Issue no 596 16th March 2012

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Top story

  • Back in December 2011 Balancing Act published an article on mobile data revenue which highlighted that data revenues for mobile operators in Sub-Sahara Africa remain tiny in most countries with the exception of South Africa and to a lesser extent Kenya. In the last couple of years many African mobile operators have launched 3G networks and more rollouts are in the pipeline. These are high CAPEX investments at stake and as in a poker game, the player needs to have the right cards in its hand to win the hand. Isabelle Gross looks at what mobile operators already have in their hands and which cards are missing to make the most out of their 3G investments.

    In its Q4-2012 report, Pieter Uys, Vodacom Group CEO, reported for South Africa that “demand for smartphones remains high, with 655,000 devices activated during the quarter. We now have 4.8 million active smartphones on the network, which as of 31 December 2011 accounted for 18.0% of all active devices”. Undoubtedly, there are more and more smartphones making their way into Africa despite the high price tag of some of these smartphones.

    Furthermore BlackBerry phones or Apple’s iPhones are no longer only solely owned by the privileged high-ranking executives working in banks or for a foreign companies. Recently, on two occasions, I came across people owning an iPhone that didn’t belong to the groups described above. Of course, this is not enough to get too hasty conclusions but these are interesting purchasing behaviours. The first owner of the iPhone was a guy exchanging currency on the street. He showed me proudly his iPhone which he took out from behind his stall which was not more than a couple of wooden planks nailed together. My second encounter with an unusual iPhone owner was with a policeman. Although the man didn’t exactly do street policing, salaries in the public sector in Africa are not that high.

    While Vodacom in South Africa has an impressive smartphone penetration of 18% across all the active devices on its network, this figure is still a kind of far-fetched dream for most mobile operators in Sub-Sahara Africa.

    For the countries at the bottom of the list of the GDP per capita country list, smartphone penetration will be more around 1 to 2% of the total devices on a given mobile operator’s network. Wealthier countries like Kenya will likely be around 10%. Nevertheless in wealthier or poorer African countries, there is a growing attraction for smartphones among mobile users and this has less to do with the notion of buying power than the desire to own a fashionable high-tech mobile phone.

    By and large this is all good news for African mobile operators as they will have to push less on the marketing side to get smartphones in the market but the story doesn’t stop here. African mobile operators still have to somehow get these owners of smartphones to use data services and this is where it gets a bit more challenging.

    In low-end African countries in particular, the true is that most owners of smartphones don’t use them for data services and mobile operators ought to ask themselves why so? Two primary explanations spring straight to mind. The first is that the data packages on offer are too expensive for the average smartphone owners. The second explanation is that most of the smartphone owners don’t have a need for data services because they don’t go on the Internet or check their emails or do anything else that would require a data connection.

    A simple promotion targeted at smartphone owners offering free data services for a limited period of time should help to test the level of true of the first explanation. A while ago, a mobile operator based in West Africa just carried out such a promotion. Targeted smartphone owners ranged from Apple, HTC, Samsung, Nokia, LG, Huawei to ZTE. Each of them received an SMS offering free Internet on their smartphone as well as an invite to activate the service.

    Around 9% of the smartphone owners targeted activated the service. In other words one in ten smartphone owners has an issue with the prices of the data service and will only use it on their smartphone if it is given away as a freebie. This issue can be addressed by a smarter pricing structure that takes more care of the customers’ specific needs.

    However what is more worrying is that the vast majority of the smartphone owners targeted (except for those one that had their smartphones switched off when the SMS was sent out) didn’t bother. Obviously, they must be happy with using their smartphone for voice, SMS and some of the pre-installed applications that they have on their smartphones like the camera, the music player, the calendar, the alarm, the radio, the games, etc but what seems to be missing is this little tilting interest towards social networks, emails or the Internet at large.

    It is clear that the task ahead for African mobile operators is to work out a way on how to get these smartphone owners on the online content ladder. What will work? Cheesy marketing campaigns like mobile operators are used to do for voice services or a more sustained educational effort? The latter option is more likely to yield positive results.

