-makers - including local governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO).

    "Most of the models are explicitly created" [for clients and] "require nothing more than Microsoft Excel", she told SciDev.Net.

    "Our end goal is to create a portfolio of models that can be run on ordinary laptops to help the decision-makers themselves see the impact of various choices they have."

    In South Africa, a model was developed to help an NGO determine how best to expand the donation and distribution of breast milk for women across the country. The model identified the best locations for storehouses and guided a decision to replace volunteer drivers with couriers for deliveries.

    In Swaziland, in collaboration with the WHO, Swann's team designed systems to improve the delivery of bed-nets and identified target areas for insecticide spraying - and calculated the number of people who would be protected from malaria as a result.

    Swann told the AAAS that the Swaziland model had delivered an efficiency saving of 25 per cent with the same level of funding.

    "Running these scenarios in different situations can give a clearer picture of the health of the system overall," Swann said, adding that this process could also highlight relevant information that might not have been obvious to local authorities.

    Computer models could also be valuable tools even where relevant data is lacking, she said. "It is possible to estimate some of the data and run simpler models. It may not provide as exact a result, but it will still let you see trends and what is affecting the problem to aid decision-makers."

    Further work is planned with authorities in Belize to assess the effectiveness of hurricane evacuation plans.

    SciDev.net
  • - Six schools have benefitted from the first phase of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) e-school initiative in Ghana. This initiative aims to equip young people with the skills and knowledge they need to participate in the global economy.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Algeria has received a valuation for Vimpelcom's Djezzy mobile phone unit and is now in talks over nationalising it, Finance Minister Karim Djoudi said on Wednesday, potentially ending an ownership dispute that has dragged on for over a year.

    Russian-focused Vimpelcom acquired Djezzy last year as part of a $6 billion deal to buy the assets of Egyptian firm Orascom Telecom, but the transaction immediately became clouded in uncertainty after the Algerian government said it wanted a majority stake.

    Vimpelcom agreed in January to sell Algeria a 51 percent stake in the unit which had been the most lucrative part of Orascom's business. It said at the time it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Algerian government to explore the sale subject to an acceptable price.

    "The valuation has been done. We have received it. We are now in talks," Djoudi told reporters in parliament on Wednesday.

    He declined to give a figure or any more details.

    The long-running saga over Djezzy has come to symbolise, for many investors, the risks of doing business in Algeria, a North African energy exporter which in the past few years has swung sharply towards economic nationalism.

    Vimpelcom agreed to buy 51.7 percent of Orascom from Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris in 2011, a deal that expanded its horizons out of its Russian heartland and into Italy and North Africa as well as other emerging markets.

    Vimpelcom had hoped to gain control over Djezzy as part of the deal, or at least receive a fair market price for the unit from the Algerian government. But the planned nationalisation has been stalled for a year, adding to shareholder pressure on Vimpelcom's management.

    The deal had been strongly opposed by Vimpelcom's Norwegian shareholder Telenor, which said the acquisition would saddle the group with too much debt and distract it from recovering market share in Russia.

    Reuters
  • MTN Uganda, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and Grameen Foundation have announced plans to introduce a new initiative to research and develop mobile financial products for the poor.

    This partnership was reached during the world mobile congress held in Barcelona, Spain, according to a company statement. CGAP is an independent policy and research center dedicated to advancing financial access for the world's poor.

    MTN Uganda Chief Executive Officer Mr. Themba Khumalo explained his company will continue to be innovative and relevant, particularly with increasing competition in the global market.

    "This partnership will ensure that we are able to address the needs of our customers in the rural market by enabling them to access otherwise inaccessible financial services. This in turn will ensure that the rural poor have better access to other social services, such as education, health and investment opportunities," noted Khumalo.

    He said the aim is to build up the extensive research already conducted through Grameen Foundation's Application Laboratory (AppLab) in Uganda and to leverage MTN's successful mobile money services.

    As a result of the joint venture the telephone giants and Grameen Foundation will provide US$1 million in financing to this initiative.

    "Access to financial services can help the poor smooth their income and invest in productive assets, education and health services.

    "However, 2.7 billion people most of whom live in developing countries still do not have a bank account. This gap is due to two major challenges: Many low-income communities are underserved by financial institutions, and the products offered by these institutions are more suitable for higher-income clientele," he added. Khumalo indicated the goal of the initiative is to drive the next wave of innovation in the mobile money space by researching and developing products that are both appropriate for poor clients and commercially viable for the financial service providers involved.

    CGAP CEO Tilman Ehrbeck believes to achieve the goal of financial inclusion for all, the industry needs to move beyond mobile payments and provide a full array of pro-poor mobile financial products.

