Issue no 710 13th June 2014

top story

  • Except for new entry operators, the mobile companies have reached the edge of their addressable markets in most countries. If that’s true for voice, the situation is much worse for data where operators are primarily focused on the richer urban markets. But with the rise of Internet use in Africa, a new start-up – Volo Broadband – is determined to help operators address edge-of-network data markets. Russell Southwood spoke to one of the company’s co-founders Mark Summer about how they’re going to do this.

    Two of Volo Broadband’s co-founders, Mark Summer and Kristin Peterson came out of an NGO called Inveneo, which has been very active in building networks to reach remote or rural areas. At Inveneo, they were responsible for deploying networks or advising in the following countries: Kenya; Uganda; Mozambique; Haiti; Nepal; Philippines; Palau; Federated States of Micronesia and in the West Bank/Palestine.

    For example, it built a 20-30 mbps link to an island in the middle of Uganda’s Lake Victoria from Kisumu. The Haiti network it built covers a third of the country and is used by operators to provide rural data connectivity.

    But whereas these networks came from either public or NGO initiatives, Volo Broadband is aimed squarely at helping three types of existing operators – mobile operators, existing ISPs and greenfield ISPs – address these types of markets.

    For the mobile operators Volo Broadband offers solutions that will reduce both OPEX and CAPEX in reaching these customers and will integrate with their existing systems. For the existing ISP, they can be a technology and systems provider who has the experience of operating in remote and rural areas and can help them build the people and skill expertise they need to address this market. For greenfield ISPs, it has used its experience with Inveneo to build business models that can help the start-up ISP identify the business it has to win to be successful.

    In geographic terms, it is focused on Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia (including India, Indonesia and the Philippines. In Sub-Saharan Africa it will focus on those countries Summer describes as having “regulatory readiness”:”The key components of this are the ability to use Wi-Fi equipment in the 2.4 or 5.8 GHz frequencies and the licensing of ISPs. There are lots of greenfield opportunities in countries that have this regulatory readiness.” The countries that currently make most sense are Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana. Also, even where there are countries where this is not regulatory readiness “things are changing quite fast.”

    This week has seen low-cost base station operator Altobridge go into liquidation. It was seeking to persuade mobile operators to use its low-cost base station to do voice and data in remote areas. Despite some successes – in Niger with Orange and in parts of Asia – it struggled to persuade mobile operators to buy its solution. In terms of mobile operator investment priorities, these kind of edge-of-market opportunities were simply too far down their priority list or had been taken off the table.

    However Summer is optimistic that there will be opportunities for two reasons. Firstly, mobile operators are increasingly outsourcing their network to third parties and thus will be more receptive to these kinds of approaches. Secondly, in the ISP space (particularly in Africa), there are now a number of multi-country ISP operators  and there are distinct commercial advantages to them from the way Volo Broadband can help them develop these kinds of opportunities, particularly as some part of them are delivered through cloud based software. In terms of mobile operators, Summer says:”I’m very hopeful and we’re starting to see more interest.” Volo Broadband is part of the Orange Fab accelerator programme in San Francisco.

    In technology terms, Volo Broadband is focused on using existing Wi-Fi technology which is cheap both in terms of network and end-user equipment:”What we find interesting is that the technology is changing. People like Ubiquiti Networks are driving that change but now Ruckus Wireless is providing competition to them. There are also new start-ups like Microtik. The innovation cycle is so rapid.”

    The 802.AC Wi-Fi standard will lead to greater efficiencies in spectrum use and deliver Gigabit Ethernet, where it will begin to compete with microwave and WiMAX solutions. Volo Broadband will be able to use Wi-Fi to deliver up to 100 kms backhaul network, as Inveneo did with the island in Lake Victoria. Obviously the only trade-off is the greater the distance, the lower the capacity of the signal.

    So who will operators find as customers in these markets?:”SMEs have a lot of problems in these areas. But there’s also Government offices, schools and healthcare facilities. These are all customers who are paying quite high prices for connectivity and it’s of unpredictable quality. Down the road, they can also branch out into the consumer space”.

    Digital Content Africa: Balancing Act’s web TV channel Smart Monkey TV has launched a new e-letter called Digital Content Africa. On a fortnightly basis, it will cover online film, music, publishing and services and applications. We have already produced 15 issues and these can be viewed on this link:

    Essential reading for those in mobile VAS to anyone just interested in what African and relevant international content they can now get online. If you would like to subscribe, just send an email to info@balancingact-africa.com with Digital Content Africa in the title line. Some examples of past issues below:

    Digital Content Africa Z16  - MTN Play Côte d’Ivoire is looking for digital content that will play well on mobile phones

    Digital Content Africa Z-13 - Ghanaian online platform Reel African announces the launch of first viewer votes feature film competition with cash prize

    Digital Content Africa Z – 11 - Soon Come: Digital advertising has yet to catch up with online content use levels

    Digital Content Africa Z-5 - Two new African Mobile Music and Video Content Bundles with a handset attached

    ________________________________________
    Videos interviews to watch:

    Antos Stella, CCA on the impact of digital on the music business in Africa – The company MTN bought into

    Brett Loubser on how WeChat Africa is both a radio station and a second screen

    The late Carey Eaton, One Africa Media on how it became one of Africa's largest online players

    Alan Knott-Craig Jr on how Project Isizwe brings Internet to low-income cties in Africa

    Pierre van der Hoven on the launch of a low bandwidth mobile streaming service

    Eric Osiakwan, co-founder Angel Fair on angel investing in Africa

    Davis Weddi on why and how social media is gathering momentum in Uganda and the shift to smartphones

    Bacely YoroBi on his Socialspot wi-fi hot-spot start-up for Cote d'Ivoire

    Paul Bomani on the growth of social media in Tanzania and how clients use it for social engagement

    Hafiz and Nadeem Juma, AIM Group, discuss digital content in Tanzania

    For breaking news, follow us on Twitter: @BalancingActAfr

telecoms

  • Airtel has entered into a group-wide framework agreement with Movirtu, an innovator in Virtual SIM solutions. The group-wide agreement follows Airtel’s successful launch of the Movirtu Share service in Madagascar. The first deployment under the new contract is now live in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    Airtel plans to replicate its success in Madagascar by launching a pre-paid service in its other subsidiaries across Africa. The DRC deployment went live on 12 May 2014 and two other deployments are already under way. Airtel has a total of 17 subsidiaries across Africa with a total of 81.5m subscribers.

    Movirtu’s patented Virtual SIM platform allows mobile operators to provide services to users who cannot afford to purchase a personal handset while also allowing subscribers to keep multiple numbers on same handset. With a Virtual SIM linked to their own personal mobile number, users can temporarily activate the Virtual SIM on a friend’s handset or shared village phone to make voice calls, send text messages or access value added and informative services such as mobile banking and mFarmer.

