Issue no 595 9th March 2012

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Top story

  • Increased bandwidth in Africa has opened up new opportunities for cloud-based services. Unfortunately discussions about these kinds of cloud-based services have generated…well, clouds fully of empty corporate jargon. This week Russell Southwood looks at some different examples of actual cloud-based services that are being used successfully in Africa to try and get a handle on where the opportunities lie.

    Orange Business has launched two cloud-based services: Flexible Computing Express (just IT infrastructure with company applications on top) and Flexible Computing Premium (Orange providing some applications and managing or sharing managing the service). These services were launched in Europe initially at are aimed squarely at the corporate sector. It has attracted 150 customers for them in just 2 months but these are mostly in France.

    According to Philippe Jacquier, Head of IT Services and Solutions, Africa, Middle East and Russia, Orange Business:”90% of these initial customers are SMEs but not outside of France, where it is being taken up by multinationals. In this type of company there are thousands of non-critical applications which they are happy to host on this platform.” (see video link at the bottom of this article)

    Anglo Gold Ashanti began using the service on a pilot basis at the end of last year and it became fully operational in January 2012. The advantages it sees in the service are two-fold: it could move things offsite and get predictable latency and it has the flexibility to grow and shrink its requirements on a monthly basis:

    ”In the past, the Mine Manager would find himself looking after IT. Now he can get support. This platform is connected through our VPN and the Internet and Anglo Ashanti Gold have an MPLS network run by Orange.” So connecting to the cloud can happen through either a VPN or the Internet, depending on the resilience required by the company.

    There is a 100-millisecond latency and this allows real-time applications like voice and desktop management for many users and this compares with an average of 350-milliseconds (including satellite links) from Johannesburg to the Paris data centre:”Where the data is routed depends on the connectivity. Where we handle the WAN, we can get lowest latency. With improvements in latency, companies are becoming much more network-centric”

    Orange Business has also partnered with SITA that provides the underlying architecture for airline operations, who want to provide services for local carrier SAA.

    According to Jacquier:”The market will grow itself.  The key arguments are around cost and functionality but a mindset change is needed. Companies can save human resources.” For the wary, companies can – like Anglo Gold Ashanti- pilot using the service. Jacquier can provide an Excel spreadsheet that shows how the pricing works and the likely charges based on the number of uses per day.

    These kinds of services will cause a large expansion in data centres. Orange Business will set up 8 data centres. The first is in Paris (another will be added there) and three are being constructed in Frankfurt, Singapore and Atlanta. A further three will then be added: Johannesburg, Hong Kong and Sydney.

    Local South African company Securicom has been providing cloud-based services for over ten years. Its Regional Sales Manager, Richard Broeke sees a transition happening:”In the past, there was the public Internet and the private, corporate cloud. Now there’s a blurring between these two. We secure the private cloud and the public cloud infrastructure.” It targets what it describes as the mid-market, companies with between 250 and 10,000 employees and delivers up to 15 different services to them including: e-mail security and archiving, web security, managed firewalls, data storage, end-point management and cloud optimization.

    Their arguments are very similar to those of Orange Business but nuanced slightly differently:”With shared infrastructure, you can get the latest technology at a cheaper price. The per device billing model means you can have 100 seats this month and half that amount next month.”

    It has provided service for an African bank that had challenges with its deployed applications because the bandwidth was expensive and low quality:”We put our WAN optimization into 32 branches in Kenya. They’re now getting LAN-like responses across all of the WAN, even in remote locations. We do this through supplying optimization technology and 24 hour monitoring.”

    “The cost savings are probably going to be greatest for a small organization. If you take something like Microsoft Exchange, because of cost, it’s only going to be available to a certain size of company. It will be a lot more affordable through a cloud-based service. There are massive opportunities in Africa in terms of providing cloud-based services. Companies tend to deal with several different companies but we can provide a one-stop shop with end-to-services and that’s when you get economies of scale.”

    At the other end of the scale completely are end user services for individuals and very small companies. Opportunities here are focused around three things: back-up; synch between the proliferating number of devices (laptop, phone and tablet); and cloud-based, cyber-cafe-style services offering “virtual computers” by login (that also synch with certain phones).

    Kenya’s M-Wingu was set up by Charles Musungu to address the simplest but often most important of needs: backing up people’s phone contacts so they don’t lose them when their phone is stolen or falls into the toilet (don’t laugh – it seems to happen quite often if my conversations are anything to go by.).

    ”We set up M-Wingu to help individuals to synch their contacts across all devices and to restore contacts. It’s software as a service and the consumer pay a subscription fee that the operators charge as a percentage per day.’ In Kenya, it costs KS10 per month and in South Africa 80 cents a month and generally works out at around 20% of ARPU.