    "The growth of mobile money is helping address the access issue, but there is still a need for product offerings that are appropriate for low-income consumers."

    President and CEO of Grameen Foundation Alex Counts noted that the collaboration with CGAP and MTN Uganda will enable them to lead the next wave of product innovation to truly serve poor people's needs.

  • West Africa’s oldest aviation company Aero Contractors has introduced a mobile payment system on the Universal Message Object (U-MO) platform.

    U-MO is a mobile money service enabling users to make and receive payments, and conduct other financial transactions on their mobile phones.

    This service enables users pay for their Aero flight tickets via their mobile phones.

    According to Aero MD Akin George, “This new service is going to revolutionise how people purchase their airline tickets and what they expect from their airline.”

    The new payment option aims to increase operational efficiency, save money for the airline and ultimately decongest the airline’s reservation offices.

    All Africa
  • Housing Finance bank is to introduce a virtual bank account that is expected to enable account holders to have an electronic wallet of money that can be accessed through numerous channels.

    The M-cash technology is to enable the holder of the account to make payments and remittances via multi-channel options.|

    The M-cash account has also been developed so that all people whatever their geographic location, literacy or income levels will be able to conveniently use this account, making it a truly universal product that can bank the so-called unbanked.

    Housing finance account holders will be able to have access to the following features like phone banking through specially developed point of sales terminals that will be available across the country and through the internet.

    In an interview, Paul Musoke the deputy managing director Housing Finance bank said that registration of new M-cash account holders will be done through customized Point of Sales (POS) terminals which means that they can be enrolled at their places of work, worship or abode and not necessarily have to move to the bank's physical locations and also through the 24 hour access to the funds on their M-cash account.

    M-cash accounts will have an option for multi authentication methods to verify their identities when making payments from their account.

    Musoke further explained that the authentication methods will include finger or voice identification, unique user Pin codes, Near Field Communications (NFC) Cards and Near Sound Data technology (NSDT).

    The M-cash account will also give the owners of this account multi-channel payment options through the following features like phone to phone payments and transfers within the M-cash system, phone to Web payments and vice versa within the M-cash system.

    The New Vision
  • - A survey, conducted by Deloitte last year, indicates that banks in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia lose $245 million in cyber fraud. The common cases cited include hacking, malicious insiders, card skimming, electronic files manipulation, and IT controls circumvention.

    - Telkom Kenya, which is co-owned by France Telecom-Orange (51%) and the Kenyan government (49%), has reportedly asked taxpayers to foot a KES10.9 billion (USD129.6 million) rescue package to help secure the company’s short-term future.

Digital Content

  • John Holdsworth, the businessman who took on the mobile operators over high wholesale call charges and won, has launched a new business that will take advantage of falling prices and faster mobile data networks. He hopes, in the process, to shake up the mobile telecommunications industry in SA.

    AppChat will launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) this year — Holdsworth’s not saying yet which network operator it has partnered with — that plans to take advantage of lower interconnection rates and advances in broadband wireless technology to slash the cost of mobile telephony in SA.

    Unlike SA’s other MVNO, Virgin Mobile, AppChat is also building some of its own network infrastructure, including a core Internet protocol network with points of presence in Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban.

    AppChat is developing an application for smartphones running Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone and RIM’s BlackBerry OS that will “intelligently” route calls over its mobile partner’s broadband data network where third-generation (3G) network coverage is good. Where it’s not, calls will be routed over 2G GSM.

    Developing this sort of technology is not easy — and Holdsworth’s team is going to have to be smart about how it handles quality-of-service issues — but placing voice-over-data mobile calls is usually cheaper than making a traditional mobile phone call.

    AppChat wants to take advantage of this and slash the cost of mobile telephony. Users will not be billed for the data they use to make the call, only the call’s advertised per-second tariff.

    It’s even promising to offer better quality voice over broadband than what’s offered over traditional mobile voice networks. With networks deploying speedier 3G technology, it’s an idea whose time may have come.

    AppChat, which is modelled after successful Danish MVNO Telmore, plans to launch commercial services in October.

    Holdsworth is promising a low, uniform voice tariff that applies to all calls, whether they’re made during the day or late on a Sunday night. If he gets the model right, the big operators may find him even more of a thorn in their side than before.

    TechCentral
  • Google has announced a service which would enable Gmail users to communicate with mobile phone subscribers on MTN, Globacom, Airtel, Visafone and Starcomms networks through Short Messaging Service (SMS).

    At the launch of the service, Gmail Chat SMS, at Google’s G-Nigeria event in Lagos, Country Manager for Google Nigeria, Ms Juliet Ehimuan, said users can use Gmail Chat to communicate with all mobile phones and platforms, even if offline, as well as receive Google+ SMS notifications and post status updates via SMS for free.

