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Issue no 735 28th November 2014

top story

  • With faster, cheaper bandwidth either ready or not far off, Africa is experiencing the digital content and services moment. Like all things at the beginning, it’s full of fits and starts but the direction is clear. Russell Southwood senses that something is happening here but maybe you don’t know it is.

    About two years, we started (rather quietly) a web TV channel (called smartmonkeytv.com) to replace the now defunct Balancing Act You Tube Channel. It’s taken us a bit of time to get clear what it was about and who might be interested but we’ve got there.

    It tracks and analyses the arrival of Africa’s digital content and services economy looking at how far things have got to and the barriers holding back further development. It describes itself as for “Creators and Innovators in Africa at the crossroads of culture and technology.”

    With the arrival of cheaper mobile Internet and much larger numbers using, it’s now a question of what the Internet’s going to be used for and how. Africa’s Internet is like a great big biro and people are finding out what they want to write. There’s an enormous ferment of activity and the summary that follows is provided to give some feel for the scale of it:

    VoD Platforms: We have counted over 100 video on demand platforms in Africa for a recent report and the number continues to grow. MTN says it is only weeks away from launching its own subscription service with South African company Discover Digital.

    Two of this new breed of VoD platforms have been launched by film-makers who we met again at the continent’s TV market, DISCOP 2014. Juliet Asante’s Mobilefliks has had 100,000 downloads of

    Pascal Schmitz’ iBiskop is a download to own online shop which will also have Wi-Fi hot-spots where customers can download for free: it will be launching in 26 African countries.

    Older, more established platforms include iROKO and Buni TV, both of which are believers in generating content for their own platform. In this video clip interview, Jason Njoku, iROKO talks about launching its production arm ROK Studios to test film and TV series.

    In a clip from DISCOP 2013, Marie Lora Mungai, Buni TV reflects  how to make a success of African online content.

    Music On Demand Platforms: Again from a recent report of ours, we have counted 100+ music on demand platforms and the number continues to grow. South African hip-hop artist Slikour has launched an SMS-based service:

    Two of the older platforms are Spinlet and iROKING. Nkiru Balonwu, CEO, music platform Spinlet told us how mobile operators take most of their revenues.

    Jason Njoku, iROKO talked about why its online music platform iROKING will grow in Nigeria

    New Forms of Media: Improvements in bandwidth are creating new forms of media to fill gaps that previously could not easily have been filled. Larry Izamoje, Sports Radio Brila FM on launching an online sports TV channel in Nigeria aimed at smartphone users, particularly those stuck in traffic.

    Geoff Cohen of South Africa’s  24.com is using mobile to extend the reach of this Naspers-owned news platform.

    The late lamented Carey Eaton, One Africa Media talked to us about how it has built a business by providing the online equivalent of classified sites.

    E-commerce: For years the hurdles to getting successful commerce in Sub-Saharan Africa were too great. But there are now something like 2 million people in Nigeria ordering online. I spoke to Jumia Nigeria’s Jeremy Doutte about becoming the largest retailer – physical or online – Nigeria.

    The impact on small start-ups of having this kind of channel is perhaps best exemplified by my interview with fashion start-up CEO Rukky Ladoja, Grey who talks about selling through Jumia.

    Andy Higgins, uAfrica is creating an e-commerce platform for SMEs in South Africa and Nigeria and is already attracting a significant number of merchants .

    Gamers: GamersNights is a Ugandan organisation for multiplayer computer gamers. Having got an agreement with Liquid Telecom to host one of its servers, it is expanding its user base further.

    Alrick September, Techladon is launching an African gamers news website and organizing the forthcoming FIFA 15 gaming tournament in Cape Town.

    Olakunle Ogungbamila, Kuluya Games has struck distribution deals for its games in China and India

    ICT4D: ICT for Development (ICT4D) is finally making some real inroads into areas like education and health. Alice Liu, Director of ICT4D, Jhpiego talks about how mobile provision could change healthcare.

    Bas Hoefman, Text To Change has carried out  Tanzania's largest m-health programme using SMS.

    Susan Oguya, MFarm is helping Kenyan small-scale farmers sell their crops using mobile

    Mark Bennett, iSchool is using low cost tablets to change learning methods in Zambia

    Digital Advertising: One of the two business models for African online content is advertising so it’s important to understand the dynamics of digital advertising spend. Seanice Kacungira runs a Ugandan digital agency and talks about the tipping point for online advertising

    Shahzad Khan works for one of the continent’s large advertising agencies and sees the rapid growth of the Internet in Africa as one of the reasons for the rise in digital ad spend.

    Social Media:
    This has been the runaway success of Internet use in Africa and is already affecting behavior in many ways. Paul Bomani talks about the growth of social media in Tanzania and how his clients use it for social engagement.

    Christian Katsuva talks about a Twitter campaign #GomaNeedsWater which as used to focus the city’s government and water provider on the current shortfall.

    Brett St Clair, Google talked to me about what You Tube is doing in Africa and what content is successful.

    Nicola D'Elia of Facebook sees its social media platform as an "on-ramp" for Africa's first-time Internet users.