    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

  • Kenya's Safaricom has said that it will withdraw from plans to build a shared LTE network for all the mobile networks if the government insists that it operate in the 2.6Ghz spectrum band.

    Safaricom wants the network to be built using the 700Mhz spectrum band as it requires far fewer base stations, especially in rural areas and is hence cheaper to deploy, at least initially.

    "We would want to know the frequency band that will be used; if it is not the 700MHz then they (government) may consider our self out of it," Nzioka Waita, Safaricom's corporate affairs director told Business Daily Africa.

    The government has been pushing for the networks to cooperate on a single shared network infrastructure as it says there will be cost saving for consumers if the networks do not build competing systems.

  • South Africa’s Vodacom Group has been ordered to pay former consultant Moto Mabanga USD21 million after losing an appeal in a Democratic Republic of Congo court, Bloomberg reports. Mabanga told the news agency: ‘The judgment is now final. I have a judgment and will now follow the legal process to recover the funds from Vodacom. We are now trying to identify Vodacom’s assets to attach them, if it comes to that’. In January this year a Kinshasa court ordered Vodacom to pay Mabanga – who was hired by the company to assist in negotiations with co-owner Congolese Wireless Networks (CWN) between 2007 and 2008 – USD21 million, plus 8% interest (per year). Mabanga was paid USD2.8 million for the work, but sued the company for a USD40.8 million ‘success fee’ that he believes he is entitled to. For its part, Vodacom was reluctant to accept the court’s decision, with spokesman Richard Boorman commenting: ‘We have not received the judgment on this matter so it is difficult to comment in detail. We would clearly have material objections to any judgment by a Congo court in which a monetary award was granted … while the contractual dispute is currently being heard in court in South Africa, which has jurisdiction on the issue.’

    The development marks the latest in a long line of Congolese setbacks for the South African giant; Vodacom is also embroiled in a long-standing dispute with its local partner CWN regarding the funding and structure of the venture. With the two so far unable to reach a mutually acceptable conclusion, and the case progressing slowly through courts in South Africa, DRC and Brussels, Vodacom has raised the possibility of selling its stake in the company. Fellow South Africans MTN and Angola’s Unitel have both expressed an interest in acquiring the stake, should Vodacom go ahead with the sale.

  • After months of fears, Mobinil this week announced its margins of losses for last year were not nearly as poor as analysts and observers believed. Still, the company has a long ways to go before it returns to its pre-uprising status as a profit maker in the country.

    A managing consultant at Mobinil in Cairo and part of a number of task forces aimed at developing the country’s business model through selling off most of its stocks to France Telecom last month, said that the “future is bright for Mobinil.”

    The official, who was not pre-authorized to speak to the media, argued that despite fears the French takeover could see the reduction in jobs and Egyptians losing their work, he says the opposite is likely to happen.

    “FT has a lot of innovative ideas to bolster the company’s image, brand and services in Egypt in the coming months and years, which means more manpower to make this happen,” he continued. “So those fears are not founded. What we should be worrying about is how quickly we can get back into the black.”

    He was referring to a downturn last summer and fall, which saw the company’s earnings plummet into the negative 100 million Egyptian pounds, but the final quarter of 2011 did see earnings of more than 85 million, showing the company was returning to its position.

    Even as Egypt continues to face economic hardship, and jobs remain scarce, citizens continue to use their mobile phone, including a report earlier this month showing that subscription rates were up nearly 20 percent last year, revealing that when the economic is down, telecom remains strong.

    And Mobinil, and now its French owners, agree, and are looking for new ways to offer better options and data plans to more Egyptians.

  • The company said that over last one year, it has reduced the number of telecom sites running solely on diesel by more than 50% by overcoming the challenge of lack of grid connectivity through use of innovative models such as Hybrid Battery Bank.

    According to a Press Release from the company, by 2013, the company aims to completely eradicate the constant use of diesel to power its network. This means no telecom site of the company will rely solely on diesel power 24 hours a day.

    Hybrid Battery Banks collect the excess energy produced by the diesel powered generator in a battery that powers the site once the generator in switched off.

