Central African Ministers sign Brazzaville Agreement, committing to Open Access but key signatories missing
In issue 688 we carried a Top Story on the dead end Cameroon has got itself into with its incumbent telco Camtel. (The Battle Against High Fibre Prices from Monopoly Providers moves to Central Africa. See more here:) This week Ministers in the region signed an accord endorsing Open Access as the basis for the Central African Backbone project. Russell Southwood looks at the implications of the accord.
Following a two day meeting of Ministers of Posts and Telecommunications in Brazzaville, the Ministers of DRC, Chad and Congo-Brazzaville signed an agreement called the Brazzaville Declaration, pledging to connect Central Africa with a broadband fibre network.
Missing from the signatories that should have been at the bottom of the agreement were Central African Republic (understandable in current circumstances), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Cameroon. On the latter, no surprises but Cameroon holds the gateway to the sea for Chad so will be a stumbling block unless it joins the party or an alternative routing is found.
However, a bilateral memorandum on interconnection between Congo and Gabon was signed at the Build Africa forum at the beginning of February. But the substance of this memorandum is not known and incumbent Gabon Telecom (Vivendi owned but soon to be sold) is well known for its high wholesale prices and monopoly practices.
The Brazzaville Agreement commits the signatories to ensure open access to telecommunications infrastructure at any point in their respective territories and to establish and strengthen national policies conducive to the creation of favorable conditions for predictability and transparency competition in the telecommunications sector. The signatories also pledged that they will mobilize both private and public resources and co-ordinate road and rail development with their fibre plans.
The Congo-Brazzaville Minister, Thierry Lezin Moungalla, who is a champion of ICT in Central Africa said:"We are truly committed to the road of sub-regional interconnection. And I am proud that the Congo is the starting point of this convergence."
There’s an old English saying:”Fine words butter no parsnips,” meaning (to mix cooking metaphors terribly) that the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
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 9 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 email@example.com with Digital Content Africa in the title line.
Some examples of past issues below:
Digital Content Africa Z-9 – Nigeria’s Ringback Tone music work is worth US$240 million a year, Says Spice’s Ram Suggula
Digital Content Africa Z-5 Two new African Mobile Music and Video Content Bundles with a handset attached
Digital Content Africa Z-4 South Africa: The women who tracks mobile music sales and physical sales of film and TV CDs in shops
New videos this week – A Nigeria Special
Jesse Oguntimehin on Nigeria's hidden social media & what happens next to the country's social media
Ngozi Odita on Social Media Week Lagos and why it's making waves across Africa
Kenneth Oyalla on how Nokia's new range of handsets have increased Internet use in Africa
Gaurav Singh, Chief Digital Officer, Scan Group on when brands will spend more on digital in Africa
Joris Komen on the Library Pi, a low cost, solar powered device to deliver education resources
Byron Moorgas on mapping online rural areas of Africa and how UNICEF is using mapping data
Jeremy Gordon and Caine Kamau on Flashcast, a location aware ad tool for Nairobi's matatus
Indra de Lanerolle on what a 12 country survey says about Africa's new Internet users
Simbarashe Mabashe on South African online film platform Wabona.com and its expansion plans, including an alliance with a Fibre To The Home provider in Zimbabwe
For breaking news, follow us on Twitter: @BalancingActAfr
Telecommunication companies in Uganda have the lowest Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) compared to their counterparts in the region, a Deloitte study shows.
The Technology, Media and Telecom (TMT) Predictions 2014: Highlights and context report indicates that while Kenya’s ARPU was $6.2 (Shs15,020) last year and $4.4 (Shs10,660) for Tanzania, Ugandans spent only $3.5 (Shs8,479) on average on airtime.
Kenya’s ARPU is expected to rise to $6.5 (Shs15,747) this year, $3.7 (Shs8,964) for Uganda while Tanzania’s is expected to remain unchanged at $4.4 (Shs10,660) this year. This means that majority of mobile phone users in Uganda are low-end subscribers, whose propensity to spend on mobile value added solutions is low; thereby depressing the effective rate of revenue realisation per minute for the operators.
Low ARPU means that the Kenyan and Tanzanian telecom markets are more profitable than the Ugandan market. MTN Uganda chief marketing officer Ernst Fonternel attributed the low ARPU in Uganda to a high multi-SIM market which dilutes revenue per user, low consumer spending power, low retail pricing due to competition and price wars and slow uptake of data services due to affordability of data handsets which results into limited contribution of mobile data to the overall revenue.
“In a highly competitive market like Uganda where one individual has more than a single SIM card, it dilutes revenue per user that users on a given network, even if overall revenue from that user across all networks is higher,” Fonternel told Daily Monitor in an email exchange.