    Movirtu Share is also targeted at business users, allowing them to attach a second mobile number to their existing mobile account. With this service, business users can separate their private and business calls without needing to buy an additional handset or a second physical SIM card.

    With Movirtu’s patented Virtual SIM platform deployed in the network, Airtel can add new mobile subscribers and benefit from incremental revenues and market share expansion at low customer acquisition costs.

    For end users, Movirtu Share offers a very affordable and secure way to access mobile services without needing to purchase and maintain a handset or keep track of a physical SIM card.

    Press release
  • After several failed attempts at privatizing national telecom companies, Nigerian telecommunication Limited (NITEL) and Nigerian Mobile Telecommunication Limited (MTEL), the West African country has opted for a “guided liquidation” of the companies’ non-core assets to settle debts owed to stakeholders.

    Nigeria Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) – the organisation that supervises sale of national assets – announced that the government has appointed liquidators to oversee the bidding process for assets of the two companies.

    The BPE wants bidders with five years of telecom experience and a net worth of at least $200 million. Bids are expected to flow in before the end of June and the assets would be handed over to the preferred bidder in December as stated in a public note.

    Nigeria decided to liquidate Nitel in March after attempts to privatize the companies proved unsuccessful.

    Privatization of NITEL began as far back as 2001 when the national telecom firm was put up for sale. Ms International London Limited (ILL) emerged the preferred bidder for $1.317 billion but failed to meet the payment deadline. In 2003, Pentascope of Netherlands was contracted by the Federal Government to manage and reposition NITEL for another round of privatization process which also failed.

    In 2006, Transcorp was well placed to acquire the company for $500 million after been victorious in the bidding rounds. The consortium however failed to fulfil its financial obligation .

    In February 2010, New Generation Consortium, made up of Nigeria’s GiCell Wireless Limited, China Unicom of Hong Kong and Minerva Group of Dubai was lined up to secure the company for $2.5 billion but the deal also failed to materialize.

    Ventures Africa
  • Vodafone's Ghana subsidiary has been barred from signing up new customers until the end of July following a serious network outage.

    Vodafone suffered the network outage from around 10am on the 2nd June, which lasted through to midday on the 3rd June.

    According to report submitted by Vodafone, their Network Operations Centre observed a loss in the visibility of the network using the monitoring tools. Upon probing further to identify why the visibility had occurred, they realised that a network failure had occurred, which affected all subscribers on the Vodafone Fixed and Mobile Networks.

    The regulator, the NCA directed Vodafone to investigate and rectify the issues on their core network involving their Recharge Platform and the Home Location Register.

    Until that has been done, the only sales the network may make are prepay top-up vouchers for existing customers.

    Vodafone is also required to submit their Consumer Compensation Plan to the Authority for approval, this compensation is for Fixed Line and Mobile Service subscribers who suffered inconveniences by the outage.

    Vodafone owns 70% of the mobile network, with the government owning the remaining 30% stake.

    Cellular News
  • - Mobile phone users in the African nation of Comoros have overwhelmingly rejected the government’s decision to introduce a new tax – thought to be around 5% – on top-ups, denting the administration’s plan to use the money raised to shore up its ailing national electricity supplier.

    - Uganda's marketing companies have been banned from using SMS to advertise their services until the regulator is able to tighten up the rules for such services.

internet

  • When Abbaker Musa died at a University of Khartoum protest, Sudan’s newspapers carried a statement saying authorities had used tear gas.

    Upstart news website al-Tareeq, which means ‘the Way’ in Arabic, reported that he was gunned down, citing eye-witness accounts that the police fired live ammunition at peaceful demonstrators on March 11. After London-based Amnesty International condemned the crackdown in the capital, Khartoum, the website reported that too.

    Three months later, with the site having been viewed by 47,000 people since January, al-Tareeq’s eight reporters work in anonymity, hold hushed meetings in public venues and file stories quoting contacts gleaned from previous jobs in Sudan’s tightly monitored print media. An April pledge by President Umar al-Bashir to loosen press restrictions was followed by new curbs on reporting and a wave of newspaper confiscations.

    The Internet has “made possible a degree of discussion that was not really imaginable 10 years ago in a country like Sudan,” Harry Verhoeven, who teaches African politics at Oxford University, said by phone from London on April 24. Issues such as Sudanese police brutality and the state’s use of corporal punishment are more open to discussion because of online media, he said.

    With low startup costs and the promise of anonymity, online media is enabling reporters to dodge censorship in what Reporters Without Borders ranks as one of the world’s 10 worst countries for press intimidation and distribute news that the print newspapers can’t.

    Al-Tareeq went live in January, covering everything from political intrigues in Khartoum to violence in the western region of Darfur, its 33-year-old founder said in an interview in the capital, asking that his name not be used to avoid government retribution. His journalists use encrypted Internet connections to shield their identities and rely on a web server in Sweden to protect the site from cyber attacks.

    Sudan is ranked 172 out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index, with security services subjecting newspapers, television and radio to constant pressure, according to the group. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says journalists have been detained without charge, with some alleging torture by the security forces.

    Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said measures to suspend newspapers and question reporters are legal and don’t violate press freedoms.
    ‘Renewed Limits’

    “Sudan has over 20 political papers, if one is suspended, that doesn’t mean that freedom of speech is under threat,” he said by phone on June 4. “If a newspaper breaks the law, it must be held accountable. Some papers spread false news, others instigate crimes and immoral acts that cannot be allowed. It’s our duty to maintain order and protect high values.”

    Al-Bashir, who’s ruled Sudan since a 1989 coup, at the start of this year said he would restore trust in the government and allow greater political participation. His pledge came after September protests in which Amnesty said more than 200 people were killed, spurring dissent among some members of the ruling National Congress Party.

    The European Union on May 28 said Sudan has imposed “renewed limits” on freedom of expression. Authorities recently moved to ban coverage of events including criminal investigations involving Sadig al-Mahdi, an opposition leader accused of insulting the military. Al-Sayha, a newspaper owned by al-Bashir’s uncle that had published stories on alleged corruption, was suspended on May 20.

    Authorities have confiscated as many as 27 editions of publications in the capital this year, according to the Khartoum-based Journalists for Human Rights. In the week to June 1, prosecutors summoned at least 14 journalists for questioning on accusations including publishing false news, sedition and disclosing official documents, JHR said.

    Yesterday’s edition of al-Jareeda was confiscated by security forces after printing as a means of “economically pressuring newspapers into submission,” JHR cited the paper’s editor, Idriss el-Doma, as saying. El-Doma and an al-Jareeda reporter appeared before a court today accused of violating press laws, JHR said.