    Our web TV channel smartmonkeytv.com publishes between 10-15 video clip interviews (5-10 minutes in length) a month. There are already over 500 of them, providing a Who’s Who of the players in the new African digital content and services economy. To subscribe click here  and then click on the red Subscribe button on the right hand side of the screen.

    The web TV channel also has two free fortnightly e-letters:

    Digital Content Africa which covers film and TV, music, media, digital advertising, social media and other digital content and services. To see what it covers, have a quick look at the back issues:
    To subscribe, send me an email with Digital Content Africa in the title to inf@balancingact-africa.com

    Innovation in Africa which covers start-ups and investment, energy, ICT4D, 3D printing, innovation and cities. To see what it covers, have a quick look at the back issues:
    To subscribe, send me an email with Innovation in Africa in the title to info@balancingact-africa.com

    If your job in the telecoms or Internet space involves either providing bandwidth for these online pioneers or figuring out how to monetize this digital content and services, you need to stay ahead of what’s happening. As this e-letter has done in the telecoms and Internet so will these new sources help you with this task.

Money Transfer

  • DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, Tigo has announced the first of its regular quarterly payments worth 3bn/- (US $ 1.8 million) to Tigo Pesa users.  This payment comes three months after the company paid a staggering profit of TZS 14.25 billion (US $ 8.64 million) accumulated in the Tigo Pesa Trust Account to become the first mobile money service in the world to pay profit to its users. Tigo Pesa has a subscriber base of 3.6 million customers.

    Tigo General Manager Diego Gutierrez said “This second round of profit disbursement shows the company’s continued commitment to benefit and improve the lives of Tanzanians. The payment goes to all Tigo Pesa users including super agents, retail agents and individual users of the service.”

    “The first payment was bigger due to the fact that the profit had been accumulated over a period of three and a half years. This second payment is the profit accumulated from funds held in trust in commercial banks for three months in the quarter July to September 2014,” the General Manager said.

    Mr Gutierrez explained that, as before, the average return to a customer will vary based on their average daily balance in their Tigo Pesa e-wallet. This applies to super-agents, retail agents and individual customers.

    The next installment for the quarter of October to December 2014 will be paid out in February 2015. 

    Source: APO Press Release

  • South Africa’s e-commerce market is bracing itself for increased consolidation, with more mergers and acquisitions expected as traditional retailers eye the online shopping space.

    Despite the country being the best market for online shopping than its African counterparts, South Africa is said to be a challenging environment for players to punch above their weight.

    “The online market in this county is still hard to understand,” says CEO of Groupon Daniel Guasco. “There are real challenges for traditional retailers in terms of their pricing and as they come online there will be more competition. As consumers come online, the economics will change and we have to be aggressive.”

    Guasco’s view is supported by the recent merger between the country’s two biggest general electronic retailers Kalahari.com and takealot.com. The move, Kalahari.com said in October, was driven by the heated competition between online players and brick and mortar retailers.

    The competition was further exacerbated by foreign heavyweights such as Amazon and Alibaba.

    “After many years of losses on Kalahari, and four years on takealot, we realise we have to work together if we are to survive and prosper,” it notes.

    Despite the battle for market share among online retailers, the African continent still has an attractive consumer base waiting to be unlocked.

    Speaking at the Retail Congress Africa on Wednesday, Groupon co-CEO Emilian Popa says investors continuously ask if e-commerce is going to be profitable in Africa, given the continent’s socio-economic challenges.

    “There are 175 million [online shopping] users today and there will be 600 million users in 2025.  Internet penetration is 16% today and will be 50% in 2025. There are 57 million people who have smartphones in Africa and there will be 360 million in 2025. There are clear opportunities,” Popa explains.

    In Africa, Popa says the biggest e-commerce markets are South Africa and Nigeria. On a city basis, South Africa’s Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria are popular e-commerce destinations – representing 95% of online shopping activity on the continent. “The rest of the locations are expensive to service, there is low internet penetration,” he says.  Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, is showing e-commerce growth, particularly in Lagos. 

    But internet connectivity still spooks online shopping growth in markets with large populations and lucrative consumer spending habits – of largely LSM seven to ten groups.

    “If we look at the inhibitors of online shopping, it is all about connectivity,” Guasco explains. “If you are not connected you can’t buy online. What worked for Groupon is that connectivity was growing [when we entered the market].”

    Another challenge is that consumers still fear paying for online goods, but this depends on which country is in question, says Popa.  “If you look at Nigeria, 95% of people pay using cash and in South Africa 70% of consumers use cards,” he says.  Popa adds that what makes South Africa unique is the mix in payment methods, as consumers still use debit or credit cards and still opt to use cash.

    Another game changer for South Africa will be the use of mobile-based payments. MasterCard vice president of global insights Theodore Iacobuzio says mobile payments will take off further within the next 18 to 24 months.

    “For retailers there are four drivers: supply, demand, innovation and institutions. For a retailer, the number one is demand. When consumers want a product, the retailers will have to deliver,” Iacobuzio says.

    Source: Moneyweb 28 November 2014

  • Despite the hype around mobile money’s rapid uptake across Africa, in a new study e-vouchers outperformed mobile money - and in many cases physical cash - as the most effective means of disbursing assistance in emergency settings.