    It has pilots operating with three major operators and there are currently 1,000 users across all of the pilots. Soon it will go live with an operator across 9 markets. The service detects what phone is connected and which new contacts need backing up:”The cloud hosting for the service is provided by Google and Amazon and the data centres are in the USA. However, the back-end applications are hosted in Kenya. There is a robust level of encryption.”

    As users do more things involving content, services and transactions on their phones and other devices, they will need to have both the synch and back-up functions. The key question will be whether they will see whether they need to be able to afford the service.

    The wide open market space is to provide individual customers a “virtual computer” that they can log into anywhere there’s a machine or device and bandwidth. If African cyber-cafes were smarter, this would be a good replacement for the dwindling access market, making software as a service an ideal business: a small monthly sum that would be a great deal less than even the current much cheaper laptops and tablets. Who’s going to be first to start it?


    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Editor of Stuff magazine Toby Shapshak on the changes in the use of devices in Africa

    Philippe Jacquier, Orange Business on the launch of its cloud-based service, Flexible Computing

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, Gilat Satcom on doing business in South Sudan

telecoms

  • The Peoples Democratic Party has approached a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for an order to compel the Nigerian Communications Commission to revoke the licence of MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd.

    In the suit filed by the Osun and Ekiti Chapters of the party and the former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, they alleged that NCC has failed to protect them from unfair practices of MTN.

    They alleged that when asked to provide the National Judicial Council with call logs containing the alleged conversations between the suspended president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami to substantiate allegations that Justice Salami was influenced by some chieftains of the Action Congress of Nigeria to arrive at the decision that removed Oyinlola from office, MTN provided the council with an incomplete data.

    In the statement of claim filed by the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Adebisi Raimi, they claimed that, “MTN deliberately frustrated the work of the panel by providing inadequate and incomplete call data records and thus manipulated same.

    “The action of MTN to deliberately frustrate the work of the NJC panel by providing inadequate and incomplete call data records constituted gross professional and ethical misconduct.”

    According to them, MTN forwarded to NJC call data records containing only the originating component and deliberately withheld the terminating components, which left the NJC with no option but to declare the call logs as lacking in evidentiary value.

    They said: “MTN deliberately omitted the months of September, October and November 2010 from the call data records forwarded to the NJC panel, to effectively obliterate records of the period of communication between and among the following individuals: Justice Isa Ayo Salami, Tunji Ijaiya, Tunde Folawiyo Lagos State Governor, Gbadegesin Ademola,  Moha-mmed Rufu Lai, Lagos State Government ,Kayode Fayemi; thereby blanking out the period immediately preceding the judgements of the governorship election appeals in respect of Osun and Ekiti state.”

    They said that MTN deliberately omitted the months of September, October and November 2010 from the call data record, to mislead the NJC Panel and to pervert the course of justice. They said that MTN’s action contravened the Nigerian Communications Commission Act.

    They are also asking the court to order MTN to pay the sum of N150 Billion as general damages. In his evidence on oath which was attached to the statement of claim, the former Osun State governor Oyinlola said that if MTN had forwarded the authentic, adequate, complete and undistorted and bonafide call data records in respect of communication between and among the individuals mentioned above to the NJC panel, the report of the NJC Investigative Panel and the recommendations of the committee set up to review the report would have been different.

    He said: “That if the recommendations of the panel and the committee had been different, necessary legal action and steps would have been taken to ensure that their candidates in the 2007 gubernatorial elections, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun State and Chief Segun Oni of Ekiti state were reinstated.

    “That because their candidates (PDP’s Oyinlola and Oni) were not reinstated, they had suffered and are still suffering unimaginable integrity, prestige and image, financial and political loses.”

  • Egypt will launch a tender for mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) licences within four weeks, the country's communications minister said on Tuesday.

    MVNOs are mobile phone service providers which lease excess network capacity from telecom operators.

    Industry executives had been hoping the tender would take place last year but major investment decisions have been delayed by the army-backed interim government appointed after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.

    Companies aiming to secure an MVNO licence include Telecom Egypt, the country's landline monopoly, which is sitting on record amounts of cash and wants to boost its presence in fast-growing mobile and data services.

    "We are finalising the format for the MVNO and hopefully we should expect (to issue the tender) in four weeks' time," Mohamed Salem, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, told Reuters during an industry conference in Qatar.

    Salem said he was unsure how many MVNO licences Egypt would issue and declined to say how much selling them could raise for a government that is struggling to finance its budget deficit.

    He said fourth-generation mobile network licences would also be sold some time after June, by when the government would have formulated a new strategy for expanding broadband services.

    "4G will be included in the broadband strategy," said Salem. "The broadband plan ... will be issued by the end of June."