It is said that 57 per cent of mobile service subscribers have more than a single SIM.
Andrew Kiyingi , Manager Technology Advisory Services, Deloitte said the availability of cheaper smartphones in Uganda will help boost internet usage in the country, which currently grows at a slower pace.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has fined three of the country’s four largest mobile operators a combined N647.5 million ($3.9 million) for failing to meet quality of service standards last month.
The Director of Public Affairs at the NCC, Tony Ojobo announced that Globacom has been sanctioned N277.5 million, while South African-owned MTN Nigeria and India’s Airtel Nigeria were each fined N185 million. The trio are expected to pay the sanctions by 7 March 2014; failure to do so attracts a further penalty of N2.5 million per day for as long as the contravention persists.
The report adds that in addition to the fines, between 1 March and 31 March Globacom, MTN and Airtel are banned from: selling new SIM cards; churning or deleting inactive SIMs from their networks; supplying new SIM cards from their warehouses to dealers or third parties; and offering promotions until the key performance indicators are satisfactorily met.
MTN is Nigeria’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, with a customer base of 55.6 million at the end of September 2013 (a market share of 45.8 percent), followed by Globacom with 24.1 million (19.9 percent) and Bharti Airtel-owned Airtel with 22.7 million (18.7 percent). A fourth GSMoperator, Etisalat Nigeria, had 15.8 million subscribers at the same date, giving it a 13.0 percent share of the mobile market.
The mobile network operator Tigo has started a cross border Mobile Money remittance service between Tanzania and Rwanda.
The new service allows Tigo subscribers in Tanzania to send money from their Tigo Pesa accounts to Tigo Cash subscribers in Rwanda and vice versa. The system integrates currency conversion, whereby money is sent in either Tanzania Shillings or Rwandan Francs and delivered already converted into in the currency of the recipient's country.
This, according to Tigo Tanzania General Manager Diego Gutierrez, is the first product of its kind in the world that allows dual currency international mobile wallet to mobile wallet transfers with currency conversion included.
According to Gutierrez, "This new product will save customers' time and money. International senders currently have to go to a money changer to exchange Rwanda Francs to dollars and then bring those dollars to remittance companies to send. They can now send money directly from their phone."
Millicom offers Mobile Financial Services in Tanzania, Ghana, Rwanda, DRC, Chad, Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Senegal and Paraguay and will extend its offering to more services and into more markets over time.
The new service will particularly benefit the businesses with cross-border trade. Tanzania is Rwanda's second most important trading partner. In 2013, Rwanda imports from Tanzania amounted to US$80.9 million while Tanzania received imports valued at US$231.7 million from Rwanda the same year.
- South Africa's MTN is deploying a customer care platform supplied by Flytxt.
- Morocco's Inwi is to deploy Flexenclosure's hybrid power solution eSite at 30 telecom sites across Morocco.
- The Universal Communications Service Access Fund (UCSAF) has signed a contract with Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) to provide a subsidy of 6.10 million US dollars to build a network to provide communication services in rural areas.
- Ghanaian mobile operator Vodafone Ghana has reportedly improved its network coverage in the western region of the country, after upgrading its equipment in the towns of Abosso, Mpintsin, Kukuruku, Nsein, Tarkwa and Atoabo NewUsiajo. Agence Ecofin reports that ongoing deployments will see the network footprint extended to Essipong, Anaji-Namibia, Nzulezo, Efuanta Manso Amenfi, Wassa Akropong, Samreboi, Bawdie and Sefwi Bekwai, where residents will also benefit from improved Quality of Service (QoS).
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be appearing onstage at Mobile World Congress — his first appearance at the Barcelona-based event — to talk about bridging the digital divide. Ahead of that, Internet.org, the Facebook-led project to help bring connectivity to developing economies, has unveiled a number of new projects: an education partnership with Nokia and local carrier Airtel, edX and the government in Rwanda called SocialEDU; a project with Unilever in India; and a new Internet.org Innovation Lab with Ericsson in its Menlo Park HQ.
SocialEDU, the pilot project in Rwanda, will give students free access to an online education platform. What’s perhaps most eye-catching about the project is that it will be run using low-cost smartphones and cloud services. Facebook worked with edX to create a MOOC-style experience that will be based around a mobile app that integrates with Facebook. Airtel will provide free data access for those who commit for a year, and Nokia will offer “affordable” (but not free) smartphones. Facebook notes that the government of Rwanda will provide financing that will help schools take advantage of this.
The partnership with Ericsson, meanwhile, will see the launch of the Internet.org Innovation Lab, where developers can test apps either for communities with limited bandwidth, or to help engage those communities better. Borne out of work that Facebook and Ericsson did earlier around a developing economies hackathon, this will involve simulated network environments (but perhaps not actual users).