    This has helped reduce the use of diesel by up to 14 hours a day. Close to 60% of Bharti Airtel’s telecom sites in Africa are now powered using the Hybrid model resulting in major reduction in emissions and also operating costs for the company. The company is targeting over 70% of all its sites to be powered by the Hybrid model by end of 2013. It added that is also working on the use of solar and wind power to power its telecom sites.

    Eben Albertyn, Chief Technical Officer, Bharti Airtel, said, “This milestone is the result of significant steps by Airtel taken to ensure that we reduce our fuel consumption and that we play our part in conserving the environment. We will continue to do so as the year progresses.  Our first priority is to reduce the number of sites that are completely reliant on diesel generators. We are doing this by connecting these sites to grid electricity in areas where this option is feasible. Where it is not, we are exploring alternative forms of power supply, which include Hybrid Battery Banks and solar/wind power.”

    Bharti Airtel said that it has already made significant strides in using solar panels to power sites in select markets. Over the last two months, 105 solar sites have already been set up in Niger reducing the use of diesel generators from 24 hours a day to a meager 3 to 4 hours.

    In the short span of two years, the , the implementation of all key initiatives – increased grid connectivity, battery hybrid and solar/wind power - will mean that Bharti Airtel will be using 35% less diesel on average to power each site.

    The company is confident that as it maintains its focus on using alternative sources of fuel to replace diesel, it will continue to play a significant role in conserving the environment.

  • The CEO of Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, Kwaku Addo Sakyi-Addo said 20% import tax on SIM cards is an anomaly in the copyright law and must be removed.

    The Copyright Regulation, 2010, places 20% import tax on all devices capable of being used to copy copyright works; among the devices listed was SIM card - the others included flash drive, CD, diskets and others.

    Kweku Sakyi-Addo asked journalists on a visit to his office “which of you stores copyright material like music, pictures, audio visuals, or even books on your SIM card.”

    He said the SIM card does not even have enough capacity to store the many contacts people keep on their phones, adding that SIM is mainly to activate the mobile phone to be able to make calls, and not to store copyright material.

    Indeed, industry experts agree that currently the highest memory of a SIM card, until recently was 64kilobytes, which is way too small to copy anything significant; the largest memory of SIM card in Ghana right now is 128kilobyte (from Glo Mobile), and it cannot copy copyright material.

    The experts said even if the SIM holder wants to copy any material apart from phone numbers unto the SIM card, one would need the permission of the mobile operator, and the mobile operator would have to even do the copying directly at source.

    “No mobile operator allows or facilitates copying of copyright material onto SIM cards so the idea of the law is completely irrelevant,” he said.

    Meanwhile import duty on mobile phones, which could copy copyright material has rather been abolished, but the duty is rather on SIM card, which cannot practically copy such material.

    Some pundits have even asked if there is a 20% import tax on swipe cards like VISA card, MASTERCARD, E-Zwich card and others, which may probably have same memory as SIM cards.

    Kwaku Sakyi-Addo said the chamber is pushing to have the tax removed.

  • Nigeria's Communications Commission (NCC) has confirmed that it is seeking to reclaim unused radio spectrum from the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) which could be resold to the mobile network operators.

    There have been several meetings already to secure the release of addition 2.5Ghz spectrum, although local politics has proven to be a barrier to progress.

    NCC executive Dr. Bashir Gwandu said "Both the 2.5GHz and the 700MHz are in the hands of NBC at present and we have to work to free the bands for efficient use. I do not believe any of such bands are being used efficiently as at today and the country cannot continue to wait."

internet

  • The Facebook page of Hizb Ettahrir, an Islamist political party that is legally unrecognized in Tunisia, was hacked last night by a Tunisian group claiming affiliation with the international cyber activist collective Anonymous.

    A representative of the Tunisian Anonymous group, calling himself "CaliforniaKB," said that the attack was motivated by the activity of the Tunisian hacking group Fellaga, who he accused of working for Hizb Ettahrir, and last Wednesday's desecration of the national flag by an Islamist protester at Manouba University.