     Many humanitarian organisations are shifting towards providing emergency relief in cash as opposed to in-kind, but questions remain about the best way of doing it.

    The study, conducted by Mercy Corps over nine months in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is the first to test the effectiveness of each delivery method within the same programme. Previous studies relied on groups dispersed across programmes run by different organisations, making direct comparisons difficult.

    Cash relief is an alternative to traditional aid and relief packages, such as food supplies. Proponents argue it allows recipients to be more autonomous, and provides them with the flexibility to address their most immediate needs more efficiently.

    “Cash provides a reliable way for families in crisis to buy what they need, when they need it,” says Sara Murray, electronic cash transfer program manager for Mercy Corps.

    In the Mercy Corps study, over 3,500 participants were divided into three groups, each assigned a different method of receiving their cash relief. Mobile money proved problematic, taking up to three times longer than the other methods to set up, while the dearth of cash-out locations in rural DRC made it difficult for recipients to collect.

     In the end, the study concludes that e-transfers via mobile money were the most expensive for the implementing organisation because of the number of hours staff had to spend setting them up.

    The uptake of mobile money services in Africa through telecoms providers has been hailed as a technology revolution. The region is considered a global leader, accounting for over 52 percent of all mobile money services worldwide, and of the 60 million mobile money accounts were active globally, the vast majority are in sub-Saharan Africa.

    These services are widely regarded as the silver bullet for bringing financial services to the poorest and most rural. However, as the conclusions of Mercy Corps research demonstrate, there are still limitations to what these services can do well, and to where they can work effectively.

    E-vouchers had the highest upfront costs because of the need for the organisation to invest in the necessary hardware, but overall proved both the fastest and most reliable means of disbursing cash transfers. Physical cash, while the most straightforward, is not able to be disbursed in all areas due to security concerns.

    In DRC, which has experienced waves of conflicts spanning several decades, aid recipients are often targets for extortion and robbery by militants, soldiers, officials and even police. According to Mercy Corps, some study participants claim they feel more secure receiving cash payments.

     “A number of beneficiaries I spoke with in the DRC said they would prefer to receive cash over in-kind aid since cash is easier to hide. While risks are associated with any type of aid distribution in conflict zones, cash may actually offer some security benefits over in-kind distributions,” Ms Murray explains.

    As a result of the study’s findings, Mercy Corps is institutionalising e-vouchers as a standard emergency relief tool across the organisation, and is launching e-voucher programmes in Niger, Yemen, East Timor and Nigeria.

    While the report highlights the high upfront costs of these programmes, Ms Murray remains optimistic that they can be brought down over time through coordinated engagement with private sector providers. The report also notes that these costs may be offset in longer term programmes, and costs will drop as demand increases.

    Source: This is Africa 27 November 2014

  • Equity Bank plans to officially launch its mobile money platform Equitel - the trading brand of its telecoms subsidiary Finserve Africa - next quarter, chief executive James Mwangi said this week.

    The bank was on September 22 given a conditional approval to offer mobile phone services including money transfer on the controversial technology that allows overlay of ultra-thin SIMs on top of the ordinary ones.

    It has however been issuing its customers with ordinary cards in the banking halls despite its supplier, Taiwan's Taisy's Technologies, saying in a statement on October 7 that it had delivered the first batch.

    Mwangi said a "specially assembled" technical team including experts from Norway and Japan was putting final touches on the technology's capacity and security of the locally untested technology before official launch.

    "What our technical team is doing is debunking all the myths and falsehoods that have been spread about the technology," he said. "We will definitely be rolling out in the next quarter (January to March 2015)"

    The use of the technology, otherwise referred to as overlay, will be under a close eye of the Central Bank and the Communications Authority during the initial first year.

    The largest lender by deposit accounts expects to have five million ultra-SIM cards at the time of launch, although it targets 10 million subscribers-being the projected number of its customers.

    Safaricom, the dominant mobile network operator, has already warned its customers it will not be legally responsible for losses arising from the use of the overlay SIMs.
     
    About 300,000 customers have in the meantime taken up the ordinary Equitel SIM cards being offered in the banking halls, Mwangi said.

    "What we are doing is enhancing competition through affordable price, quality and value," he said on Otober 30. "We have chosen to deal with believers and passionate customers and significant roll outs are already going through."

    He spoke after the lender's extraordinary general meeting where he reiterated that Equitel will offer complete mobile phone services including voice, data, money transfer services and short messages.

    Shareholders at the EGM approved the incorporation of Equity Bank Kenya Ltd to take over banking assets and liabilities in Kenya, pending the nod from the Central Bank.

    The present company, listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, will consequently rebrand into Equity Group Holdings Ltd as a non-operating holding company for banking units in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and South Sudan.

    Other subsidiaries include brokerage arm Equity Investment Bank and Finserve, in the proposal subject to approval by Capital Markets Authority.

    "A number of companies are now looking to achieve more efficiencies through diversification of risks by listing a holding company and this will improve the quality of assets available to investors and this is something that we support," CMA acting chief executive Paul Muthaura said on Friday.

    Source: Mobile Money Africa 26 November 2014

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Afrihost has announced the launch of its Afrihost Plus+ service, which offers a wide range of value added services.