    She said by using Gmail SMS Chat, users can send text messages from their Personal Computers (PC) chat interface directly to mobile phone numbers via SMS. In return, the mobile phone users can reply by SMS and their responses will appear in the original sender’s Gmail Chat interface.

    The G-Nigeria event brought together tech savvy entrepreneurs, developers and journalists who were trained on how to get the best from the Internet. Participants discussed the future of Web application development, as well as received training on Google’s products and online business skills.

    Conference content included Google’s developer and business technologies, ranging from established products such as Google Maps and YouTube, to other Google innovations such as Trader SMS and Google+ SMS products.

    Speaking at the event, Ms Ehimuan, said: “The conference is aimed at equipping developers and organisations in the country on relevant ways to make the most of the Web and broaden the range of technical skills relevant in today’s technology landscape.”

    The Nation
  • The Electoral Commission has demonstrated the Biometric Registration process to personnel of the Ghana Armed Forces. Officers and men from the Army, the Navy and Air Force watched the demonstration at the Burma Hall in Accra.

    Volunteer applicants went through a mock biometric registration exercise after which voters ID cards were issued in an effort to educate military officials on the new registration process.

    Applicants first presented a valid voter's ID, passport or driving license after which their personal data were entered on a registration form.

    All ten fingers were scanned for prints in a 4- 4- 2 formation (four fingers of the right hand, four fingers of the left hand and both thumbs) followed by the taking of a passport photo.

    An ID card is then detached from the registration form, laminated and issued to the applicant immediately after the process.

    The Deputy Chairman of EC in charge of Finance and Administration, David Kanga, took the officers through several processes including acts constituting electoral malpractices.

    The Deputy Chairman stressed the need for high level of security during the polls.

    A soldier expressed concern about the inability of soldiers on peace-keeping mission to vote by proxy under the new registration process and urged the EC to reconsider the issue to avoid disenfranchising his colleagues.

    In response, the Deputy E.C boss assured the matter is under consideration.

    The Acting Chief of Defence Staff, Rear Admiral Quarshie reiterated that the Army is prepared to ensure that Ghana is peaceful before, during and after the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Internet subscribers of Orange Uganda are set to receive bonuses upon renewal of their Mobile Internet and Internet Everywhere packages.

    Customers will automatically be rewarded with the bonus once they renew their packages and will be able to enjoy up to 50% bonus on Mobile Internet and 20% bonus on Internet Everywhere. For instance, Internet Everywhere (modem users) subscribers who buy data of 10GB will be able to receive a 20% bonus of 2GB while a mobile internet user who buys 1GB of data will receive a 20% bonus.

    MTN has announced that the popular board game “Oware” will soon be available on the MTN App Store. This app is a modification of the ancient board game “Oware”, which has its roots in West Africa. The game has been developed to suit the new generation player. “Oware” was the winning app of MTN’s App Developer Competition, launched by the MTN Group last year. The app was developed by South African Gustav Mauer.

More

  • Kenya: Nokia Hosts Mobile APP Competition 'Ignite Hackathon'

    Mobile technology company, Nokia in partnership with CapitalFM and eMobilis will host a two day mobile application development competition on 24th and 25th of March 2012.

    The competition, dubbed 'Ignite Hackathon', will challenge participants to develop mobile apps for the masses using efficient code, well thought architecture, user experience and engagement.

    The main aim of the hackathon is to release into the market applications that have mass market appeal and can adapt to the challenges that accompany rapid growth in user numbers.

    "Many young developers do not have access to global publishing platforms and this is a great opportunity for them to get published on the Nokia Store and using the most popular platform, the Series 40," said Ken Mwenda, Managing Director, eMobilis.

    Ignite Hackathon is open to students and tech-prenuers who have an app that is near completion or an app idea that can be completed and published within the 36 hours of the event.

    Nokia and CapitalFM will be rewarding top mobile apps developed during the hackathon. The winner will get a cash prize of $5,000 while the runners up and the second runners up will win $3,000 and $500 respectively.

    CapitalFM has sponsored the media category where the winner of a media mobile app wins a lucrative contract to build the CapitalFM app.

    There will also be consolation prizes for the 4th, 5th and 6th positions.

    James Mwai, creator of the award winning 'AroundMe' app, will be one of the judges along with Waithera Kabiru, Head of Digital & IT at CapitalFM.

    A resident mobile application specialist will guide the teams from start to finish. Winning applications will be published in the Nokia store.

    The Hackathon will be held at the Piedmont Plaza, Ngong rd, 4th floor. Application deadline is 22nd, Thursday, March.

    Interested developers can register here:

    CapitalFM will be live streaming the event on click here to view: Follow @capitalfm_kenya for updates

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