    The representative said that the group did not have an ideological orientation, but was simply defending the "people's freedom."

    "We are not liberals, we do not represent any political party. We are for the people, we are the people. We fight fire with fire, we were watching and doing nothing until we saw the Tunisian flag getting down in Manouba University," CaliforniaKB explained.

    CaliforniaKB also stated that the group is not against Islamism. "We are not against Hizb Ettahrir. Personally, I am a Muslim; we are against any extremist idea whether from left, right or center," he asserted.

    Ridha Belhaj, spokesperson of Hizb Ettahrir, expressed that the party was undaunted by the attack. "This is a cowardly thing to do; instead of confronting us, they resorted to these methods. This will not put us down, we will always be here," Belhaj said.

    Belhaj also declared that Hizb Ettahrir was not involved in the flag incident that occurred in Manouba university. "We had nothing to do with it. We are against violence - these are Hizb Ettahrir principles," said Belhaj.

    The representative of Anonymous in Tunisia threatened future attacks against the Tunisian government if they do not, "achieve the aims of the revolution," and claimed to have access to incriminating e-mails and "financial documents" about the government.

    "We do have access to many secret files. We are waiting for the good moment to take you down unless you finish the revolution in the right way," said CaliforniaKB.

  • Prudence Okoilu, a 300 level student of Physics and Electronics, University of Lagos (UNILAG), recently opened a social network website "HIPINGG." Its feature combines Facebook, Twitter and Pinging. Tosin Adesile met with him to talk to him about what it does.

    Tell us about yourself?

    I'm Prudence Okoilu, a student who also doubles as an internet entrepreneur. By this I mean, a programmer, website hacker and Graphic designer.

    As an internet entrepreneur, what significant project have you embarked upon?

    I've studied website and what people like. I started a website that allows people to ping without their blackberry but with the use of laptop and the likes. The website is live and its members are increasing daily and work is still in progress to make the initiative better. I studied some feature from facebook, twitter and blackberry. All these were brought together to make hipingg.

    When did you start working on it?

    I started working on it in October , 2011 and it became operational on December 24, 2011. Currently, we have more than 170 people on hipingg,I envisage that over 50,000 people would have joined the website before next year.

    What is unique about Hipingg?

    You can ping and it has a recent update unlike facebook and it combines the feature of blackberry, twitter and facebook as I have said earlier.

    As a student, how do you combine your studies with these?

    I work on weekends and also with the support of friends

    What is unique about you?

    Marx Zuckerberg, Sean Parker are programmers and unique in the system. As a Nigerian, I think an idea like this is unique coming from a 19-year-old trying to get closer to the achievement of the founder of Facebook and particularly, Sean Parker who has achieved his feat.

    Why Hipingg?

    Just because it is Hipingg and it's different and unique on its own. Very soon, we'll add more features and meet more creative people on the site. Hipingg team is not complete yet and we are still trying to get our mobile site that will be useful for different electronic gadgets.

    General advice to the youths: If you're not on Hipingg, you're missing the fun. It is indeed a re-definition of social media.

  • Last Tuesday Tunisia celebrated the National Day of Internet Freedom. A ceremony was held at the Carthage Presidential Palace, where the Tunisian President paid tribute to the memory of Zouhair Yahyaoui.

    Yahyaoui was one of Tunisia's first vocal online political dissidents who fought against corruption during the Ben Ali era. His publication of the critical TuneZine blog led to his arrest and reported torture by the former regime. He died on March 13, 2005, at the age of 37.

    A number of bloggers whose names figured prominently in the Tunisian Revolution, such as Slim Ammaou and Lina Mhani, were also honored by the President. Although the initiative seems to be appreciated and welcomed by many Tunisian bloggers, some expressed skepticism regarding the progress Tunisia has made toward realizing genuine Internet freedom in Tunisia.

    Sami Bouguarbia, a Tunisian blogger whose blog was the first to be censored by the former regime in 2000, expressed his frustration over the fragility of internet freedom in Tunisia. "It's quite impressive to recognize a national day of Internet freedom, but it is also frustrating to feel that Internet censorship could take other forms - mainly moral or religious," he said.