Finally, the FMCG giant Unilever will be working with Internet.org on a research project aimed specifically at rural communities in India — a country with just 13 percent Internet penetration, and significant hurdles for that connectivity to be fast and reliable, particularly outside of large cities.
The more cynical may believe that companies like Facebook have a very specific commercial purpose to launching projects like this — as growth slows in more mature markets for the social network, the “next billion” is the big opportunity for Facebook. This concept fits nicely with its other huge news, the purchase last week of messaging giant WhatsApp, which has proven to be a popular service in these regions.
But on the other side of the story, there is a wider benefit to projects like this. A study from Deloitte commissioned by Facebook found that improved Internet access in developing economies can increase productivity by up to 25 percent and generate $2.2 trillion more in GDP, and 140 million new jobs.
The Republic of Cape Verde has signed the African Virtual University (AVU) Charter to become the 19th Member State.
The Ministry of Higher Education Science and Innovation signed the Charter at the Ministry’s Offices on 6th, February, 204 in Praia, Cape Verde.
The AVU Rector, Dr. Bakary Diallo said: “I would like to thank the government of Cape Verde for signing the Charter and joining the AVU as a Member State. This is a testimony to the confidence the government has in the AVU’s ability to deliver tertiary education on the continent through Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)”.
The Charter will further strengthen AVU’s cooperation with the Republic of Cabo Verde. Cape Verde is one of the 21 African countries currently benefiting from the USD15 million AVU Multinational Support Project II funded by the African Development Bank.
The project includes establishment and upgrading of Open Distance and eLearning Centers among participating Partner Institutions, gender Mainstreaming through awarding scholarships to female students, research and development. It also includes technical assistance to countries and universities, enhancing the use of open educational resources, implementation of the teacher education, computer science and peace and conflict resolution programs as well as AVU Capacity Enhancement Program.
The number of AVU Member States has increased from 5 in 2010 to 19 in 2014. Other countries that have signed the AVU Charter include: Kenya, Senegal, Mauritania, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Tanzania, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, South Sudan, Sudan, Guinea Bissau, The Gambia, and Nigeria. Countries become Member States of the AVU upon signing the Charter.
The AVU signed an MOU with the African Union Commission in 2012 to promote use of ICT in Education on the continent with focus on teacher education, content development, infrastructure, quality assurance, open education resources, capacity building and networking.
Internet Solutions joins global alliance to connect billions to the web
Internet Solutions, a subsidiary of Dimension Data, has joined the Alliance for Affordable Internet, an organisation that aims to bring the internet to billions of unconnected people across the globe, Internet Solutions said on Thursday.
Siyabonga Madyibi, regulatory director at Internet Solutions, said the initiative offered a platform for the company to make a "meaningful difference and contribute to progress towards the goal of bridging the digital divide".
Internet Solutions will be involved in the alliance’s lobbying efforts, specifically across Africa.
"These efforts aim to involve governments and incumbent network operators in an attempt to create open, efficient and competitive broadband markets through policy and regulatory reform," said Mr Madyibi.
He said Internet Solutions had valuable insights to share with the alliance, as it had successfully operated in many countries across the continent that were still developing their regulatory and policy environments.
According to Internet Solutions, in a recent report released by the Alliance for Affordable Internet, it is estimated that broadband still costs more than half of the monthly income of millions of people around the world, further entrenching the digital divide.
"For the large number of people still unconnected, entry-level broadband costs, on average, 40% of their monthly income, and in many countries this figure exceeds 80%, according to the report. As a result, billions cannot afford to get online, which constrains economic and social progress," said Mr Madyibi.
Internet Solutions also strongly supports the alliance's belief that pricing internet access out of reach for the majority of people is neither socially nor economically efficient, he said.
"We also agree that well-rounded, forward-looking policies and regulatory environments that consider broadband access as a tool for socioeconomic development are crucial. These policies need to focus on increasing both the supply and demand for broadband in order for the ideal of ‘internet for all’ in our lifetime to be realised," said Mr Madyibi.
- The Algerian government has reportedly decided to amend certain provisions of Algerie Telecom’s (AT’s) licence, in order to allow the incumbent operator to deploy new wireless in the local loop (WiLL) technologies. According to Agence Ecofin, AT will be assigned new frequencies for an annual fee of DZD100 million (USD1.29 million) in order to offer ICT services, including broadband access, across the entire country’s territory; the move forms part of Algeria’s national strategy for high speed internet access. The amendment will also oblige AT to improve the quality of its fixed telephony services, so that it is ‘consistent with the recommended standards by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) or by recognised international standardisation bodies’. If the telco fails to meet the improved standards it could face the cancellation its licence, the report adds.