    Mobile phone subscriptions now roughly equal Egypt's population and companies are seeking to maintain revenue growth by encouraging customers to use more data services. Egypt is the Arab world's most populous country, with more than 80 million people.

    Telecom Egypt has a venture with Vodafone that vies with Mobinil for leadership of the mobile phone market. The third-placed operator is Etisalat Egypt.

  • The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) yesterday sealed off a base station in Tundun Amba area of Lafia, Nasarawa State over environmental violations after pre-sanction notice.

    Alhaji Abdusalami Issah, the NESREA State Coordinator, who represented the Director-General/CEO of the agency, Dr Ngeri S. Benebo, said the action of the company was in breach of Section 5 (4) of the Telecommunication and Broadcast facilities Regulations 2011 which provides 10 meters setback for new mast to residential buildings.

    Issah said that the operators of the base station had failed to provide their site-specific Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Certificate when asked to do so, and also fail to respond to an earlier letter written to them by NESREA before the construction with regards to the wrong citing of the mast. "They boldly went ahead as if there were no laws in this country", said the team leader. "People should think more of the health implications of this poorly erected mast", he added.

  • Airtel customers suffered a network outage last week. The outage affected calls originating from Airtel and sending SMS, though some calls from other networks and international calls were able to terminate on Airtel. The customers could also not load airtime directly from scratch cards or make purchase from Airtel money. The cause of the problem is yet to be explained by the company.

    Airtel Kenya had told consumers via text message and social media that it was working on the 'slight hitch' in the morning, but was yet to resolve it several hours later. "We have a slight hitch and our engineers are on it. Sorry for inconvenience," Airtel Kenya official page said on twitter in the morning in response to public queries on the problem. Hours later it said,"Dear customers, sorry for the unexpected service outage for the last 3 hours. Our technical team is restoring it to normalcy,"

    The company officials had not responded directly to us by press time but by late afternoon the problem seemed to have been largely dealt with. The service outage, which also affected internet connection, comes barely two weeks after it launched it 3G network. Airtel has around 4.5 million subscribers which is around 16 per cent of the country total subscriber base. It has 8.5 per cent market share of the data market.

  • Ghana's telecoms regulator has given mobile subscribers an additional month to rectify incomplete SIM card registration data before their accounts are cut off.

    Last Saturday marked the end of the deadline for the registration of SIM cards in the country. SIM cards that were not registered have already been cut off, but there are a number of registrations that were not completed correctly.

    "Such persons are to rectify whatever anomalies thereof, or they will have their SIMs deactivated just as those who have not registered at all," the Deputy Director of Communications and Consumer Services at the NCA, Mawuko Zormelo, advised.

    Part of the difficulty comes from the process of verifying Passport or Driving License data with government records. There have been complaints that the government agencies had been slow to respond to requests for information.

internet

  • The Rwandan government has made it mandatory with immediate effect for telecom operators and internet service providers to provide seamless redundancy and diversity of internet bandwidth to guarantee service.

    The move will allow automatic sharing of bandwidth between operators at pre-negotiated and determined prices to avoid service interruptions in case of any breakdown.

    The industry regulator - Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), will in the next few days institute a settlement system for allowing inter operator bandwith backup and seamless routing of bandwidth once any operator's available bandwidth reduces to a predetermined threshold.

    However, the move is set to rescue MTN Rwanda, the country’s biggest telecom company by subscriber base which has been struggling to offer bandwidth to full capacity due to the current East African Submarine System (EASSY) cable disruptions detected between Djibouti and Port Sudan, which carries the majority of its internet traffic (80 percent ).

    The telecoms giant has approximately 2.9 million subscribers with network coverage of over 90 per cent, having pioneered the mobile market in Rwanda.

    Under the new guidelines, any affected operator will be required to maintain a certain level of bandwidth availability by tapping into available bandwidth of other operators.

    “The directive has already been communicated by the regulator to all telecoms operators and internet services providers and will take immediate effect.

    All operators will be required to provide a guaranteed level of service to their client by accessing the pool bandwidth in the event of major catastrophes,” said Dr Ignace Gatare, the Rwandan Minister in charge of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) in a press statement released on Friday.

    He added that the decision in support of international bandwidth aggregation was taken in order to mitigate the social and economic impact of poor bandwidth availability.

    “It also ensures efficient management of Rwanda internet resources. The regulator will ensure that there is sufficient bandwidth in the country to meet our national requirements,” Dr Gatare said.

    Currently, Rwanda has two telecoms companies, MTN and Tigo Rwanda, owned by Luxemburg based Millicom International Cellular. Bharti Airtel is expected to officially launch on the market this year, with an investment pledge of over $100 million in the next three years.