    Reporters Without Borders have lately released a report analyzing the evolving context of Internet freedom in Tunisia. The report highlights the tangible progress Tunisia has achieved since the fall of Ben Ali's regime in terms of Internet freedom. However, the report cautions, "the potential resumption of filtering as a way of resorting to the former repressive measures."

  • Ghana has been ranked number one in Africa as the country with the highest Internet speed, according to the latest global internet speed report released March 5, 2012 by US-based, Ookla.

    Ookla is the global leader in broadband testing and web-based network diagnostic applications, and its report was based on millions of recent test results from Speedtest.net. Its NetIndex compares and ranks consumer download speeds around the globe, and reported Ghana had an average broadband speed of 5.13 megabits per second.

    This year's results for Ghana were obtained by analyzing test data between Feb 10, 2012 and Mar 14, 2012; tests from 31,183 unique IPs have been taken in Accra, and of 182,596 total tests, 10,624 were used for the current Index.

    According to the index, Ghana beat Kenya to second place with 4.49Mbps, South Africa to sixth place with 2.98Mbps, and near-by Nigeria to the eighth place in Africa with 2.3Mbps.

    Morocco, Angola, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Libya were all in the top ten, but obviously behind Ghana.

    Between the telecom operators in Ghana, professed broadband speeds range from 3.1Mbps (Expresso) to 14.4Mbps (Vodafone).

    But the index reported Ghana Telecom (Vodafone) had 6.13 Mbps, as per consumer experience; Zipnet/Broadband Home Ltd had 2.02 Mbps, and Scancom Limited (MTN) has 1.51 Mbps, and they constituted the major Internet service providers (ISPs) in country.

    Obviously, Vodafone has maintained its position from last year as the network with the highest internet speeds in Ghana

    At the global level, Lithuania was first with 31.67Mbps followed by South Korea with 30.59 Mbps, and Latvia in third place with 27.42 Mbps.

    Ghana placed 72nd in the global rankings; ahead of Italy at 73rd with 5.05Mbps and several other European countries. Kenya came in at 75th; South Africa, 105th, and Nigeria, 129th.

    Ookla solutions have been adopted by nearly every Internet Service Provider in the world, and have been translated into over 30 languages for use by thousands of small businesses, federal and state governments, universities and major organizations such as AT&T, BBC, Cisco, Comcast,
    FCC, Reuters, Time Warner, Verizon, Vodafone and Vonage.

  • Netpage has launched a new WiMAX-based wireless broadband service in Gambia, under the banner ‘4G Max Evolution’, which hit the market on 15 March 2012. Netpage is offering fixed-wireless internet connection speeds of up to 20Mbps and ‘fully mobile’ connectivity with speeds of up to 9Mbps over a WiMAX 802.16e-based network in the 2.3GHz to 2.4GHz frequency range.

     Modem devices being offered at launch are: the ‘Max Egg’ mobile WiMAX/Wi-Fi router (promising data speeds of up to 9Mbps), the ‘Max Indoor’ WiMAX/Wi-Fi modem (up to 12Mbps), and the Max Outdoor WiMAX antenna/modem for extended coverage within 15km of a Netpage base station (up to 20Mbps). A Netpage spokesperson said that: ‘the devices that we have can provide speeds of up to 40Mbps’. At launch the wireless broadband service offers coverage of eight locations in the greater Banjul/Serrekunda region. Planned coverage in the near future encompasses 14 locations.

computing

  • Huawei Technologies Company Nigeria has awarded ICT scholarships to 15 students of the University of Lagos. The Huawei ICT Scholarship scheme is targeted at full-time undergraduate students who are committed to a career in ICT- related fields. The scholarship covers tuition fee, accommodation, study materials and upkeep. Each of the students received N200,000.

    Speaking at the presentation ceremony, Mr. Wei Chengmin, the company's President, Western Africa Region, said the scheme was part of the organisation's community social responsibility initiative aimed at developing talents for the ICT industry.