Shipments of tablet PCs to South Africa increased 107.1% year on year in the final quarter of 2013 to total 513,000 units according to the latest insights from International Data Corporation IDC .
The country's traditional PC market suffered a better-than-predicted 18.8% decline over the same period to total 427,000 units, while there was more positive news for all-in-one (AiO) devices and convertible notebooks.
"The decline in PC shipments can be attributed to the weak rand, high unemployment rate, poverty, and cannibalization from tablet devices," says Joseph Hlongwane, a research analyst at IDC South Africa. "As is the case in all high-tech markets, tablets have grown exponentially since their introduction in South Africa and the trend is expected to continue along a similar path in the coming years. Their success in the computing space has been driven primarily by their mobility benefits, touchscreen technology, and competitive price points."
"The majority of end users use tablet devices to surf the Internet and access social media, so tablets that can fit in one hand are seeing a tremendous increase in demand," continues Hlongwane. "This is clearly reflected in the growing popularity of tablets with a screen size between 7" and 8", which resulted in shipments of such devices increasing 208.5% year on year in Q4 2013 to total 369,000 units."
Android-based tablet shipments were up 170.9% over the same period to total 436,000 units. In 2013 alone, 1.2 million Android-based tablets were shipped into South Africa, representing 77.1% of the market. Meanwhile, iOS-based tablets have been losing market share, with shipments down 15.7% year on year in Q4 2013 to 65,000 units. Only 300,000 iOS units were shipped into the country in 2013, representing a market share of 19.3%.
"Since the introduction of tablet devices, IDC has seen traditional PCs become lighter, thinner, and smaller," continues Hlongwane. "There is a clear desire among traditional PC vendors to mimic the style and designs that have made tablet PCs so successful, although this evolution is not all one sided. Indeed, we have also seen stark improvements in the battery power, screen resolution, and form factors offered by vendors in the tablet market."
The traditional desktop market shrunk 24.8% year on year in Q4 2013 to total 119,000 units, but shipments of AiO devices increased 28.6% over the same period to reach 9,000 units. "The growth seen in the AiO segment can be attributed to the sleek design of these devices, which resonates particularly well with end users," says Hlongwane. "However, the high price tags attached to these machines remain a deterrent to the majority of the market."
Mini notebooks, ultra slim notebooks, and traditional notebooks all experienced year-on-year declines in the market during Q4 2013. Mini notebooks witnessed the heaviest loss as they are nearing the end of production. Shipments of convertible notebooks saw phenomenal growth of 365.5%, albeit from a low base, to reach 2,000 units. "IDC expects to see a continuation of steady growth in the convertible notebook segment over the coming years," says Hlongwane. "Indeed, we foresee this emerging technology breathing some much-needed life into the overall notebook market."
On the supply side, HP regained top spot in South Africa's overall PC market for Q4 2013, securing a 16.7% year-on-year increase in shipments having previously experienced consecutive quarterly declines since the beginning of 2013. Lenovo ranked second after boosting its shipments 23.3% year on year. Third-placed Dell's shipments were up 15.9% year on year for the quarter.
- Dell has started providing support services under the name Prosupport in various parts of Africa. The services will be free of charge Prosupport will enable customers to obtain free technical support capabilities and spare parts from Dell certified engineers. Uganda is one of the ten countries in Africa that are targeted and customers will benefit expertise from Dell partners.
The eagerly-anticipated Electronic Salary Payment Voucher (E-SPV) will replace the manual payment voucher system in July this year, Ghana's Controller and Accountant General's Department (CAGD), announced.
The system would be rolled out nationwide while the full roll out of the system in Greater-Accra Region would be completed in March this year.
This follows the piloting of the system at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and the CAGD. The E-SPV is an electronic version of the manual salary payment voucher that validates by using the internet.
According to officials of the CAGD, the time line set for the validation and certification of the payment voucher is 48 hours, after data is made available on the system.
The Acting Controller and Accountant General, Grace Francisca Adzroe, explained that the new payment voucher would help eliminate the systematic inefficiencies and leakages in the payroll system.
According to her, the E-SPV was introduced following concerns regarding the high wage bill of public servants, and the commitment by government to have a robust payroll system that would ensure effective and efficient management of the payroll cost, by eliminating unauthorized payments.
When the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDA's) are rolled onto the E-SPV system, the certification of the payroll would be a pre-condition for payment of staff of a particular management unit, she noted.
Adzroe noted that the policy on E-SPV was that the payment vouchers should be validated and certified before salaries are paid and this policy is in line with the Regulation 306 of the Financial Administration Regulation, 2004 (LI 1802) which requires heads of management units to examine and certify the payment vouchers of his or her unit to ensure the integrity of the payroll data.