  • The World Bank has launched a regional initiative to improve broadband connectivity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region by bringing utilities' fiber optic networks into broadband use. The Bank also announced a new focus on citizen participation in the creation of information and communication technologies (ICT) solutions to development problems, building on the success of the Cairo WaterHackathon.

    The World Bank's broadband connectivity initiative will study the potential for developing regional broadband backbone networks in MENA and prepare the ground for new investments. It will use a new approach that leverages already-deployed infrastructure from other utilities, such as electricity, transport or oil and gas. The study is expected to tackle the main bottlenecks to broadband connectivity in the region, in particular providing redundancy (extra capacity) to existing international connectivity and opening alternative backbone networks in domestic markets.

    "Worldwide, broadband is becoming an essential infrastructure for innovation, economic growth, and competitiveness," said Doyle Gallegos, Practice Leader, Connectivity Infrastructure, World Bank. "This World Bank initiative will help increase MENA countries' capacity to cope with the tremendous predicted increase in broadband traffic and to compete in the 21st century's global market."

    The MENA region has been actively increasing broadband connections and, as of today, broadband connects over a quarter of MENA households. Broadband traffic in the region is predicted to grow over 100 percent in the next five years, making MENA the fastest growing region in the world with Sub-Saharan Africa.

    The World Bank study will cover the region's international and domestic connectivity and will produce four country case studies focused on utility infrastructure use in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia. In addition, the World Bank will look at broadband-based applications to increase operational efficiency and competitiveness of utilities, starting with a smart-grid pilot project in Jordan. Findings from these activities will be shared through regional workshops aimed at boosting investment in the region, particularly in utilities' fiber-optic networks.

    The broadband connectivity initiative is part of the World Bank's Arab World Initiative and is supported by the Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) and the Korean Government. Jointly with InfoDev, the World Bank has also produced the Broadband Strategies Handbook, a tool providing hands-on knowledge of broadband market, technology, and policy action.

    Cairo hosted the first-ever WaterHackathon in October 2011 which brought together Egyptian technologists with water specialists to brainstorm innovative ICT solutions for Egypt's biggest water challenges. A hackathon in this context is a series of events that source problem statements from citizens, civil society, and development experts; build sectoral and digital literacy for technologists and development practitioners; and allow these partners to collectively identify technical pilot solutions.

    "The Cairo WaterHackathon allowed the World Bank to 'do things differently' in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and engage local communities interested in shaping the future of their country," explained Carlo Rossotto, MENA Regional Coordinator, ICT, World Bank. "Based on this success, the World Bank will increasingly use citizen participation in the creation of ICT solutions as a mainstream tool to tackle development challenges."

    - A mobile and web-based application for more equitable water distribution, enabling farmers to remotely control irrigation (Salt & Rocks team)
     - An application for irrigation optimization and water saving in agricultural production, using smart mobile devices to enhance collection of field data (Abu Erdaan team)
    - A concept addressing water saving in industrial line production, using data visualization and SMS and web updates on water consumption (Run Time team)

    The winning teams continue to develop their ideas. Team Abu Erdaan has managed to develop and beta-test its application and is now shortlisted among the top fifty competitors in Google's Business Competition in Egypt. As a follow-up, the World Bank is planning a Transport Hackathon in Cairo later this year.

  • Aquiva WirelessOne of Zimbabwe’s licensed Internet Access Providers (IAP), Aquiva Wireless, will be launching VoIP services by April this year. We got the news from the company this week that they are finalizing interconnection agreements with some of the existing mobile operators and the fixed line operator (TelOne) and will be launching VoIP commercially in the coming weeks.

    The VoIP service is something similar to Econet’s recently launched service which you can access via any broadband internet connection from ordinary PCs or Wi-Fi enabled mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

    In terms of tariffs we should expect prices as low (or as high) Africom, Broadcom, Telco and Gigatel. In summary the POTRAZ approved tariffs for VoIP providers; US 5 cents for on-net calls and 11 cents for off-net calls.

    Aquiva Chief Operations Officer, Artwell Mataranyika said that while some existing mobile operators have “not been in a hurry” to interconnect with new VoIP telephony providers like his company, they have nevertheless been responsive and they’ve managed to secure some agreements. He added though without naming any specific operators that a few are deliberately dragging their feet and interconnection agreements with these would take a long while.

    As more and more IAPs launch VoIP services, interconnection remains one the main problems they face getting the product ready for commercial use. Users naturally expect to be able to make calls to any number under the sun when subscribed to a phone service and the realization that they can’t call some networks exposes the issue for the deal breaker it is.

    Telecontract, one for the first IAPs to launch voice services back in 2010, only interconnected (and celebrated the event with ads in the papers) more than a year later and even it was just to one of the three mobile operators, Econet.

  • Spectrum Training, a leading IT Networking and Security training, certification and consultancy services provider in the Middle East & Africa region expanded its reach in the region by setting up its new training center in Cairo.