    “They don’t want the public to get true information about civil wars in the country, human-rights violations or corruption,” Madiha Abdalla, editor of the Communist Party-linked newspaper al-Midan, said in an April interview. “The list of red lines just gets longer.”
    ‘Global Trend’

    Information Minister Osman said the government’s measures are normal in a “fragile country.”

    “This is to protect national security, to protect the state, not the government -- every country in the world has red lines that are not crossed,” he said. The government’s seeking to “maintain and expand the margins of freedom.”

    Online media faces fewer restrictions because Sudan’s government may not want to spend substantial amounts of money to monitor it, given the low number of Internet users in the country, Philip Howard, a communications professor at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, said in an April 24 e-mailed response to questions.

  • By the end of 2014, it is forecast that there will be more than 635m mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa.

    Africa's claim to be the "mobile continent" is even stronger than previously thought, with researchers predicting internet use on mobile phones will increase 20-fold in the next five years – double the rate of growth in the rest of the world.

    People in Africa use mobiles for online activities that others normally perform on laptops or desktop computers as the technology overcomes weak or non-existent landline infrastructure in large swaths of the world's poorest continent.

    Declining prices of handsets and data, along with faster transmission speeds, mean Facebook, Twitter and cash transfer services can reach both the growing African middle class and the remotest rural areas, where villagers often find ingenious ways of keeping phones charged. Consumers in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria are increasingly using video and media services on newly affordable smartphones.

    "Sub-Saharan Africa is currently undergoing a mobile digital revolution with consumers, networks and even media companies wakening up the possibilities of 3G and 4G technology," said Fredrik Jejdling, sub-Saharan Africa head of Swedish tech company Ericsson, which published its research report on Thursday. "We have seen the trend emerging over a few years but in the past 12 months the digital traffic has increased over 100%, forcing us to revise our existing predictions."

    In five years, the research predicts, voice call traffic in sub-Saharan Africa will double and there will be an explosion in mobile data, with usage growing 20 times between 2013 and 2019, twice the anticipated global expansion.

    By the end of 2014, it is forecast that there will be more than 635m mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa. This is predicted to rise, to about 930m by late 2019, when it is estimated that three in four mobile subscriptions will be internet inclusive. The growth is attributed to the rise of social media, content-rich apps and video content accessed from a new range of smartphones costing less than $50 (£30).

    "The rise of cheap smartphones will allow vast portions of the population – from middle classes in cities to small businesses in rural areas – access to mobile broadband," Jejdling added. "Mobile commerce can offer endless opportunities for entrepreneurs and we've found that farmers are fans of mobile wallets – as well as teenagers wanting to watch music videos on their smartphone."

    The mobile has had a unique impact on Africa because of its relative lack of physical connectivity and access to reliable electricity. The report says that 70% of users in the countries it researched browse the web on mobile devices, compared with just 6% who use desktop computers. "Mobile users in the region have shown a preference for using their device for a variety of activities that are normally performed on laptops or desktops."

    Mobile banking has given consumers cheaper access to their finances, it says, reducing the need to travel to bank branches. "The large number of people in sub-Saharan Africa who do not have bank accounts suggests that mobile phones may be the only way that many people will be able to access financial services."

    The authors also cite the example of MedAfrica as a mobile app providing basic information about health and medicine, reducing the need for travel and the pressure on doctors. "Affordable access to mobile broadband is not a luxury, but a necessity in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa."

    Entertainment content is also a factor, with some Nollywood movies spurring smartphone uptake in Nigeria.

    The sub-Saharan African countries with the most mobile subscriptions are Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ghana.

    Lower specification feature phones that can access the internet are available for less than $20 (£12), he added, while in the next few years smartphones will drop below $40 ). He described Samsung as the big winner and Chinese giant Huawei as the dark horse of the fast-developing market, with Nokia also well placed with feature phones if it moves swiftly. Apple will appeal to the high end of the market – it has 3% penetration in South Africa – but BlackBerry is on a "downward trajectory".

    The Guardian
  • This year, Rwanda observed 20 years since the 1994 genocide. Many stories were shared online informing both local and global audiences of a time that almost brought the country to a standstill. To date, the scars of the genocide period, during which some media houses fuelled ethnic tensions, influence how the state deals with online media.

    Rwandan media law grants journalists and non-journalists the right to “receive, disseminate or send information through internet,” noting that every person “is entitled to the right of creating a website through which he/she disseminates the information to many people.” Additionally, the 2013 Law Regulating Media states that posting or sending information through the internet does not require the user to be a professional journalist.

    In spite of having this generous law, some blogs and websites with content critical of the state have been targeted and blocked or shut down over the years. Indeed, there is a commonality between Rwanda and some of the other East African countries, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Burundi, in the 2014 OpenNet Africa Internet Freedom Reports [See Regional Summary here] where laws and regulations restrict internet freedoms including through allowing interception of communication with limited oversight.

    In April 2014, there were numerous and unrelated reports of online news journalists being arrested and intimidated with some allegedly fleeing the country. One online news editor reported that his website had been hacked and he disowned recent content published under his name.

    Earlier in 2011, the online publication Umuvugizi was suspended for six months while its editor Jean Bosco Gasasira was sentenced to two and half years in jail for civil disobedience and insulting President Paul Kagame on the website. There are recent reports that some government employees use false user accounts on Twitter to intimidate journalists and spread propaganda. Ironically, President Paul Kagame has one of the more active presidential twitter accounts on the continent.

    In most cases, national unity and security have been used as the reason for invasive monitoring to clamp down on media houses and bloggers in the country. This bears similarity to Kenya which has battled to control hate speech online in the aftermath of the 2007 post-election violence.

    With a population of 10.5 million, Rwanda’s mobile penetration stands at 63.5% and internet penetration at 19.5%. There are ongoing government-driven initiatives, such as the National Information Communication Technology (ICT) Literacy and Awareness Campaign and Vision 2020, which aim to improve governance, access and ICT skills development. However, this progress in the access to and use of ICTs by citizens and the government remains hampered by regressive laws and regulations. This contributes to self-censorship by both citizens and media when publishing content online which is increasingly becoming the preferred tool of communication.

    OpenNet Africa
  • - South Africa's Gautrain, the rapid rail network in Gauteng, says it aims to launch a Wi-Fi service before the end of the year. A spokesperson for the Gautrain Management Agency told BusinessTech that it has been working on a Wi-Fi service for some time, and plans to make an announcement before the end of the year. The spokesperson said that the group is also on track to have mobile phone signals at all subterranean Gautrain stations.