She therefore warned that in line with the policy, any head of department who failed to certify the E-SPV before the deadline, would take responsibility for the non-payment of salary of staff of the particular management unit.
She said affected staff would only be paid the following month when the certification has been made.
"To achieve the objectives of the E-SPV, I wish to entreat all heads of departments to take ownership of their payrolls using the system and take steps to validate the payroll every month and on time," she advised.
The Deputy Controller and Accountant General in charge of payroll, Wisdom Messan, noted that the E-SPV was primarily an HR system.
As such, he said his organisation was in a better position to determine who should be on the payroll.
Mobile Money Services Continue to Gain Scale as 13 Services Now Have More Than 1 Million Active Accounts each.
The GSMA's Mobile Money for the Unbanked (MMU) programme today released its third annual Mobile Financial Services State of the Industry Report, providing a quantitative assessment of the state of mobile financial services, including mobile money, mobile insurance, mobile credit and savings. The report draws on the results of the annual MMU Global Adoption Survey, as well as on data from the online MMU Deployment Tracker and qualitative insights on the performance of mobile financial services from the MMU Programme's engagement with the industry over the last year.
"This annual report underscores the enormous impact that mobile money is having in emerging markets, by providing access to increasing numbers of products and services and helping millions of people to manage their daily lives and improve their livelihoods," said Tom Phillips, Chief Regulatory Officer, GSMA. "Each year our review reveals greater insights on the wide range of uses of mobile money and on how operators are working collaboratively in developing mobile money services to meet growing customer demand."
A full copy of the report can be found here:
Airtel Kenya Managing Director Shivan Bhargava said the card will enhance convenience on the company’s mobile money and banking services and ensure that subscribers from both companies get added value.
“We are committed to nurturing strategic partnerships that provide innovative solutions that meet the ever changing needs of our customers. Through these partnerships, Airtel will deliver relevant and innovative mobile solutions to help customers overcome their daily challenges,” said Bhargava.
Bhargava said the company is targeting to transact 100,000 customers in the next three months and about half a billion customers in the 2014 full year.
He also said that phase two of the project will be launching the web portal where Airtel subscribers can use the card to buy goods online.
The partnership will also increase accessibility of Airtel Money to customers throughout Kenya.
Airtel ventured into the local mobile commerce business three years ago and also provides e-commerce solutions including online payments, online banking, utility bill payments for electricity, DStv, and water.
Airtel Money currently has a vast dealer network of more than 15,000 active agents which include banks, bank agents, supermarket chains and Posta outlets. Currently Airtel money subscribers are at 300,000.
In a statement issued on 20 February 2014, the Beninese government announced its decision to open the capital of Libercom an international private telecom operator. Libercom is the mobile subsidiary of the incumbent Benin Telecom, born of a partnership with Titan Africa, a subsidiary of the American telecommunications company Titan Corporation.
Libercom objective was to quickly cover the whole country by its mobile network and to provide its clients with telecom services. The Government explains that "the procedure for opening the capital of Libercom SA, initiated by the government aims to identify and select a private investor or an international telecom operator, formed a consortium or not to enter the capital of the stake to 80% in order to ensure the development of its potential through investments that allow for a more efficient use of technical resources available through the technology-neutral license was granted him. "
Benin's telecoms market is shared between five operators namely MTN , Moov, Glo, and BBCOM Libercom.
According to an unconfirmed report by Standard Media, Indian conglomerate Essar Group has received bids of up to KES8.5 billion (USD96.7 million) for an unspecified stake in Essar Telecom Kenya, which trades as ‘yu’. While it was initially anticipated that a strategic investor capable of major investment would be secured by the Indian cellco, it now appears that larger rivals Safaricom and Airtel Kenya have each lodged bids for the unit, with a view to dividing up its network infrastructure and frequencies.
As reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate last month, yu chief executive Madhur Taneja told the local media: ‘We are talking to several international firms and it is very difficult to give names at this particular stage due to confidentiality agreements.’ At that time initial investment of USD100 million was expected to be used to bankroll the cellco’s long-delayed 3G rollout, while a further USD150 million was also being sought in the short term to meet running costs and capital expenditure targets.
A recent report from the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab traces the use of surveillance malware developed by the Italian company Hacking Team and deployed in Ethiopia, Morocco, Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia. Last year, a German-English company's malware was detected in South Africa and Nigeria. These findings have generated new interest in the issue in sub-saharan Africa.
Detection of malware and other “cheap” surveillance technologies — relatively affordable “off-the-shelf” products made by private companies — in Africa's largest countries seems to be of ongoing interest to researchers. But what about the countries which through a western lens are seen as “less important”, either for their population, language or geopolitical sway?