    The new training center in Cairo is equipped with state of art labs to provide global standard technical training to several of the enterprises in Egypt. The new facility consists of 2 class room facility that can train upto 24 students at a time. The center is managed by highly skilled professional with wealth of experience in IT training across the region.

    The company will provide networking and security courses on several specialised training and certification from leading vendors like Juniper Networks, Comptia, BlueCat Networks among others.

    "We are extremely pleased to set up a world class training center in Cairo and with this investment in the new facility, Spectrum wants to reinforce our commitment to Egypt as well as cater to the growing demand of IT training and certification in the region." said, Sanjeev Singh, Managing Director, Spectrum Training, "We already have large customer base in Egypt and the new facility will help us bring down the cost of training which customer has to pay earlier by spending extra on traveling outside Egypt. "

    "We want to create this facility as the center of excellence not just for Egypt but for whole of the North Africa," adds Sanjeev.

  • Lonestar Cell MTN has launched the Internet for Liberia Project, introducing a variety of internet services.

    The Internet for Liberia Project is aimed at getting devices into the hands of Liberians, getting Liberians to use the internet more, rewarding Liberians for using the internet and ultimately, increasing the efficiency of Liberians through the use of internet in every field of endeavor.

    Chief Marketing Officer, Clement Ofori, who spoke at the launch at the company’s headquarters in Congo Town, said Lonestar Cell MTN is taking into consideration that its customers come from diverse backgrounds so everything was being done to tailor services based on needs.

    Ofori explained that the EDGE Plus customers will during this period enjoy a 20% discount on their daily, weekly and monthly bundles. For customers, who choose not to buy bundles, but pay per use, he said they are extending happy hour to cover the internet. So they will enjoy ½ prices for internet use between 12:30am to 5am every day.

    According to him, the iConnect customers most of whom are corporate customers will receive 50% off their package for this month.

    “We realize that all these great offers will not mean much to our customers if there is no device to use the internet on - that is why we have partnered with some device suppliers, notable amongst them, Samsung and Huawei to make devices available to our customers of various segments,” said Ofori.

    He said the company is particularly excited about the world’s acclaimed solar powered laptop or net book, which Liberians can also own and use the internet on courtesy of Samsung and Lonestar Cell MTN.

    Lonestar had led the way in bringing to Liberia the first 3G internet service when it launched the iConnect service last year. The company believes it’s time to take it to the next level by getting more Liberians on the internet.

    Ofori announced that Lonestar Cell MTN has just completed a major project that has significantly increased its bandwidth, adding that customers will from now progressively experience much better speeds, using the same devices they have been using.

    “In the coming days and weeks”, he said,  “We will be rolling out several customer engagement activations around the use of the internet, which will no doubt touch every Liberian, including the farmer, the teacher, the doctor, the market woman, the student, the business person and indeed just about everybody no matter your profession.”

    According to the Chief marketing Officer, most of these activations will be in partnership with various bodies, including the media, educational institutions, government ministries and corporate institutions.

  • NGO Invisible Children has launched an internet campaign against Joseph Kony, the fugitive head of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army rebels. The LRA is infamous for committing extreme atrocities against civilians, including murder, mutilation and rape.

    Not all Ugandans agree with Invisible Children's approach. Or, to be more precise, many Ugandans who use Twitter, Facebook and Google disagree - that's a small minority of all Ugandans. As local journalist Maureen Agena tweeted: "I doubt that the people in North, East and Westnile Uganda where #kony dominated have an idea that this #stopkony discussion is on."

    For one, today's edition of national newspaper the Daily Monitor didn't devote any words to 'Kony 2012', as the Invisible Children's video on the web is called.

    What socially networking Ugandans criticise most is how their country and the LRA conflict are being represented in a simplistic, if not just plain wrong, manner. "If you are in #Uganda, pls advise [Twitter users that] Kony is hiding in Central Africa Rep nt Uganda," tweeted Guide2Uganda. The LRA has not been active in Uganda for over five years, a fact critics say Invisible Children does acknowledge in its video, which focuses on victims in northern Uganda.

    "Invisible Children paints a false picture of the current situation on the ground in northern Uganda," says Rosebell Kagumire. The Ugandan journalist has publicised her criticism of 'Kony 2012' via Twitter, where she has over 3,000 followers, both Ugandan and international. "Northern Uganda is not about war or catching Kony anymore, it is about rebuilding. Invisible Children neglects that. They campaign for the Ugandan children from 2005, not the current ones suffering in Congo."

    But does Invisible Children not at least create the kind of awareness that prompted President Obama's dispatch of 100 American special forces to assist in the search for Mr Kony last October? Obama's decision might precipitate the downfall of the LRA.