    - As a country with one of the lowest levels of ICT use in Africa, Ethiopia’s online presence is further hampered by regressive laws on surveillance and interception of digital communications. The country’s sole service provider, the state-owned Ethio Telecom, makes it easy for government to monitor and control citizens’ communications. Unlike Ethiopia, all the other countries in the East African region have opened up their telecommunications sector to multiple players, which has contributed to increased ICT access levels.

computing

  • Huawei Technologies has announced that mobile network operator Etisalat Misr will deploy NE5000E, the vendor’s 400G core router, as core nodes for the national IP backbone network (IPBB) in Egypt. According to Huawei, the routers will help build ‘a future-proof, large-bandwidth and highly reliable convergence backbone network, which will satisfy the broadband strategy of Etisalat Misr and the development requirements of broadband services of the Egyptian Ministry of Communication’.

    With Etisalat Misr said to be experiencing strain on the capacity and scalability of its backbone network as a result of increased demand from customers for data services, the operator initiated its long-term backbone network development project for capacity expansion and network reconstruction. As such, Etisalat Misr aims to construct a next-generation convergence network platform to ensure the sustainable and continuous development of services.

    Commenting on the development, Zha Jun, president of Huawei’s Fixed Network Product Line, noted: ‘Huawei will utilise its global commercial deployment experience of 400G core routers to provide Etisalat Misr with a converged backbone network solution that supports multi-service access. Based on the innovative chips and software/hardware platform, Huawei’s 400G solution provides a large capacity and enables smooth capacity expansion and low power consumption, empowering operators to reduce TCO while meeting the challenges of future network.’

    Telegeography
  • The information and communication technology (ICT) device with greatest potential for education and training is laptop, whereas Facebook is the most popular social media, according to a new survey of e-learning professionals in Africa.

    Researchers from Integrated Communications, Worldwide Events (ICWE) in Germany surveyed 1,444 e-learning professionals from 55 countries in Africa through e-mail between March and May this year.
     
    Harold Elletson, the study’s lead researcher and an ICWE consultant, tells SciDev.Net that the survey gives a snapshot of the opinions and activities of African e-learning professionals from a range of sectors such as government, teaching, health and agriculture influenced by educational technology.

    The study’s findings were released as part of the eLearning Africa Report 2014 at the 9th eLearning Africa Conference held in Kampala, Uganda, last month (28-30 May).
     
    According to the survey, 29 per cent of the respondents indicated laptops as having greatest potential in education and training in Africa whereas 18 per cent, 17 per cent and 16 per cent said so for tablets, smartphones and basic mobile phones respectively.
     
    The researchers say governments should do more to increase Internet connectivity in Africa.

    “We found that African governments are the most influential in the advancement of e-learning in Africa, for they fund and formulate most policies,” Elletson explains.
     
    The study identifies digital divide between e-learning professionals working in rural and urban Africa. “People in urban areas are over twice as likely to use ICTs to communicate mostly with people from other African countries,” says the report.
     
    According to the study, 82 per cent of the respondents indicated that they use Facebook, while 70 per cent indicated using Skype or LinkedIn and 50 per cent said they use WhatsApp. “Most people use social media for educational purposes,” Elletson notes.
     
    Rebecca Stromeyer, the managing director and founder of ICWE, says the e-learning situation in Africa is diverse, for there are gaps in infrastructure, political will, funding, teacher capacity and graduate skills. “However, none of these gaps are insurmountable and that is what e-learning Africa is all about – finding the most appropriate and lasting ways to fill in these gaps,” Stromeyer tells SciDev.Net.
     
    Gilbert Egwel, project officer at the Kubere Information Centre, Uganda, tells SciDev.Net that the report identifies serious gaps, especially in ICTs across the continent that should be addressed to realise the best out of e-learning.
     
    Egwel adds: “Looking into the future, we need to focus on equitable distribution of the Internet and thus e-learning in all areas of Africa,” noting that this will enrich the continent’s education sector.

    SciDevNet

Money Transfer

  • Bitcoin users have been compared to latter-day evangelists, steadfastly trying to persuade the masses to use a mysterious electronic currency hidden in the Internet. But one company is hoping their cause will appeal to a continent of new believers.

    BitPesa, a Kenya-based startup, is holding a product-launch event Saturday in London to showcase the potential of bitcoin as a currency-transfer medium for the developing world.

    “The existing methods to transfer money are through channels owned by large corporations and institutions, but such heft is not always needed when customer accounts are not held in fiduciary trust,” Chief Executive Elizabeth Rossiello said.

    Billing itself as a “digital currency exchange for Africa,” the company allows customers with bitcoin to convert the digital currency to Kenyan shillings through its website. BitPesa then sends the funds to the customer’s desired Kenyan mobile-phone wallet with a subscription to M-Pesa, Orange, Airtel or Yu mobile operators. Recipients get the money almost instantly.

    The company charges no transfer fees and says its exchange rate is competitive with those of other financial institutions. BitPesa stresses that it isn’t a wallet service and doesn’t hold any customer funds.

    The BitPesa launch party will focus on connecting Kenyan early-adopters, representatives of the Kenyan diaspora and bitcoin aficionados. Given the lack of understanding that surrounds bitcoin, current users will demonstrate how the process has worked for them.

    As elsewhere in Africa, cellphone use in Kenya is widespread and increasing, offering a large target market for BitPesa’s service. Mobile penetration in Kenya is 76.9%, according to an April sector-statistics report by the Communications Commission of Kenya. Safaricom, a subsidiary of the U.K.’s Vodafone GroupVOD.LN +0.29%, says 67% of new phones bought in Kenya are smartphones.

    “In the next few weeks and months, we want to become a visible presence amongst the diaspora community and those in Kenya who move money home from abroad,” Rossiello said.

    Reuters
  • Safaricom is bracing itself for an upcoming ruling by the competition watchdog, which could force it to open up its M-Pesa agency network to interconnect with rival m-money services.

    M-Pesa’s popularity, which has won it 18.1 million customers since its launch in 2007, has largely been attributed to its vast network of agents across the country that makes it easy for users to deposit and withdraw cash from mobile phones.

    Airtel, Orange and yuMobile, on the other hand, have relatively small networks of agency shops, making it difficult for their users to transact business using their phones.

    However, a ruling by the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) which is expected by June 30, could force Safaricom to allow Airtel, yuMobile and Orange users to withdraw and deposit cash freely at M-Pesa agent shops.

    Safaricom says its already preparing for this eventuality, which threatens its dominance in the lucrative mobile money transfer services.

    “Due to the growing pervasiveness of mobile money platforms globally, it is now necessary to pursue a standards-led discussion on interoperability,” said Nzioka Waita, the director of corporate affairs at Safaricom.