    The standard price for the Afrihost Plus+ service is R145 per month. However, the company will be offering the service for R99 per month to early adopters.

    To test out the service, Afrihost is also offering its subscribers a 30-day free Afrihost Plus+ trial.

    Afrihost Plus+ offers subscribers the following benefits:

        Double Data on either ADSL or mobile data, guaranteed
        The full Simfy Africa music service
        500MB of extra mobile data on existing mobile data packages, or new SIMs
        Capped ADSL subscribers will be throttled rather than cut off when they reach their cap
        2-for-1 ADSL and mobile data top-ups throughout the month
        Twice as many “Uncapped Turbocharge minutes” every month on Afrihost’s uncapped packages

    Afrihost informed subscribers that if they sign up for the service today, they will receive the Afrihost Plus+ service at R99 per month (instead of R145) for the lifetime of their subscription.

    Source: MyBroadband 26 November 2014

     

telecoms

  • Airtel has partnered with Ericsson to deliver a new, nationwide LTE 800 MHz network and to meet growing customer demand for mobile broadband services while delivering superior network performance. This is Airtel's first commercial LTE network in Africa.

    The network is expected to cover 10,000 LTE subscribers in the first phase and will greatly enhance connectivity giving Airtel's customers an improved smartphone experience, with faster web browsing, downloads and improved quality of service.

    Amadou Dina, Country Manager, Airtel Seychelles says: "We are committed to enriching the lives of our subscribers, this means putting the customer experiencing at the heart of everything we do. LTE transforms the mobile-broadband user experience, providing superior data speeds needed for services such as internet TV, mobile video-blogging, online video games and the mobile office-environment. As a leading telecom service provider, this is a service we are very proud to offer our customers and Ericsson is our partner in delivering this."

    The agreement includes equipment, software and support services, as well as incorporating multi-standard radio base station equipment from the Ericsson RBS 6000 family, LTE RAN software and upgrading existing 2G and 3G access network software.

    Ericsson is the market leader in LTE. Today, 50 percent of the world's LTE smartphone traffic is served by Ericsson networks, which is more than double the traffic of our closest competitor. More than 190 LTE RAN and Evolved Packet Core networks have been delivered worldwide, of which more than 140 have gone live commercially.

    Source: Nasdaq 26 November 2014

  • The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) has welcomed Ghana’s commitment to scrap hefty import duties on smartphones. The Ghanaian government, which recently joined A4AI, has announced these first steps in an innovative drive to enable affordable Internet access through policy reform.

    This step, confirmed in the 2015 Budget presented this week, was a key recommendation developed by A4AI-Ghana Multi-stakeholder coalition established earlier this year. Proposals to remove this duty were recommended by the A4AI Ghana Coalition Working Group on Taxation, led by Kwaku Saakyi-Addo, CEO of Telecoms Chamber. The elimination of the 20 percent import duty will reduce the cost of handsets in Ghana, where taxes make up approximately 35 percent of the cost of a smartphone. This will enable many more ordinary Ghanaians to afford smartphones that allow them to access the life-changing potential of the Web.

    The announcement, delivered in the 2015 Budget, reads: “Mobile phone penetration is high in Ghana. However smartphones form only 15% of this penetration. Communication is shifting from voice to data and mobile data is projected to grow 6.3 times between 2013 and 2018. It is being proposed that in order to increase smartphone penetration, and in line with Government's policy of bridging the digital divide within the country, import duties on smartphones will be removed. It is expected that the increase in smartphone penetration will increase revenue from Communication Service Tax, VAT and corporate taxes.”

    Welcoming the announcement, Sonia Jorge, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Affordable Internet said:

    ‘The removal of import taxes is a key first step towards getting every Ghanaian online. We are delighted that the Finance Ministry has listened to our Ghana coalition members who have advocated tirelessly for this reform. Taxes make up more than a third of the cost of a smartphone in Ghana, and as a result only about 15% of the population currently have one. It’s worth noting that when Kenya scrapped VAT on handsets in 2009, devices in circulation quadrupled and overall mobile penetration rose from 50% to more than 70%. We hope to see similar results in Ghana.’

    Source: Press Release

  • Despite having an “over-subscribed” mobile penetration rate of 106%, POTRAZ estimates that only 60% of the Zimbabweans are actually on mobile device or have multiple-active mobile SIM cards (Unique subscriber penetration). This was revealed by a POTRAZ official responding to a question at the recently held Enterprise Office Communication Summit in Harare.

    The POTRAZ official, Shingirai Marufu said although Zimbabwe’s mobile penetration has reached 106%, the actual head-count of people in possession of these SIM cards is only 60% of the population which translates to 8.4 million people.

    This obviously raises questions regarding mobile penetration and some key decisions that may have been made due to misplaced assumptions.

    For instance, recently the Minister of Finance, Mr Patrick Chinamasa imposed a 25% duty tariff on mobile devices and other IT gadgets because Zimbabwe had achieved over 100% mobile penetration, hence the previous duty free tariff on mobile devices had “achieved its purpose”.