    "Awareness, yes," Kagumire says, "but the wrong sort of awareness. The Kony campaign suggests that political and military will in the West is all that is needed to end the conflict. Remember that in 2008, the Ugandan Army, already with US assistance, launched an operation against the LRA that led to the revenge killing of more than 300 Congolese. This could happen again. Invisible Children doesn't acknowledge the complexity on the ground or local agency."

    In a reaction to the criticism, Invisible Children says it does not claim to have a magic solution. The NGO reiterated its aim of raising awareness and pressuring politicians to find a solution. As to the accusation that Invisible Children favours the Ugandan Army (which, like the LRA, is accused of committing crimes), director of public and media relations Jedediah Jenkins emphasized that remaining strictly neutral is difficult when trying to end a conflict.

    "There is a huge problem with political corruption in Africa," Jenkins said. "If we had the purity to say we will not partner with anyone corrupt, we couldn't partner with anyone."

    Kagumire also faces censure. Opponents label her part of the small, privileged group of Ugandans with access to information and the internet, a world away from the millions who live in areas where the LRA has been active. "Ugandans who patronise #KONY2012 have not been affected directly by Kony's atrocities," Javie Ssozi tweeted.

    According to Kagumire: "I never claimed to represent the whole of Uganda. I do know many people in the affected regions, though, as well as their opinions. I covered the LRA for over ten years as a journalist. Last year I worked for an NGO in northern Uganda, southern Sudan and Congo."

  • The minister of Telecommunication and Information Technology, José Rocha de Carvalho, announced Tuesday that the capital cities of Angola’s 18 provinces will be connected through fibre optic cable, aimed at expanding and improving technological services and Internet in the country.

    The official spoke at the "conference on information technology as instruments for service of development", held under the 10th edition of the National Holiday Camp of University Students (Canfeu), taking place at this location until March 25th.

computing

  • News organisations and blogs globally are reporting that the hacker responsible for leading attacks on the Zimbabwe government’s (and other countries as well) websites following the Wikileaks stir in December 2010, Sabu (real Hector Xavier Monsegur), was turned into FBI informant when he was arrested in August last and has helped the US government penetrate the Anonymous hacker group.

    Monsegur was reportedly arrested in August after FBIO successfully traced his online chat activity to his home. He successfully struck a deal with the FBI to inform on  other hackers after he was threatened with 124 years in prison. Unbeknownst to his Anonymous colleagues, Monsegur helped the FBI break into the group, leading to the arrest of 5 top members of the anonymous hacker group this week.

    The 28-year old Lulzsec (a group that is part of Anonymous) leader pleaded guilty to hacking several websites belonging to the government websites in Algeria, Yemen and Zimbabwe amoung other countries. Monsegur also masterminded the attack on the US Senate website.

    The hacker group attacked the Zimbabwe government’s websites in retaliation to what they termed an attack on Zimbabwe’s press freedom.

  • A non-governmental organization in Ghana, CAMFED, The Campaign for Female Education is currently building three ultra modern Information Communication Technology centers in some selected districts of the Northern region of Ghana with financial backing from the Google Cooperate Giving Council.

    This project is aimed at Nanumba North (Bimbilla), Mamprusi East (Gambaga) and Gushegu districts in the Northern region. The Bimbila ICT centre has already been completed and commissioned with the organization promising to commission the remaining two in the coming months.

    The Deputy Minister for Communication, Ernest Atokwei Armah spoke at the official launch where he encouraged students in the area to take advantage of the centre and enhance their knowledge in ICT.“Every child everywhere in this world is expected to get a very good background in ICT: so to speak a child in Accra, Bimbilla or anywhere in Ghana should know what ICT is, so they will be able to chat and communicate,” he said. The deputy communications minister emphasized on the need for farmers and businessmen in Bimbilla township and its environs to patronize the centre, seeing that as the best means of making online transactions. He further stated: “ICT can allow our farmers in this particular community to communicate with the outside world to know the good price for their commodities so they will know exactly when their commodities are being needed and the good price to have for them.”

  • Working collaboratively online helps educators develop teaching material that transcends national boundaries and reaches learners of different cultures.  This has been the experience of teachers taking part in an ongoing e-twinning pilot study involving hundreds of 9-13 year olds at ten schools in Burkina Faso, France, Senegal and Togo. Coordinated by the Paris-based Association for the Promotion of Free Educational Resources (Apréli@), the study evaluates the experiences of learners and teachers when digital teaching resources are produced through virtual collaboration.

    During the study, the participating teachers upload course materials onto a Wiki. Duties are assigned such that different teachers focus on different aspects of the curriculum, and comprehensive lesson plans are developed. Creating a stock of free digital resources enables students and teachers easy access to a shared pool of knowledge, but it also allows partner schools deeper involvement with each other’s teaching and cultural practices. Each class in the pilot study documented their journey via an e-diary and occasional e-report which can be accessed by all.