    Last week, three Tanzanian telecom operators – Tigo, Zantel and Airtel – announced an agreement that will allow customers to send mobile money freely across their networks, indicating the shifting ground in the industry.

    CAK director-general Wang’ombe Kariuki said the authority will give its ruling on Safaricom’s alleged abuse of its dominant position by locking out rivals from its vast network of mobile money agents by the end of this month.

    The petition had been filed by Airtel. Safaricom, which has repeatedly denied the accusation of unfair dominance and Airtel’s push for interoperability, now says it is not opposed to the idea of opening up its M-Pesa network to other players.

    The telco, however, says there is need for rules to be set detailing just how inter-operability will work, including the sharing of earnings between competitor firms and their agents.

    The duration to set rules of mobile money network interoperability could take up to two years, buying Safaricom time to prepare for the change.

    Liberalisation of the platforms could be a huge victory for Airtel, which has been relentlessly pushing this agenda. Last year, it filed a complaint against Safaricom at CAK and at the High Court.

    Airtel accuses Safaricom, whose share of the mobile money market stands at 73 per cent, of pricing it out of business by keeping the costs of transactions for unregistered users at double that of registered customers.

    Business Daily
  •  There is a new player in the electronic payments market in Kenya, the Emerging Markets Payments Company which will be offering consumers card schemes, cards, mobile and e-commerce not to mention e-government services and different channels of operations.

    “The opening of the EMP office in Kenya is a key strategic initiative for EMP,” said Paul Edwards, Executive Chairman of the EMP Group, during the company’s official launch yesterday. “We already serve over 130 banks and 30,000 merchants in 35 countries in the region.”

    Edwards also said that there is a strong correlation between access to financial services and growth in GDP. While the growth of M-Pesa has been remarkable, he added, there is still a long way to go to ensure that the national payments infrastructure supports a modern, dynamic economy.

    “Kenya and the East Africa region are a highly attractive market for us. We currently have 14 bank customers in the region, but given the commitment from the government and Central Bank of Kenya, we expect to see a significant push towards a more cash-less society and a higher standard of electronic banking services,” he said.

    “We believe we can play a key role in the evolving national payments system. We are the most experienced EMV processor on the continent, having been promoting the standard for over 10 years,” said Edwards.

    Kenyan will be the seventh office in the MEA region after Cairo, Lagos, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Amman and Dubai.

    Emerging market paymentsWayne Harris, EMP’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa said that at the end of 2012 there were an estimated 10.7 million payment cards in issue in Kenya, translating to 46 cards per 100 adults and a forecast growth rate estimated at 12% in the coming period.

    “The electronic banking infrastructure is growing as well. EMP has already partnered with four banks in Kenya prior to its official launch and we expect the number to increase significantly over the next year,” he said.

    Techmoran

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Tigo-RwandaMillicom, which runs Tigo Rwanda has said it has bought an 88 per cent stake, RSwitch, a national payment switch. The controlling stake was bought from Frankfurt-based African Development Corporation.

    RSwitch powers Rwanda’s bank-to-bank payment switching services and was launched in 2002 as Simtel. African Development Corporation bought the controlling stake in 2010 and restructured and rebranded it. People close to the deal estimated it to be close to $6.5 million for the firm that owns one of the two switching licenses in the country and also operating globally as an electronic payment service provider.

    In a statement, GM Tigo Rwanda Tongai Maramba said:”This acquisition will enable Tigo and Millicom become an even more dynamic financial provider. As we move into an era where more and more money will be exchanged through mobile devices, we will be a catalyst for the coming innovation in the financial services sector.”

    Tigo Rwanda will therefore run the national switch of electronic payment transaction processing in Rwanda by providing services such as transmission of ATM transactions between banks in Rwanda, issuance of debit cards, reselling and leasing ATMs and provision of related services. The firm will also be able to process transactions on Point of Sale (POS) terminals and even open up its business to Rwandan banks and merchants (for POSs).

    Techmoran
  • An Irish telecoms provider, Altobridge that specialized in rural network infrastructure has filed for bankruptcy.

    A short statement on the company's website confirmed the development. The news could put around 130 jobs worldwide at risk, including 45 at its Irish headquarters.

    In 2011 the company had a turnover of $16.1 million and raised US$19.8 million in investment from both Intel and the World Bank's International Finance Corporation.

    It's still not clear when the company was aware of financial difficulties, or what tipped it over the edge so unexpectedly, although it had recently shifted away from providing hardware towards software licensing.

    Commercial trials for its urban Data-at-the-Edge deployment are pending with unnamed network operators in the USA, Europe and North Africa.

    Data-at-the-Edge (DatE) optimises data delivery for mobile network operators. The broad spectrum of its functionality includes HTTP acceleration, in-line data and header compression, user data caching at the cell site, data traffic management and least-cost routing.

    Cellular News
  • Indigenous phone maker, Tingo Mobile has expressed interest in acquiring a 51 percent stake in Lagos-based Mass Telecom Innovation Nigeria Plc (MTI) for $25 million as it bids to develop rural broadband technology in Nigeria.

    Once purchased, MTI will be rebranded but will remain listed on the Nigeria bourse, Dozy Mmobuozi, Tingo’s CEO told Journalist this week. Mmobuozi said the acquisition will help MTI reach out to the mass market.

    A significant portion of Nigeria’s 170 million population still reside in rural settlements.

    According to London-based Research Company Informa Telecoms & Media, Nigeria’s mobile subscription is expected to reach 200 million by 2017; an 18 percent increase from the 169 million mobile-phone subscriptions recorded by the country’s telecommunication regulatory body.

    In February, Tingo announced plans to launch six products line by the middle of this year, which will be pre-installed with over 20 unique and indigenous economy-oriented apps. This will include sectors such as agriculture, insurance brokerage, airtime resell, commodities trading platform, health and maternity, security, messaging etc.

    The company will also be producing GPS tracking systems and mobile point-of-sale devices, while expanding its Internet-based services business.

    Ventures Africa

Digital Content

  • As a fourth-generation clan chief of a village in rural Cameroon, Gaston Donnat Bappa’s daily life is steeped in tradition.The 200 residents of the village have little if any access to electric power, phones, TV or radio – but the IT engineer, consultant and specialist has been immersed in the world of technology for the past three decades.

    Now Bappa, who insists tradition and modernity can be “collaborators”, is spearheading a project to create Africa’s answer to Wikipedia, in a bid to preserve the continent’s customs and beliefs.

    “I have tradition deep within me and I want it to be seen everywhere,” said the chief, wearing traditional robes and sitting behind a PC, after officially launching  the African Traditions Online Encyclopedia (Atoe) at last week’s eLearning Africa conference in Uganda.