Angola is an interesting case: The oil-rich nation has a relatively small population and a powerful ruling party with a president that has been in control for 34 years. Investigative journalists, youth protesters, and social mobilizations – mostly around issues like housing and political corruption – seem to irk the regime, but the broader impact of these activities can be hard to track.
Last December, security researcher Jacob Applebaum spoke at the Chaos Communication Congress about Angolan investigative journalist Rafael Marques and his laptop. Marques, a widely acclaimed journalist known for his investigations of abuses of power at the highest level, approached Applebaum with an all too common query: “there seems to be something wrong with my laptop, it's running slow.” Applebaum found what he described as the “lamest backdoor” he'd ever seen, a spyware program that was surreptitiously taking screenshots of Marques’ activities and attempting to send them to another machine.
In the video below, Appelbaum shows Marques how even though he used TOR to protect himself, his machine had been compromised by a very crude form of spyware:
Marques, who edits the independent website Maka Angola was arrested and beaten months after discovering his laptop had been compromised. He is currently facing civil suits in both Angola and Portugal for his research which includes unmasking an international money laundering scheme for diamonds mined in Angola’s troubled Lunda region.
Applebaum suggests that even the least tech-savvy regimes can find new ways of exerting control using simple digital surveillance products and techniques. Yet there is little public discussion about data security, surveillance and the law in Angola.
One reason may be that real-world, physical surveillance and infiltration – with some of the intelligence agents trained in the ex-Soviet Bloc – is so pervasive that activists and journalists do not feel any particular urgency about protecting their online activities.
Marques is now actively tracking the issue of surveillance in Angola. In October he described proposed legislation that would allow the state vast powers for warrantless search and prohibit certain forms of online communication. These provisions, he noted, were added to a 2010 draft Internet Governance bill released shortly after popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Although these forms of surveillance are relatively new, threats to press freedom are hardly new in Angola. Local independent newspapers and news outlets, have been criminalized or had their ability to expand restricted by onerous, seemingly politically motivated licensing requirements. Marques himself often lives and works in other countries. He is currently facing a defamation suit in Portugal, filed by Angolan members of the regime.
Much like in Ethiopia, many Angolan activists and independent media workers are closely linked to the country's diaspora. An Ethiopian journalist residing in Washington, DC recently filed a legal challenge against the Ethiopian government over surveillance via malware on his computers. This development, at the very least, should help to raise awareness among Ethiopian exiles and activists. The case, which has been filed in the US, will hinge on careful research and tracing of malware.
For individuals like Marques in countries around the world, the Ethiopian case may suggest an interesting, international way of reversing a power imbalance — a way of striking back against threats to open investigation and expression. What remains to be seen in “less important” countries like Angola is whether civil society activists, researchers, and lawyers can find the resources and rally together internationally to trace and challenge increasing digital surveillance.
Facebook has announced its partnership with Rwanda government to carry out a pilot in the country that will provide students with access to collaborative online education experience for free.
The partnership dubbed SocialEDU also has other partners including Airtel, Nokia and an educational content provider who will together develop a plan to provide students with free, high-quality, localized educational content and create a social learning experience that is accessible via handheld devices.
The proposal hopes to maximize on the successes of massive open online courses by improving access to affordable high quality educational content.
"Internet.org is about working together to remove barriers to access and give billions of people the power to connect to the knowledge economy. SocialEDU represents this kind of collaboration at its best," said Javier Olivan, VP of Growth and Analytics at Facebook. SocialEDU will try and address five critical barriers to access of high quality online content including: Free content, free data, affordable smartphones, localized social educational experience and a government that supports innovation.
In SocialEDUedX (edx.org) will collaborate with Facebook by building a mobile app integrated with the social media giant.
"Improving global access to high-quality education has been a key edX goal from day one. Nearly half of our 2 million students come from developing countries, with 10 percent from Africa. In partnering with Facebook on this innovative pilot, we hope to learn how we can take this concept to the world," said Anant Agarwal, president of edX.
Airtel on the other hand will provide free data for everyone participating in the programme for a year as well as lead operations for the phone trade-in program while the other partner Nokia will provide affordable hotels to breach the access to internet access.
Also to ease access to the devices the Government of Rwanda will chip in with interest rate subsidies, micro-loan guarantees, trade-in rebates, and targeted use of its Universal Service Fund.
The government will also expand the reach of the WiFi program in Kigali to campuses throughout the country, enabling students to access high-quality multimedia educational content even as it collaborates with edX to adapt course materials for local students.
"The social education experience will accelerate innovation and propel Rwanda into a knowledge-based economy. We are committed to doing our part to make sure SocialEDU has the greatest possible impact in Rwanda. This is fully aligned with the Government's Broadband for All policy and the Smart Kigali Initiative, a public-private partnership that provides free wi-fi in Kigali's most popular squares, buses, hotels, and public buildings." said Rwanda's Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana.