    The different educational systems and standards in place in each country meant that in designing the project, special consideration had to be paid to how the schools were twinned. Geneviève Puiségur-Pouchin, president of Apréli@, said that before launching the project, they held a comprehensive workshop for all stakeholders, and the teachers, researchers, and educational administrators involved drew up a research model which would allow them to create activities that can be adopted in all national curricula.

    “Our e-twinning plan enables cooperative learning whilst changing the traditional teacher-student relationship,” Puiségur-Pouchin told eLearning Africa. “The teacher takes on the role of a guide, allowing the students to engage in more group work and self-reflection.” The e-twinning model that has been developed is flexible enough to ensure that classes in different countries can identify and develop common pedagogical approaches.

    Evaluating the efficacy of this e-twinning study is an ongoing endeavor. Continuous monitoring of how the teachers and students are handling their cross-border, intercultural knowledge exchange is the work of a team in each country. “We have had encouraging results,” says Puiségur-Pouchin. “The students are curious, motivated, and enthusiastic, and they have made notable progress in their written work, vocabulary acquisition and oral expression as well as in their independence and cooperation in group tasks.”

    Although going through the academic year with an e-twin sharing the journey has already had a myriad of benefits for the participants, there were nevertheless challenges posed by poor Internet connectivity which occasionally limited synchronicity thus making it harder for teachers to keep in touch with their colleagues. But despite these temporary set-backs, Puiségur-Pouchin says that their pilot study has proved successful so far in that the online digital diaries placed on the schools’ websites are a source of inspiration for the whole school community. “Apart from the academic benefits and improved ICT skills which the students report, there is also the open mindset and interest in other countries and cultures which is fostered.” The study is ongoing, but with these gains to date, those involved feel encouraged to continue.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The Secretary-General of International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Hamadoun Touré has implored the government to cut down unnecessary taxes on ICT equipment and services that could hinder the growth of the mobile telecom sector in the future.

    Touré noted that some tax administrators have slashed some taxes off ICT equipment and the sector since they recognize the importance of ICT to the development of their countries but others still seem to take advantage of the thriving finance of the technology sector to impose heavy taxes.

    “It is encouraging to see a growing number of tax administrators recognize that ICT services are different from other services, because of their capacity to stimulate economic growth and social development.”Governments who have committed to following best-practice ICT regulation are now reducing or even eliminating some sector-specific taxes – ITU would like to see all governments follow their lead,” he said.

    He added that there was the need for the ICT and telecom sector to be encouraged to deploy advanced technologies across the globe so the world could realize the full advantage of the ‘mobile miracle’ ITU’s recent Radio Communication Assembly officially endorsed the two selected technologies that will form the basis of IMT-Advanced next generation high-speed cellular broadband.

    LTE-Advanced and Wireless MAN-Advanced both qualified as IMT-Advanced compliant, capable of supporting theoretical peak download speeds of 1 Gbit/s while stationary and 100 Mbit/s while in motion.

  • MTC has released a mixed bag of annual financial results for 2011 with revenue growing 3,2 per cent to N$1,4 billion, but profit dipping 14,2 per cent to N$319 million.

    Miguel Geraldes, MTC managing director, said the mobile operator’s shareholders have accepted lower profits for 2011 as funds have been redirected and invested back into the company. Geraldes said that MTC’s performance has been solid through 2011, as total revenue grew by 3.2 percent from 2010 to approximately N1,45 billion. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for 2011 is N$774 million, a decrease of 15 percent from 2010, where the amount was N$785 million.

    Geraldes also announced that the dividends which MTC paid to its shareholders for 2011 decreased by 4,9 per cent, or N$19 million, compared to 2010.
    The dividends paid to shareholders are lower because of the decision to re-invest in the company.

    MTC’s penetration rate has now surpassed 108 per cent of Namibia’s population and by September last year the mobile operator had well over 1,7 million subscribers. Geraldes said that MTC calculates this figure through the number of active sim cards which have been used in the last three months.

    With regard to the regulatory environment in Namibia, Geraldes said that two significant events have had an impact. The first was the establishment of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran) and the second was  the decision by the Namibia Communication Commission (NCC) to intervene in retail prices set by service providers for their products.

    According to a statement from MTC, the mobile service provider “maintains that the NCC did not follow proper procedures to intervene in retail prices and that this decision will end up hurting customers and future entrants into the market.”
    The mobile operator also said that it “continues to struggle with the authorities (Windhoek Municipality) for authorisation to erect the much needed base stations (cellphone towers).