    “With seven million years of tradition in Africa, what is 500 years of colonisation and slavery? Nothing,” he said.

    But he warned that the continent’s heritage was quickly vanishing.

    “We have a multitude of more than 2 000 languages in Africa,” said Bappa. “[But] a language dies every two weeks in the world and faster in Africa, because there are more here than anywhere else.

    “We have to come back to our traditions. We have to come back to this basis, the foundations and roots that we have so that we build a good future. To go forward, you must first know where you are coming from.

    “We are going to put the traditions of Africa online. Every single tradition from each country will be put online.”

    Bappa (56), who is six months into building the user-generated website, which will amass the collected knowledge, culture and history of Africa using the same software used to build the Wikipedia pages, conceded it would be a mammoth task “that will never finish”, given the sweeping definition of “tradition”.

    “Everything is tradition – anything, anything in life. There are no limits,” he said. “Maths, science, religion, medicine, arts, craft, when it’s in the past, [it] becomes tradition.

    “Everything in human life becomes tradition when it’s in the past.

    “We have more than 100 000 religions here in Africa,” said Bappa. “We have more than 100 000 tribes and each has their own specific tradition, crafts and culture.”

    Bappa, who is from Cameroon’s Bassa tribe, one of the country’s 250 clans, said Atoe could include information from the existing Wikipedia site. He hasn’t spoken to Wikipedia yet, but is confident they’ll be “delighted” to hear about his plans.

    “We are going to ask Wikipedia if they can transfer all the information on African traditions to our database, and they’ll be very happy to do so,” he said.

    But “anyone, anywhere” will be welcome to contribute to Atoe, which he hopes will be accessible to “every human, to every African, no matter where they are. People in the diaspora are also greatly in need of tradition,” Bappa said.

    His village, Ndjock-Nkong, is located about 150km from the capital Yaoundé, in the Babimbi region of Cameroon. A traditional chief for the past 22 years who heads an association of 42 chiefs, Bappa’s role involves local administration, clan leadership and cultural mediation. He splits his time between Ndjock-Nkong and Yaoundé.

    Most people in Bappa’s village do not have access to electricity, although the public administration has begun to install it and some residents use generators. A rural radio project has been established but internet access is not yet available.

    The chief, who has a degree in information engineering and a diploma in banking and finance, says the infrastructure and technology in the area needs to be strengthened so that this can be used to create dialogue and preserve tradition.

    “We must open up rural areas by creating roads, by strengthening radio, phone lines, TV so the people can converse and communicate with the others outside,” Bappa said.

    A team of seven is working on Atoe, he said, and its headquarters will be in a rural area, but a satellite would guarantee internet access.

    The cultural leader has found an unlikely ally in Valerie Wood-Gaiger, a Welsh woman who formed the charity Learn with Grandma to encourage intergenerational learning.

    Wood-Gaiger, who will turn 73 next month, has been working in Uganda with an agency that provides training for teachers on how to use information and communication technologies in schools.

    She will be “encouraging people to record their elders talking about history, culture and languages and showing how to do the skills that we still need” for Atoe, said Bappa.

    Wood-Gaiger, who lives in a village in the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales, said: “We live in the same global village. I am only a click away.”

    mg.co.za
  • The Silicon Savannah brings to mind a hyper-tech innovation zone, a mini-city of mirrored buildings ringed by sandy sub-Saharan scrub. Closer to the truth is a handful of industrial-style offices that occupy the top-floors of mirrored buildings and overlook a traffic-clogged Nairobi city artery called the Ngong Road.

    Another common misconception is that Nairobi's most successful tech startups connect small-scale, rural farmers with the wonders of the worldwide web, or provide pre-natal care for penniless pregnant mothers cut off from urban amenities. It's true that some of Kenya's most visible technology products occupy the social enterprise space, but experts caution that the hype surrounding apps such as iCow and M-farm is disproportional, and that the ready availability of NGO funding for social apps could be damaging the business ecosystem and stifling innovation and growth.

    A recent private equity confidence survey suggested Kenya's tech sector was not performing as well as expected, and is often overlooked by investors in favour of Nigeria and South Africa. "The hype about Kenya as a Silicon Savannah is in fact not translating into business opportunities", Andrea Bohnstedt, director of private equity consultancy Africa Assets, told Kenya's Standard newspaper.

    Nikolai Barnwell, investor and director at Nairobi incubator 88mph, has offices in all three Africa tech hubs -- Nairobi, Johannesburg and Lagos. When he compares business in Nairobi with business in Lagos, the disparities are stark. "In Lagos, there's no fluff. It's hard business, tough deals, the right kind of business. The first investors made good money. The ecosystem is very healthy," he says. "When you look at the infrastructure here, we should be miles ahead. But there's so much fluff money, no hard talk, NGOs propping businesses up -- it kills it."

    Lagos, Africa's biggest city, was once dubbed the "Worst city in the world" by BusinessWeek and is considered the fourth worst destination for ex-pats (Economist, 2013). Nairobi, meanwhile, consistently ranks among the top 10 cities in Africa. And as a relatively stable and reliable partner, it's understandable why so many NGOs base their international staff in Kenya, and, by extension, why there's plenty of NGO money around.

    Barnwell believes that the best way for the aspiring tech entrepreneurs to learn is not from visiting consultants, but from the success of their elders or even contemporaries. "But where are the prominent tech billionaires?" he asks. "There is immense opportunity -- which is why we are here."

    Mark Kaigwa, founder of Nendo, a strategy and storytelling consultancy for digital Africa, is more optimistic. He believes the next big thing will emerge from the social enterprise space, from "the grey area between capitalist enterprises and more socially conscious ventures".

    M-KOPA Solar is one such venture, proving that it's possible to target the lower social strata and make money. It provides off-grid clean energy solutions that are both affordable to people in rural Kenya and profitable. And its investors include both venture capitalists and charitable foundations.

    "The only way that everyone's critical needs can be solved is by building businesses that both address a human problem and have a business model to ensure it can keep solving that problem in a scalable and sustainable way," says Timbo Drayson, who recently left Google in London to start OkHi, a technology company solving the lack of address system in Kenya, based out of his Nairobi garage. NGOs, he says, solve a problem, but can they keep solving that problem indefinitely?

    He sees this period in Kenya's tech scene as "a fascinating inflection point". The forecast for global smartphone  growth is stratospheric: from 1.9 billion smartphones in 2013 to an expected 5.6 billion in 2019, leading to an estimated tenfold increase in mobile data traffic. Mobile money is becoming ubiquitous, and technology is finding ways to circumvent typical bureaucratic stumbling blocks.