The platform will also allow students ask questions, engage with other students, interact with teachers, and participate in group discussions.
More than half of South Africa's urban adult mobile phone users are using instant messaging service WhatsApp, according to researchers World Wide Worx and Fuseware.
Releasing an update of their South African Social Media Landscape 2014 report on Thursday, the researchers said a recent survey of adult cellphone users living in South Africa's cities and towns indicated that at least 10.6-million urban adults were using WhatsApp.
The release of the findings follow Wednesday's announcement that the world's biggest social media network, Facebook, is to acquire WhatsApp for US$19-billion as its seeks to consolidate its domination of both social media and instant messaging.
Facebook still dominant
According to the World Wide Worx/Fuseware survey, Facebook remains the dominant social network on local phones, with 45% - or 9-million South Africans - using it on their mobile devices at the end of 2013.
"Total Facebook use in South Africa was at about 11-million at the end of 2013, putting it marginally ahead of WhatsApp - for now," the researchers said.
"Future expectations expressed by respondents indicate that WhatsApp will rise to 63% penetration in the next 12-18 months, while Facebook's mobile penetration will rise more moderately, to 53%."
Mxit, BBM, Twitter, Google+
The previous darling of the South African instant messaging market, Mxit, remains stable, and is used by 25% of adults, with the figure expected to rise to 29% in the next 12-18 months.
BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) also continues to grow, the survey found, and is now used by 21% of adults, "with the figure potentially reaching 28% if BlackBerry is able to maintain its handset sales momentum in South Africa".
Twitter has reached 20% of the adult market, with expectations of it rising to 30% in the next 12 to 18 months.
Two up-and-coming social apps also appear in the survey: Cape Town-based 2Go now has 8% penetration, expected to rise to 14%, while Chinese service WeChat, launched in South Africa in mid-2013, has reached 5% of the market, and is expected to rise to 13%.
Strong urban-rural divide
According to the researchers, the social and instant messaging market is characterised by a strong urban-rural divide, with WhatsApp used by 61% of urban dwellers, compared to 37% outside urban areas. The survey did not include "deep rural" users living outside cities and towns.
Age is also a major differentiator, especially among Facebook and Mxit users. Facebook has 58% penetration among under-25s, 45% among those aged 26-45, and 25% among the over-45s. Mxit penetration drops dramatically through the age groups, from 43% to 21% to only 8%.
"WhatsApp is more spread out, with 58% and 56% penetration, respectively, among the under-25s and 26-45s," the researchers said. "It drops to 38% among over-45s. For both Facebook and WhatsApp, penetration among over-45s is now higher than overall penetration had been a year previously."
The 2014 edition of the forum Investir en Côte d’Ivoire (ICI) ended optimistically for several young Ivoirians who received funding to launch their projects. However, many young entrepreneurs regard self-financing as a more pragmatic way approach way of achieving their ambitions.
Four days, 3,700 participants – including 1,500 investors from over a hundred countries, 162 stands, 15 group sessions on themes like SME promotion, renewable energy and agro-business. Plus, investment intentions totalling 443 billion CFA francs.
As far as Ivoirian authorities are concerned, these figures testify to the success of the largest economic forum ever held in Abidjan, which took place earlier this month.
For Bacely, Philipe, Aline, Charly and many of their peers, the 2014 ICI was a golden opportunity to get business ideas and to learn from the experienced entrepreneurs taking part in the event as exhibitors.
Bacely Yorobi (featured in a previous RNW article here) is an internet marketer. The 26-year-old entrepreneur is the man behind SocialSpot, a project meant to ultimately enable small businesses to do proximity marketing and give web surfers free internet access via a wide network of hotspot connections.
As a laureate of the forum’s start-up competition, Bacely received a cheque of four million francs. It was a much-needed capital injection to kick-start his project.
IT expert Ehui Delmas (who also featured in a previous RNW article here) was also among the contest’s young laureates. His project, Môh Ni Ba, which uses communication technology to enable and facilitate birth registrations in rural areas, received funding from the government at this year’s ICI forum.
No cash prize went to Charly Kodjo (26). But the owner and manager of Instant de Vie Studio, a company specialising in internet photography and audio-visual productions, won in other ways. The young entrepreneur managed to sign up new clients and make business contacts.
“We want to solve the problem of [photographic] content on the web. The idea is to produce photographic content for commercial websites. With online shopping, the quality of the pictures greatly influences sales. But online stores in Africa tend to display poor pictures of their products,” says Charly.
As far as funding is concerned, Aline Yao (28) and Philipe Kouakou (31) were successful at making business contacts. Aline talked to potential investors about the expansion of her interior decoration agency. Philipe got a few business people interested in his idea of a modern carwash franchise.