  • Algeria expects a valuation of Vimpelcom's Djezzy mobile phone unit, which it is part nationalising, to be completed by the end of March, Telecommunications Minister Moussa Benhamadi told Reuters on Tuesday.

    Vimpelcom, which acquired Djezzy as part of a $6 billion deal to buy the assets of Egyptian firm Orascom Telecom, earlier this year agreed, under pressure, to sell Algeria a 51 percent stake in the unit, which had been the most lucrative part of the Egyptian firm's business.

    Speaking at an industry event in Qatar, Benhamadi declined to say what the valuation was likely to be. Algeria said a year ago it had appointed law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP to advise it on the valuation of Djezzy.

    "We expect the end of March," Benhamadi said when asked about the completion of a valuation on the unit.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Google has added two indigenous African languages, Afrikaans and Zulu, to their social network, Google+ Google+ is available in up to 60 languages and they hope their latest move will drive users away from the  frontrunner Facebook.

    - Zimbabwean ISP Aquiva Wireless will become the latest company to launch voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony under an Internet Access Provider (IAP) licence in April

Digital Content

  • Giltedge Golf & Sport has launched a dedicated South African golf travel iPad App, which enables travellers to find the best golf locations, together with all the necessary information on hotels, game lodges and golf resorts.

    Users can also view room layouts, get detailed golf course information and pro tips, and view suggested golf and safari itineraries.

    The app is downloadable free of charge from the Apple iTunes store. Click on the following link (Giltedge Golf Travel App download) and within minutes the guide is at your fingertips.

    Giltedge Golf & Sport is part of the Giltedge Travel group of companies and offers its clients a complete, yet unique golfing safari experience both in southern Africa and abroad. Giltedge Golf & Sport also provides sports fans the opportunity to experience the world's major sporting events from premier viewing locations.

  • Neotel is currently trialing various broadband technologies with the aim of improving their broadband offerings, including LTE and fibre.

    “We are trialing various technologies including LTE, both fibre and wireless, as part of the continual improvement of broadband services to our customers,” Neotel said in response to questions about their LTE plans.

    “LTE is regarded globally as the successor technology to all current 3G technologies, including CDMA [which Neotel is currently using for their NeoFlex and NeoConnect services].”

    Neotel’s Angus Hay told MyBroadband that their trial network currently covers the Midrand area.

    Neotel joins Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and 8ta in trialing LTE, but Neotel is in the privileged position to be in possession of valuable 800MHz spectrum which is suitable for LTE deployments.

    Vodacom was the first company to trial LTE in South Africa, showing speeds exceeding 100Mbps using this technology at their Midrand campus.

    MTN currently has the largest LTE trial network with 100 live LTE sites using re-farmed 1800MHz spectrum. The company previously said that the only thing keeping them back from launching commercial services is a lack of spectrum.

    8ta is also actively trialing LTE. “As the specified upgrade path for a 3GPP network is LTE, it is prudent to consider this as an option in terms of 8.ta’s own evolutionary path,” said Amith Maharaj, senior managing executive at Telkom Mobile.

  • Gidi Traffic, Lagos motorists’ favourite traffic guide, received a nomination for a Shorty Award which honours the best short format content creators on Twitter.

    Gidi Traffic helping Lagos' traffic in Nigeria via Twitter. (image: twitter.com)Gidi Traffic is one of 399 nominees for the “Life Saving Hero” category. The bulk of the nominees are from the United States. Other entrants include New York’s Fire Department, actress Sophia Bush and US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

    Gidi Traffic started using Twitter September last year to save Lagosians petrol, stress and commuting time, easing congestion on Lagos’ roads. Users can use their Twitter handle to find information on filling stations to the nearest hospital for accident victims and which areas you should avoid.

    Gidi Traffic was invited to the March 26 award ceremony at the Time Center in the Big Apple after receiving the most African nomination votes.

    A spokesperson said: “Gidi Traffic is the only African [entrant] amongst the finalists in this category and we are proud to showcase a young and brilliant innovation from Nigeria. We see this as a huge opportunity to put Africa and Nigeria, most importantly, on the map for a positive cause.”

  • Ghana's Saya Mobile is the latest mobile chat app out of Africa. IM and chat messaging clients are incredibly popular on the continent. Applications such as 2go and mobile social networks such as MXit have raised the bar on the possibilities in the mobile and social space in Africa.

    As such, there is strong expectation for the success of the recently launched Saya Mobile in Ghana. Saya works on Java, iOS, Android and the Blackberry platforms and is a product of the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST).

    The app's slogan is hip - "SMS is oldskool, Saya is the new cool" it says.

More

  • Snr 3G Rnpo Engineer - 25854

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    Location: Southern Africa

    Role: Snr 3G Radio Network Planning & Optimisation Engineer
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