    He said: "This scheme supports educational bodies to encourage and cultivate talents in the telecom field, equipping them with sufficient knowledge about telecom technology, thereby bridging the digital divide among communities, regions and countries through education.

    "This is part of our commitment to "Bridging the Digital Divide" through education, which is one of the cardinal objectives of Huawei CSR strategies in Nigeria."

    Wei said the choice of University of Lagos for the pilot scheme was due to its exemplary contributions to ICT education in the country and its continuous adoption and deployment of ICT in every area of its business.

    In his remarks, the institution's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Babatunde Sofoluwe, thanked the company for the gesture, adding that support from corporate organisations for educational institutions is necessary in view of government's limited resources.

    One of the award recipients, Kesa Oluwafunmilola, said the award would ginger them to work harder and encourage them to aspire to the top. She stated their resolve to put in more efforts next year in order to be qualified again for the award.

  • The Ministry of Health recently advertised a tender for the supply of computer equipment for hospitals in Oshakati, Rundu, Keetmanshoop and Windhoek as part of the implementation of the E-Health system.

    According to information in the Tender Bulletin, the value of the submissions ranges between N$4,2 million and N$10,1 million.

    Health Ministry Permanent Secretary (PS) Kahijoro Kahuure has confirmed that the equipment is intended for the implementation and use of the ministry's Integrated Health Care Information Management System (IHCIMS), also known as the E-Health System.

    Last year Health Minister Richard Kamwi launched the E-Health system in Windhoek at the Windhoek Central Hospital, and said that the system will play a significant role in the delivery of healthcare services.

    According to tender specifications, submissions were to be made for the supply of 340 desktop personal computers (PCs) and 95 laptops. 180 PCs and 45 laptops are intended for Oshakati, 60 PCs and 20 laptops are intended for Keetmanshoop and 100 PCs and 30 laptops are intended for Rundu.

    This means that no new PCs or laptops will be assigned to the Windhoek Central and Katutura hospitals.

    The implementation of the E-Health system comes at a cost of N$54,3 million over a three-year period, and Kahuure said that "the system development and implementation cost for Windhoek Central and Katutura hospitals as a pilot project is N$9,2 million".

    Kahuure said in addition to this the Namibian Government has received a grant of US$5 million (N$37,7 million) from the Indian government.

    "A portion of this grant will be used to supply computer hardware, servers, printers and other related peripheral devices which will cater for hospitals across the country," Kahuure said.

    He said that a tender for the procurement of this equipment was advertised in India and has closed, and that the equipment is expected in Namibia in either June or July this year.

    According to Kahuure, the network infrastructure and computer equipment cost is estimated to be N$30 million, but added that it is not to be used exclusively for the E-Health system.

    The implementation of the E-Health system will be carried out over three phases, Kahuure said, adding that the first phase is the pilot project currently underway at the two State hospitals in Windhoek.

    In the second phase the E-Health system will be extended to 14 hospitals which will start in May this year and will conclude in April 2013. The third phase is expected to start in May 2013 and by "March 2014 all 34 hospitals will be completed and they will be operating as 100 per cent paperless hospitals."

    Kahuure said that 85 per cent of the "system modules" are up and running at the Windhoek Central Hospital and it is expected that the system will be 100 per cent operational by the end of April this year.

  • The Committee to Protect Journalists told Bikyamasr.com that today Angolan police raid at the independent weekly Folha 8, which was conducted in connection with a politicized investigation into the publication of a satirical photo montage. Officers confiscated all of Folha 8′s computers, effectively crippling the operations of one of the country’s two remaining independent publications.

    About 15 officers of the Angolan National Directorate of Criminal Investigations arrived at the Luanda offices of Folha 8 at around 1 p.m., according to the paper’s editor-in-chief, Fernando Baxi. The officials took away about 20 computers from the newsroom, António Setas, said. Officials also forced Baxi to remove the battery of his cell phone during the seizure to prevent him from communicating with anyone, Setas said.