    Handset purchases have increased significantly and mobile telephone penetration rates have also increased substantially to over 100%. Customs duty reduction has, thus, achieved its intended purpose. I, therefore, propose to levy customs duty on mobile handsets at a rate of 25%, with effect from 1 October 2014.

    Following recent criticisms that most African markets count SIM cards instead of unique subscribers, The African Wireless Communications Yearbook reports that the GSMA recently cut penetration statistics on Africa from over 100% to 45%. Research ICT Africa (RIA) says South Africa reported a peak penetration of 115% but the actual figure is 85%.

    The realism seemed to have escaped Zimbabwe until recently. In fact, posing a question to POTRAZ at the Enterprise Office Communication Summit, Alvin Musingezi, a Senior Data Analyst with Deloitte Zimbabwe, suggested that an over-subscribed mobile penetration could indicate problems more than successes in adoption – now more apparent since adoption is in the hands of only 60% of the population.

    One potential problem all this could be pointing out is that service and pricing in Zimbabwe in not near good enough hence consumers feel the need to own multiple SIM cards. Consumers cannot rely on one carrier for a great service and a great deal.

    Source: Techzim 28 November 2014

  • Stan Motsa, acting chief executive officer of the Swaziland Communications Commission (SCC) has confirmed that Viettel-backed start-up Swavitel has submitted an application for the country’s second mobile licence.

    Domestic news outlet Times of Swaziland reports that the watchdog is currently working on developing the regulatory framework to issue a licence for a new mobile operator, with Mr Motsa saying: ‘It is my estimation that if everything goes well, [the licence could be issued] by the end of 2015… the expectation is that we should have considerations made by the end of 2015.’

    Motsa noted that the legislation is still in its early stages: ‘We are drafting the legislation with help from experts provided by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), as well as local stakeholders within the country’s communications sector’; the next stage is to compile and submit a complete draft to the cabinet, which would add its own input before the bill is tabled in Parliament for enactment into law. Further, Motsa added that, if granted permission, Swavitel would utilise the Swaziland Post and Telecommunication Corporations’ (SPTC’s) backbone infrastructure.

    Source: Telegeography 26 November 2014

  • Zwipit, which specialises in the acquisition of used mobile devices such as tablets, feature phones and smartphones for refurbishment and resale, has set up an arm in South Africa. Zwipit South Africa will offer cash to consumers and businesses for their old devices. The company categorises items based on their condition (working, broken or in good condition) and pays accordingly. All merchandise acquired is refurbished in facilities in Spain and resold to customers, with guarantees, across international markets.

internet

  • Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA) plans to rollout the switch to .ng campaign next year 2015 in an effort aimed at getting over 17.7 million SMEs in the country to register with the country's top level domain name, CommunicationsWeek. NiRA head Mary Uduma said that apart from the new initiative, the association will also recruit additional resellers and registrars for .ng as a way of increasing the take up of the country's top level domain name.

    Uduma noted that NiRA is also partnering with federal government in The Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (You WiN!) programme which makes it mandatory for every beneficiary of the programme to register in .ng. Mohammed Rudman, managing director, Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria, said that launch of unified email system by federal ministries and departments is a step in the right direction as it will provide the right platform for others to adopt .ng. He explained that the unified email system allows every civil servant in the federal ministries to have a customised email which he or she can take to any other ministry if he decides to move.

    Omobola Johnson, Minister of Communication Technology, said the platform would allow ministries to do messaging and collaboration which is a small but very important tool for e-government in the country.

    Source: Telecompaper 24 November 2014

  • The Facebook-led media and tech partnership Internet.org, which aims to get the developing world online, has been criticised for placing self-interest over fair and far-reaching internet access for the poor.

    This month, Internet.org launched its app, which provides smartphone users with free access to selected, basic internet services, in Kenya. The app is already available in Tanzania and Zambia.

    Although the app promises to deliver free internet access to millions of people who would not otherwise have it, several critics predict the initiative may fail to deliver equitable access. And some argue that national governments are better placed than private companies to improve broadband infrastructure.

    In a New York Times article in August, technology commentator Evgeny Morozov dismissed the scheme as “venture humanitarianism” and a “gateway drug” that gives Facebook enormous influence over how people access various online services, including news, education and health information.

    Leo Mutuku, a data scientist at Kenyan tech organisation iHub Research, tells SciDev.Net that rolling out the app will give Internet.org power over what information people can access online.

    “When you lower the costs of some internet services, such as online banking and employment services, the expectation is that this will entice more users to access the internet and propagate general access to information,” she says. “However, theoretically, it is also a filter for information, as priority is given to provision of specific access to specific sites.”

    In short, Internet.org may reinforce monopolies, she says. For example, the Internet.org app gives users limited free access to services such as Wikipedia and Google search.

    Mutuku says a better path to equitable broadband access might be government interventions. For example, Universal Service Funds, levies on telecom operators that are used to extend telecommunication services to all, are one possibility.

    And several African countries including Botswana and Kenya have launched national broadband strategies. Mutuku says these could vastly increase internet access at the grassroots over the next few years and build broadband infrastructure throughout the region, without crowding out local service providers.

    Steven A. Zyck, a research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute in London, United Kingdom, who specialises in the role of the private sector in humanitarian aid agrees that internet access would have limited impact on development if barriers such as the price of hardware are not addressed.