For entrepreneurs like Bacely and Ehui, the government funds provide much-needed starting capital. However they still need more funding if they want to sustain and grow their respective enterprises. The SocialSpot manager seems to have found a solution. “It is self-financing and we are working on it,” he reveals.
Charly Kodjo is already in self-financing mode. “At the beginning, like any other entrepreneur, I was looking for funding. In fact, I used to believe in receiving funds from a bank or a relative. But now I don’t wait and hope for these somewhat miraculous funds anymore. I have a plan […] I will finance myself by securing new contracts. I’ve already tried this and it works very well,” he explains.
Philipe is also considering self-financing. “The funding we seek from government structures, private or state-related companies might never come – or arrive a little too late,” he says.
“The next edition of the ICI Forum is in 2016 and young people should not wait until then,” Aline adds. “If they hope to realise their projects by relying on funding from the government of private companies, they are in for a long wait. I think it is time they considered self-financing strategies.”
- Mahindra Comviva's mobile data platform (MDP)has gone live with MTN in Congo Brazaville that will enable the operator offer an unrivaled number of personalized data plans to its subscribers in Congo B. MDP a holistic broadband platform will also help the operator manage, optimize and monetize its data infrastructure. Customers of MTN will see enriched user experience through intelligent bandwidth management techniques including as dynamic bandwidth throttling. Users can also receive real time guidance for notifications and credit/usage limits, charges to subscribers on home and roaming networks for bill shock management over all communication channels such as SMS, USSD, Web application. "As a market leader in Congo B, MTN required a solution that addresses the new data challenges and monetize its data infrastructure across its network.
- Voice SMS technology firm Kirusa plans to roll out its services in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambian markets, vice president for product management Surinder Anand told ITWeb Africa. Kirusa provides technology for feature phone users to send short voice messages. Users then avoid the costs associated with making phone calls, said Anand. Anand said that in many emerging markets, voicemail has not been popular as users do not always want to leave a message. Also, with voicemail, the calls get charged, regardless of whether or not a message is recorded.
First African Blogger Awards now open for entries
Entries to the 2014 African Blogger Awards, the continent’s very first awards programme that measures online and social influencers’ reach and influence through data analysis, are open to bloggers, Instagrammers, Tweeters and YouTubers across Africa.
The Awards have been divided into 36 categories, providing the opportunity for influencers on these platforms to be measured objectively against their peers, and duly recognised for their achievements.
Categories are diverse, and include sectors such as Advice, Fashion and Beauty, Events and Nightlife, Education, Sports, Political, Technology and Gadgets, and Youth Culture among others.
“The African Blogger Awards are the first completely impartial, objective awards for online and social influencers on the African continent because winners will be determined by data analytics provided by Webfluential, and not through peer nominations,” says Mike Sharman, co-founder of the African Blogger Awards.
The Awards will also give brands and the marketing industry, including advertisers, public relations agencies and media buyers in each country, an impartial measurement of the most relevant online and social influencers to include in their campaigns, making sure that they achieve the greatest possible impact for their marketing spend.
There is no cost to enter, but entrants are required to register their blog, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube profile (or a combination thereof) on Webfluential, a platform designed to quantify the reach, resonance and relevance of bloggers, Instagrammers, Tweeters and YouTubers with over 1000 active, legitimate followers. Evaluation of the entrants will be managed primarily through Webfluential
• Reach measures the size of an influencer's audience (following) per social media network.
• Resonance is a measure of how widely the content that an influencer shares reaches outside of their own community.
• Relevance is a measure of the response from the influencer's community in the form of likes, comments, retweets.
Bloggers, Instagrammers, Tweeters and YouTubers who are permanent residents of any African country are eligible to enter the African Blogger Awards.
Entries for the awards close on 9 March 2014 at midnight GMT+2, and results will be announced on 16 April 2014 via the competition’s Twitter profile, @African_Blogger, from 11h00 GMT+2. Overall awards for Africa’s Top Blogger, Top Instagrammer, Top Tweeter and Top YouTuber will be announced on 18 April 2014 at a celebration hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Winners in each category will receive a web banner announcing their achievement that can be personally-leveraged through their social network and a commemorative trophy.
eGov Kenya 20-21 March 2014
Brackenhurst Conference Centre
eGov Kenya will provide an intensive two-day briefing for CFOs and CIOs from each county to empower them with the insights and knowledge they need to make the right strategy, technology and systems selections with their limited budgets. Plenary sessions will provide strategy overviews and best practice case studies by analysts, local government professionals from other countries and acknowledged industry experts. These will be combined with presentations by leading solutions vendors who will be invited to brief delegates on the solutions they have to offer.
For further information please visit the website here: