ACT 2003: SEEN AND HEARD

Digital Content

- BusyInternet, Accra’s cybercentre is launching a wireless hot spot that will cover its Liquid Bar. As Mark Davies of BusyInternet joked: ‘It’s free because we havn’t worked out how to charge people.’

- NEPSKOM, a joint venture between NEPA, Nigeria’s power utility and ESKOM, South Africa’s power utility plans to put in place 1200 kms of fibre.

- T-Systems is working on two outsourcing contracts with African telcos. Non-disclosure agreements prevent them from telling who.

- Everyone was talking about the sheer volume of people selling VSAT connectivity in Nigeria and the high prices that are being charged. Larger players in the market appear to be MapInfoTel, SignOn Africa, 21st Century and Linkserve. Typical users? MapInfoTel is doing a lot of business with construction companies and provides IT infrastructure and connectivity for Protea Hotels.

- It’s difficult as an outsider to appreciate the sheer scale and population size of Nigeria. Take Kaduna for example. It’s a city of 10 million people with three ISPs (WWL, Inet-Global and NITEL) and 20 cyber-cafes. Currently cyber-cafes charge around N100 per hour. One person attending the conference was looking to launch a new cyber-café in the city. Why are so many people setting up cyber-cafes: ‘There’s money in the venture. People think they can get money.’ Well they may be in for a shock as running a cyber-café anywhere in Africa is a tough business. He told us: ‘Connectivity from NITEL is not reliable compared to that provided by foreign companies who value their customers.’

- One Nigerian participant was contrasting life in Abuja to that in Lagos: ‘Abuja is America.’ No jokes please about how it also shares power outages with its North American counterparts. Dennis Brandjes of DireqLearn revealed that power outages mean that he runs his office generator in Abuja for between 3-6 hours a day. He also said in his presentation that there were 20 schools in Namibia and 50 in Nigeria that were solar powered. The next wave? Using excrement from cows and pupils to produce biogas. No, we’re not joking.

- Interestingly given the satellite vs fibre discussions, at least one company known as a satellite service provider is selling SAT3 capacity as part of its package. This may be the wave of the future as combining both has distinct advantages in some circumstances.

- One VOIP sellers assessment of the African market. He had travelled to 15 countries and said that West Africa was more open to VOIP technology than countries elsewhere. His prediction: ‘Ghana wll follow Nigeria with deregulation.’

- Apparently the CEO of an African telco now in the hands of contractors has sign on his office wall that reads: The Titanic was built by professionals, Noah’s Ark by amateurs. Which one would you want to sail in?’

- Microsoft put up a large banner behind the Open Source sessions but was widely judged - even by those sympathetic to its position - to be on the defensive. It tried hard to blur the definitional boundaries by talking about its concept of shared code. One Nigerian linux advocate spoke of Microsoft as being like the Abacha regime and open source like the Obesanjo government.