    But he also argues that, for internet access to have a lasting impact on the world’s most vulnerable, internet providers should focus less on high-end apps and instead develop basic services such as online job sites.

    “A lot of low-income countries are missing [such] simple services,” he says.

    And because Internet.org’s app provides access to local health, education and employment services — such as the UNICEF online hub for Ebola-related information — Zyck says it is valuable. And he notes that there is “growing evidence that apps and text message-based awareness-raising activities are particularly effective in reaching out to young people in many countries”.

    Yet Jen Schradie, a PhD student focusing on digital democracy at the University of California, Berkeley, United States, tells SciDev.Net that Internet.org promotes private ownership of digital infrastructure, which should be publicly available to everyone.

    Schradie, who in August penned a widely read open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, says: “The internet as a human right is more than just freedom of speech, it is also freedom to access all of the tools of that speech.

    “Access to Facebook and participating in its black box algorithms that generate profits for the company are not human rights.”

    Schradie describes Internet.org as a “Trojan horse”: although it looks like humanitarianism, it is actually expanding Facebook’s potential market.

    SciDev.Net contacted Facebook for a response to the criticisms raised in this article. It did not respond to them individually, but pointed out that Internet.org’s ‘What people are saying’ page highlights some of the project’s potential positive impacts.

    For instance, the page quotes UN Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka as saying the app “will bring us that much closer to a world where all women — wherever they are from — will have access to the basic information and tools needed to succeed in the 21st century”.

    Source: SciDevNet 27 November 2014

  • The top-level domain(.GW) of Guinea-Bissau is already working, the National Regulatory Authority (ARN) , responsible for the telecommunications sector in the country, said Wednesday in Bissau.

    The process was launched with the support of DNS.pt association, responsible for Portugal’s top-level domain Portugal (.PT) and which works in this area with other African countries with Portuguese as an official language.

    Instructions for registration of a website name in the .GW domain are available at htpp portals: //www.nic.gw or http://www.dns.gw, where you can also find additional information about the process.

    There are three Portuguese companies that sell the domain, http://Amen.pt, http://Ptisp and http: /Domínios.pt, with associated services such as accommodation and email.

    Since 10 July, 2014 the ARN has been the entity responsible for the domain .GW domain following a decision by the “Internet Assigned Numbers Authority” (IANA).

    For 30,000 CFA francs (US$57) you can have an Internet address with the .GW extension for a period of two years.

    Source: Macauhub 27  November 2014

  • A new online ad site that allows individuals to buy mobile devices has been launched in Nigeria. Dubbed giddiphones.com, the platform allows buyers and sellers to meet and transact business.

    In an interview with HumanIPO, Yemi Olulana, founder of the startup said the goal is to simplify the way Nigerians buy phones.

    “giddiphones.com is an online classified ad site dedicated exclusively to phones. It is an online platform where buyers and sellers meet and we are very committed to simplifying the way Nigerian consumers acquire phones. We want to be to mobile phones what Cheki.com is to cars,” Olulana said.

    According to him, the continual increase in customer’s expenditure on acquiring mobile phones online prompted them to launch the platform.

    “We decided to launch a classified ad site because of the rapidly increasing consumer expenditure on mobile phones online and the fact the classified ad model helps us achieve our goal of connecting sellers of mobile phones to the huge market of buyers online, and Connect buyers to a variety of sellers,” he said.

    He added the platform could be used by anyone (as buyers and sellers) with internet access.

    “Our primary competitor is a generic classified ad platform like olx.com and our competitive advantage over them is that we are targeting a niche market, and our inventory is better categorized than olx.com,” he told HumanIPO.

    He added: “The Nigerian market is ripe for an online classified ad site due to the wide spread of internet awareness and the fact that Nigerian consumers are steadily becoming very comfortable doing transactions online.”

    Source: Humanipo 25 November 2014

  • The executive mayor of Cape Town Patricia de Lille has announced 61 public buildings in the city would have free WiFi by June 2015. According to the mayor, access to the free WiFi would be provided within public buildings through Cape Town’s 102 SmartCape computer facilities and externally via 61 public access hotspots in places where the public usually queue for services such as clinics, administration buildings, traffic departments, fire stations and public transport interchanges in areas such as Langa, Nyanga, Uitsig, Valhalla Park, Athlone and Atlantis.

computing

  • The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits) has partnered with edX to bring massive open online courses (MOOCs) to a global learning audience.

    Education investment has remained the same yet the number of students has increased and will continue to increase. This increase in demand, along with the growing value of university degrees on the continent, means that the current high levels of educational expansion may still not be enough. The edX and Wits partnership will help bridge this gap by delivering education opportunities to students on the continent and beyond.

    edX  is  a non-profit online learning destination founded by MIT and Harvard. The edX community throughout Africa, which is already more than 200 000 learners strong, will now have access to courses from a top university on the continent.

    “This is a pioneering, innovative project spearheaded by Wits, which will indeed unlock new opportunities in South Africa and through the rest of the continent. This is in line with the University’s commitment to being locally responsive and internationally competitive,” says Prof Adam Habib, vice-chancellor and principal of Wits University.