    To make the most of the current investment climate, Drayson says, developers need to get out on the streets more: "A lot of tech entrepreneurs spend a lot of time at their desk. They go to launch it and the chances are they've got it wrong."

    Entrepreneurs, he says, need to think in terms of problems, not ideas: "An idea assumes you've found a solution to your problem. Invariably your idea is wrong, but your problem is right. Fall back on the problem and find a new solution." And they need to think big. "For the first time you have an opportunity as a business person in Kenya to have a complete global audience," he explains. "You can be getting paid in strong currencies with thousands of customers around the world, but developing it at low cost in Kenya."

    Wired.co.uk
  • Google has plans to invest at least $1 billion (more likely a few billion) on low-orbit satellites that will provide Internet access to underserved areas. The news comes after news that the company is thinking of using drones or high-altitude balloons to provide broadband to places like rural Africa.

    Utilizing satellites to deliver Internet to rural Africa is nothing new; for years VSAT has serve remote areas with high-latency access. However, spending billions of dollars seems extreme given the cost needed to build terrestrial fibre backbone networks and requisite mobile infrastructure is much less.

    Still, it’s too early to tell if any plans from Google (or Facebook) to provide Internet access will come to fruition given spectrum and other national regulatory challenges.

    Oafrica
  • The quality of the relationship between a web developer and a payment services provider is one of the key ingredients of a successful e-commerce website, says Michael Richards of SiteMeUp Online Marketing.

    “Our job is to help our clients grow their business online,” says Richards. “One part of that is building sites that are easy to use and highly visible to search engines; but an equally important part is making sure that the shopping cart and payment gateway are flexible and robust enough to meet all the client’s needs as they grow.” 

    Richards says PayGate is SiteMeUp’s preferred partner because of its reliability, the quality of its support and the breadth of its product offering. “My clients put their trust in me, so I have to be confident that I’m recommending something that works. With PayGate, I know my clients will get the reliable service they need -- and PayGate’s well-documented API enables us to tailor payment services to the client’s requirements.”

    “One of the biggest changes our clients have to absorb when they choose e-commerce is that their shop never shuts,” adds Richards. “There are no normal trading hours, and you have to be able to accept payments 24/7. That makes it essential to choose a payment provider who has an excellent track record in terms of uptime.”

    “Transactions do sometimes fail,” says Richards, “because the payments process is complex, with many different parties involved, and there are many points where it can go wrong. But when that happens, our clients need us to be able to explain exactly what’s happened and what we might be able to do it prevent the problem recurring in future. PayGate is always available to help us provide those explanations.”

    From a technical point of view, Richards says Site Me Up values PayGate’s range of customisable products and its recent offer of free shopping cart software. “This shows how much PayGate values its developer community. To offer the best service to my clients I need access to a good variety of shopping carts, and PayGate has most of what I need, including WooCommerce, Wordpress, Magento, Opencart, Virtuemart and Zencart among others. All of that is just a click away, and we know it’s compatible with the gateway, which helps us save on development time and resources.”

    “The developer community is really important to us,” says PayGate’s general manager of business development, Brendon Williamson.  “We’re making sure sure we give them all the information and tools they need to make their jobs easy. The developer section of our site now includes an comprehensive library of technical documents as well as tested shopping carts which we are committed to supporting.”

    Press release
  • Microsoft and Homeboyz Foundation have launched an online portal that will help youths acquire entrepreneurial and employability skills.

    Dubbed "TukoWorks", the portal aims at providing Kenyan youth with free resources, training, career guidance services and entrepreneurial opportunities through a network of accessible tools and content on various opportunities in addition to skills and enterprise development resources. To check out information on the portal, users will be required to do a one-off sign up at no cost at www.tukoworks.co.ke which can be accessed from computers, tablets and mobile phones.

    The launch was attended by government officials including Eng Peter Mangiti, principal secretary, Ministry of Devolution and Planning; Kunle Awosika, country manager, Microsoft Kenya; Myke Rabar, chairman, Homeboyz Foundation and Carole Kariuki,CEO, Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) as well as representatives from Rockerfeller Foundation among others.

    TukoWorks (local slang for 'we are at work') is meant to help reduce the number of unemployed youths, aspiring entrepreneurs and school leavers across the region by offering them with the required information to develop their skills.

    Kunle Awosika, country manager, Microsoft Kenya said: "The introduction of the portal was necessitated by the need to bridge the information gap for job seekers, aspiring entrepreneurs and school leavers by providing a network of accessible opportunities on various openings as well as necessary training on how to start a new enterprise."

    "We hope that the TukoWorks portal will become a national authority on employability and entrepreneurship that will bridge the gap for job seekers, aspiring entrepreneurs and the young people of Kenya. Our aim is to match the right skills to appropriate jobs, equip youth with the necessary training, tools and knowledge required to succeed in their desired job," he added.

    Kenya is the second country after Nigeria which has developed YouthWorks in sub-Saharan Africa, a program that Microsoft Corporation hopes to roll out in 19 countries across Africa and Middle East. The 2012 African Economic Outlook (AEO) report highlights the fast but unemployment growth pattern on the continent: 200 million young people aged between 15 and 24, representing 60 percent of the total population and 45 percent of the labour force. This presents an enormous potential to transform Africa's developing economies into the leading source of talent in the global market.

    "KEPSA has decided to engage the this project because there is a problem with the job market with quite many of them being very unemployable, this leads to certain situations like the youth being used for negative political agendas. We consider youths as a resource and thus need to tap the reousrce to elp curb unemployment. We consider youths as a resource and thus need to tap the resource to help curb unemployment. We hope the youths will make use of the portal," said Carole Kariuki.

    With youth unemployment continuing to be a problem in many African countries, Kunle said that individuals, governments and the private sector should play a collective role in creating jobs.

    Speaking during the launch, Homeboyz Foundation Chairman Myke Rabar said, "Many young people have little or no skills and are therefore largely excluded from productive economic and social life. Those that have some education often exhibit skills irrelevant to current demand in the labour market. Leading to a situation where educational and skill requirements are increasing and thus, resulting in millions of unemployed and underemployed youth".

    "Our work with Microsoft, centered on entrepreneurship and employability skill enhancement, stems from The Homeboyz Foundation's mandate which is to empower young people to develop their abilities and enrich their capabilities so that they can reach their fullest potential," he said.

    The Portal also has special features like: Career guidance tools, Job matching, Extensive training options, Mentoring and volunteering matching and Social media integration.

    CIO East Africa
  • Two years ago, Gerald Abila, while still at Kampala International University, wasn't paying attention to what his teachers were saying all of the time. “I’d be in class, but at the same time I was tweeting and on Facebook,” says the 31-year-old Ugandan lawyer. “So many legal questions would come up, so I thought: let me start a Facebook group. It was just me giving free advice.”

    What began as a Facebook group with just 100 members, whom Abila helped every Saturday from 3 to 4 p.m., has now grown into Barefoot Law, a not-for-profit organisation with over 16,000 online followers, and an Android app. “I moved around the country and […] I decided to turn this into an organization, because access to legal services is a nightmare,” Abila says.

    At the start the Barefoot Law team worked remotely. Only four months later did they set up offices in the township of Bukoto, Kampala. Today the organisation has seven fulltime volunteers, including a tech person operating from Germany. They receive about 50 queries a day on a variety of issues via social media platforms, Skype, email, phone calls and SMSs.

    Abila says at least ten queries a day are employment-related. Most people simply want to find out their rights.  “Succession and property are also very big issues,” says Abila, who injects a portion of his earnings from teaching and handling other legal cases into Barefoot Law.

    “We educate and correspond," he says. "Every day we get an aspect of the law we think has been ignored, for example the land act which provides for rights of a squatter, and post about it on social media.”

    Through no fault of their own, the majority of Ugandans are not aware of their legal rights. But the internet is a powerful tool.  News of the organisation’s good work has even spread to Kidepo, which is located on Uganda’s border with South Sudan. A man there discovered their services and travelled to Kampala to seek advice on a land conflict. His case was eventually sorted out through mediation.

    Even people living thousands of kilometres away in Somalia know about Barefoot Law. Anthony Latim, 38, struggled to get his employer, an NGO, to give him worker’s compensation after he had a serious motorbike accident during work in 2010. He spent four months in a Ugandan hospital with a broken neck and urethra, and he hasn’t worked since 2011.

    Frustratingly, his case was delayed and then eventually withdrawn without his consent by his own legal representative. He lost hope until he asked his friends on Facebook if they knew of a reputable legal organisation that could help him.

    Amazingly, an old friend from Uganda, who lives in Somalia and “who’s always on the internet” told him about Barefoot Law. Within a day Latim was informed he had a right to compensation and was put in touch with an organisation handling employment disputes.

    “I’m very grateful that for the first time I was able to sit down with a lawyer in Uganda who did not ask me for any money,” Latim says. Latim’s lawyers are now in the process of initiating mediation with his employers.

    Abila believes that the only way for Uganda to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is for people to be sensitised “on the rule of law, as once it’s violated nothing else can be achieved.”

    Still many are ignorant of the country’s laws. Uganda’s lawmakers passed 19 bills in parliament between June 2013 and May 2014, says Irene Ikomu from Parliament Watch, an organisation that provides 'virtual tracking' of parliament through live Twitter data and expert analysis and reviews. “Compared to previous parliaments it’s a lot,” says Ikomu, a lawyer and 2014 Young African Leaders Initiative Network fellow.

    The 19 bills include the notorious Anti-Pornography Bill, approved by parliament just before Christmas last year. Earlier versions of the bill had sweeping definitions of “pornography” which mentioned the “sexual parts of a person such as breasts, thighs, buttocks or genitalia.” Uganda’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo warned women wearing miniskirts in public would be arrested.

    Yet neither the bill nor the final Anti-Pornography Act 2014, which President Yoweri Museveni assented to in February this year, contained the word 'miniskirt'. But this didn’t stop Lokodo and some local media having a field day with the supposed 'miniskirt bill'. Parliament Watch was the first to obtain and disseminate a final draft of the act. “That’s when people started saying ‘oh it doesn’t say anything about miniskirts directly,’” recalls Ikomu.

    In mid-February Barefoot Law began receiving up to 200 queries a day from people across the country, including a woman in Mbale, in eastern Uganda.

    She had almost been stripped by a group of motorbike taxis and rowdy youth who said she was dressed in a miniskirt, which they claimed was unlawful. When she went to the police they did nothing.

    “We received so many of those inquiries we decided to share it,” says Abila. Within an hour 7,000 people had reposted the Barefoot Law Facebook alert about the incident, with media houses and the police also picking up on it. People were informed of the reality of the law.

    Reaching people in rural areas is a challenge, but Barefoot Law has joined forces with the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET), which has set up outreach centres across the country. Anyone needing legal advice can contact the facilities, some of which have internet access and can reach Abila’s team.
    The organisation also works together with the United Nations Children’s Fund, which involves uploading Barefoot Law content to a Uganda Content Portal, which makes the information accessible to kiosks in remote parts of the country.

    “We have also partnered with radio stations in hard-to-reach areas. Stations simply call us at a set time, and we offer free advice to the listeners who call in, or physically go to the station,” says Abila. He is hoping to introduce toll-free phone lines and expand to Kenya in the future.

    Ikomu and her team continue to live tweet from parliament and have posted every law passed since October online. “When we started we didn’t have lot of money, but we had Facebook and Twitter. Those are easy tools you can use to connect with people,” she says.

    Abila believes that technology is the “silver bullet” that can be used to overcome legal challenges. “I always tell my legal colleagues: before you study a Masters do a course in something IT-related, because the future of law is in IT, not law itself,” he says.

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  • SA's ICT industry is still reeling in shock and sadness after news of the death of IT personality Benjamin Mophatlane broke yesterday.

    The Business Connexion (BCX) CEO and cofounder passed away at the age of 41 on Wednesday (17h30) after suffering a heart attack just before a meeting with Telkom was due to take place in Rosebank.

    Tributes to the man dubbed one of SA's greatest entrepreneurs started pouring in via social media yesterday morning.

  • AITEC Banking & Mobile Money
    15 - 16 July 2014
    Eko Hotel, Lagos Nigeria

    Dear Colleague,
    For a number of reasons, including the recent dismissal of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, we have decided to postpone AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa, Lagos, to 15-16 July. 2014 The Central Bank is an important partner for the conference and its current state of transition makes it impossible for them to provide their usual level of input for the event.
    We regret any inconvenience this change may cause you. We have set the new dates for Lagos in the week following our Accra conference, which will enable international  participants to cover both events with one trip to the region.
    Please get back to us with any queries.
    email: info@aitecafrica.com
    tel: +44 (0) 20 8441 1231

    CFP “IT Sourcing and Development” international workshop
    20-21 October 2014
    The University of Manchester’s Centre for Development Informatics
    The workshop seeks to reflect on the changing context for IT sourcing and socio-economic development: analysing the new forces driving and shaping IT sourcing; characterising the new models of IT sourcing these forces have created; and reassessing the impacts of IT sourcing in light of the new criteria based on inclusive and sustainable development models and on corporate social responsibility.
    Prospective presenters are asked to submit an abstract of 200-400 words outlining their proposed paper to sourcing4dev@manchester.ac.uk by 11 July 2014.
    Full details here:

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