    “We are still developing the course content but students from around the world will be able to access our international expertise in a variety of fields ranging from economics and law to deep level mining and the palaeosciences.”

    Wits courses (WitsX) will be open for enrolment on edx.org towards the end of 2015. A special edX certificate is issued when a course (or module) has been successfully completed.

    “We are pleased to welcome the University of Witwatersrand to our global community of educators and learners,” says Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX. “As a premier research institution and our first university partner in Africa, we look forward to collaborating to increase access to high quality education for all, and especially for learners in South Africa and throughout the continent who are eager for new educational opportunities and to develop new skills.”

    Wits joins the more than 60 global universities, colleges and institutions that make up edX’s distinguished academic body, which offer online courses to anyone, anywhere in the world with a desire to learn.

    Source: TechMoran 28 November 2014

  • Senegalese operator Sonatel has launched the Orange Foundation’s digital education project for Africa in the presence of the country’s minister of education, Serigne Mbaye Thiam.

    According to the operator, the project is expected to cover Senegal, Cameroun, Niger and Madagascar in its pilot phase. The company revealed that schools chosen for the programme will be able to access online educational content via Wi-Fi, including Wikepedia, Khan Academy math and science courses, and digital books.

    According to Telecompaper, in Senegal, the project will benefit around 72,000 pupils in 30 primary and secondary schools chosen by the ministry. Each will receive a kit consisting of 50 tablets, two servers, a digital white board and a video projector.

    Source: ITNews Africa 27 November 2014

  • Acer South Africa has announced that it appointed PartServe Channel Support as its carry-in warranty service centre. PartServe now carries out all repairs to Acer equipment, regardless of whether it is in or out of warranty. Acer Country Service Manager Dave Malherbe says PartServe is highly regarded in the warranty arena and also has a large footprint with carry-in centres in all major centres across South Africa including Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth.

Digital Content

  • Everyone loves music and they want them on their devices wherever they go, but getting African music online can be so cumbersome.

    Now, Benin’s Beatzaddiction is looking to satisfy the increasing demand for African music. This web platform is seeking to promote established artists as well as budding musicians by making their music accessible online for downloading.

    This online platform is looking into digitizing African music to adapt to new technologies in a move to cut down artists’ cost of production and open up the global market for them as everything is digital nowadays and digital sales should be a target to many of the African artist. The sales will be made everytime someone downloads music.

    Beatzaddiction is run by Salami Loukmane, based in Benin.

    ‘We move forward with an audience that is growing. First, we want to promote our product. The next step consite to negotiate with the players in the field and set up on the platform, the sales system,’ said Laoukmane.

    Beatzaddiction aims to make money from commissions on the songs they sell online then give the rest to artists. It works the same way as Kenya’s Mdundo, Nigeria’s iROKING among others.

    Source: TechMoran 27 November 2014

  • Band Aid 30 is the most famous song raising awareness about Ebola, with millions of online views and downloads. But in West Africa, where the epidemic is concentrated, a different song is gaining attention.

    Some of West Africa's most famous musicians have joined forces to make an Ebola appeal song, with profits going to Medicins Sans Frontieres. 'Africa Stop Ebola' is a homegrown project from the heart of the Ebola crisis.

    Made before the recent release of the Band Aid 30 charity song, it has seen a surge in online views thanks to Bob Geldof's hit. But while the former aims to raise money to combat Ebola, the lyrics of 'Africa Stop Ebola' are meant to educate Africans about the disease, as well as giving them hope.

    Watch the report by clicking the link here:

    Source: #BBCtrending reports.

  • Companies feeling they aren’t getting enough out of their learning management systems now have a new tool that may help with the recent financing and launch of Pathgather.

    In the learning management space roughly 61% of companies that use services are looking to change them, according to Eric Duffy, Pathgather’s chief executive officer.

    “I got started on this on the consumer business side,” says Duffy. “When i started i didn’t know what an LMS was.” The idea was to find the best learning on the web. like a Kayak of learning, and keep track of what you’re learning a la LinkedIn, and do it in a social context like Facebook.”

    The company’s aim, according to Duffy, is to allow people to get more out of what they learn online. Initially the company put up a demo of how its software would work to enhance learning in a social context, but as soon as a Qualcomm executive saw the software, they wanted to bring it in-house.

    Duffy, the company’s 26-year-old chief executive actually met the 28-year-old chief technology officer Jamie Davidson through a mutual friend of Duffy’s from his alma mater of Washington University. Duffy, who was at Carnegie Mellon at the time, was working on developing this tool to highlight the best online curriculum and establish a collaborative framework for students to learn together.

    It’s this vision that’s become the core of Pathgather and managed to attract $1.5 million in early stage funding from investors like Bloomberg Beta, Contour Ventures, and TechStars to the company’s capital table.

    The company allows students enrolled in professional development programs o create learning paths, so that they can follow a specific route for their personal and professional advancement.

    “After graduating Wash U I spent some time doing a fellowship in China in Guangzhou,” Duffy says. “And then I did an entrepreneurial program in South Africa — in a village with 2,000 to 3,000 people. — called ThinkImpact.“

    During his time at the village one of the things that struck Duffy was that the village had gotten electricity six years before he arrived, but Udacity had come out a month before his travels. All the village could talk about was that the community finally had the opportunity to take classes,  Duffy says.

    “That’s when I got the idea to find the best learning on the web. And make an app like a Kayak of learning, that would keep track of what you’re learning a la LinkedIn, and do it in a social context like Facebook,” Duffy says.

    Source: Techcrunch 24 November 2014

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Incumbent operator Togo Telecom is said to be on the verge on bankruptcy, having failed to reverse a trend of poor financial results that started in 2008. According to the findings of a state-led enquiry into the operator’s ongoing malaise, Agence Ecofin writes that the government has attributed Togo Telecom’s decline to the ‘poor management’ of its chief executive Sam Petchetibati Bikassam and systemic failure by the council that was set up by the government to monitor the telco’s performance and protect the interests of the state.

    The state alleges that numerous questionable financial transactions have been conducted in the past six or seven years, all of which have left Togo Telecom with a CFA100 billion (USD190.1 million) black hole in its books.

    Source: Telegeography  27 November 2014

  • The Vietnamese firm, Viettel Group, has bailed out on Orange Kenya after showing interest to acquire 70 percent of the company; this leaves the company looking for a plan ‘B’.

    ‘Viettel have indicated that they are no longer keen on buying the stake. So we expect France Telkom to look for another buyer or declare what they plan to do should they fail to get another buyer,’ said Henry Rotich, Treasury secretary.

    He however clarified that it was Orange that was selling its shares and not Telkom Kenya.

    Telkom Kenya is jointly owned by the Treasury and Orange, which was in 2007 allowed to buy a majority stake in the loss-making company after undertaking to turn around its fortunes.

    So this is where the deal got sour; the Kenyan government refused to give in to the demands of Viettel. The Vietnamese firm wanted the government to immediately extend all telecommunications licenses held by Telkom Kenya for 15 years and an additional 10 percent of the government shares in Telkom (meaning Viettel would be an 80 percent shareholder of the company).

    ICT secretary Fred Matiang’i said: ‘There should not be panic that Viettel has thrown in the towel. In fact we are aware that there is a local IT firm and some Kenyans in the diaspora who have expressed interest in the company’

    The minister declined to name the IT firm and the diaspora investors, saying it was too early and that the parties had yet to open formal negotiations with France Telecom.

    Dr Matiang’i dismissed some of the conditions Viettel had put on the table as unrealistic, insisting that any investor looking to buy a stake in the firm must adhere to existing laws.

    France Telecom, which owns 70 percent in Telkom Kenya, has offered several reasons for its planned exit, including claims that industry regulator the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) has not established a level playing field to help stop price wars.

    “Kenya’s telecommunications market is not yet fully tapped and there is still room for growth for all players. France Telecom’s exit does not mean that ours is a non-performing market,” Dr Matiang’i said.

    If France Telecom gets a buyer for its stake in Telkom Kenya next year, it will be the second investor to pull out of Kenya in as many years.

    France Telecom said that their decision to leave had also been informed by ICT secretary’s signal that he intended to cancel a management contract that the company had with the government to manage the National Fibre Optic Infrastructure.

    Source:  TechMoran 25 November 2014

  • The much delayed privatisation of Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTC) is now expected to go ahead on 31 December 2014. Having initially been planned for 2011, the sale first ran into problems in 2012, before an IPO was cancelled in August this year. The sale was then rescheduled for 7 November, but problems with the sale of shares to employees caused yet another postponement. The government will offer a total of 49% of BTC’s shares in the IPO, of which 44% will be available for purchase by individual investors and Batswana companies, and 5% will be reserved for the telco’s employees through an Employee Share Ownership Programme (ESOP).

    Source: Telegeography 27 November 2014

More

  • Orange Business Services appoints Giorgio Heiman as Vice President, Africa

    Orange Business Services, the Orange branch dedicated to B2B services, has announced the appointment of Giorgio Heiman as Vice President of Africa, effective this month. Giorgio will share his time between Geneva and Johannesburg and takes over the leadership of the business in Africa from Jean-Luc Lasnier, who is retiring.

    Giorgio brings significant consulting expertise and experiences in harnessing technology to deliver innovative business solutions, as well as leadership and management of multicultural and geographically dispersed teams. He joined the Orange Group in 2004 after holding senior management and consulting roles within the Telecommunications and Air Transport industries, including SITA, AT&T, and Digital Equipment Corporation.  Previously he held a management position at CERN, the European research organization whose purpose is to operate the world's largest particle physics laboratory

  • Vodafone Appstar 2014 contest unveiled

    AppStar  2014 has been launched and the firm says it’s now bigger and better with new categories and exciting new prizes – including a trip to MWC, Barcelona and several local prizes.

    Developers need to register now to be part of this new and exciting journey, details of the contest are available here:

     The Vodafone Appstar contest invites app developers across Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana & India to submit your unique and innovative apps. The winners of this contest in your country win a trip to India to participate in the international competition. Winners in the international contest will go the mecca for app developers – the Mobile World Congress, Barcelona apart from many other prizes and marketing/distribution support from Vodafone.

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