    In an interview with the Portugal-based news agency LUSA today, Folha 8 editor William Tonet said the raid was connected to a public prosecutor’s December 2011 criminal investigation into the paper’s re-publication of an Internet photo montage lampooning President José Eduardo dos Santos, Vice President Fernando Piedade Dias dos Santos, and Gen. Manuel Helder Vieira Dias Júnior Kopelipa, the military adviser to the president. No formal charges in the investigation have been filed, but the newspaper’s computers could be used as evidence against them in the case.

    An obtained copy of the search warrant signed by Public Prosecutor João Vemba Coca, called on Angolan police to seize all computers and tools used to commit “acts that constitute the crime of outrage against the state, the person of the president, and the organs of the executive.” Folha 8 has reported on government corruption and has also covered the recent anti-government protests challenging Dos Santos’ 32 years of rule. Without its computers, the paper is unable to publish.

    Angolan police spokesman Carmo Neto did not immediately return calls for comment.

    “The seizure of Folha 8′scomputers is a crude act of censorship meant to silence one of the few remaining independent news outlets in Angola,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “Satire is not an outrage against the state-it’s an important part of robust debate in a free society. We call on authorities to return Folha 8′sequipment at once and put an end to this politically motivated investigation.”

    Journalists at Folha 8 have been targeted before. In October 2010, authorities handed Tonet a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 10 million kwanza (US$105,000), which he is still appealing. The journalist had written stories alleging corruption and abuse of power by five senior officials close to Dos Santos, according to local journalists.

  • The Minister of Education, Lee Ocran, says in order to help improve ICT education, his ministry would soon be donating laptops to all teachers across the country, to make them competitive in discharging their functions in a ICT knowledge society.

    The Minister made the announcement when he spoke at the launch of the rlg Foundation on Monday, during which His Excellency Vice President John Dramani Mahama was the Guest of Honour.

    Speaking on the ministry's commitment to raising Ghana's ICT education to the highest standards, Ocran affirmed how the pursuit of ICT advancement can help accelerate national development.

    He said in line with the sector's policy on transforming education through ICT, 60,000 rlg computers were already being distributed to school children nationwide, under the Basic Schools Computerisation Project.

    In agreement with other speakers, Ocran made it categorically clear that his ministry did not import the computers, but rather contracted rlg, a local company, to produce the said laptops, because it believed in supporting local Ghanaian industries to grow.

    He, therefore, indicated that his ministry was working feverishly on seeking continuous collaboration with rlg to provide laptops for all teachers, and to train them on how to use the equipment. This way, he said, teachers can upgrade their skills and offer better guidance to the children in their care.

  • The US government is to extend technical assistance to Kenya in developing ICT strategies on universal access and broadband.

    According to an agreement signed between the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and USAID, the US Government shall assist CCK in developing strategies to stimulate universal access to ICT services in underserved and un-served areas of the country.

    The technical assistance covers the development of a national broadband strategy to underpin the deployment of modern broadband infrastructure to meet the needs of businesses, government and the entire economy. The assistance, which shall be provided through the USAID's Global Broadband and Innovations (GBI) initiative, will also assist CCK in developing capacity in universal service Fund management, and universal service.

    In his address, Ag. CCK Director-General Mr. Francis W. Wangusi said the development of universal access and broadband strategies would invigorate the growth of the ICT sector and thus accelerate the development of other sectors of the economy, including provision of e- and m- government services.

    Citing the ICT Access Gaps Study undertaken by CCK last year, Mr. Wangusi said close to 1,120 sub-locations out of the total of 7,149 in the country had no access to basic communication services. This situation, he added, called for urgent regulatory interventions to facilitate the transition of a sizeable number of Kenyans to the digital age.

    The Director-General decried the prevailing low penetration of data/internet services in Kenya, saying the country had only 5.2 million Internet subscribers, of which 2.33% were broadband. He said the strategies to be developed through USAID's technical assistance would play a key role in improving access to communications services in all parts of the country.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Omidyar Network and Accion International have invested USD3.2m in Mobile Transactions International, a Zambia-incorporated company that leverages mobile technology and an agent network to enable financial transactions across the Zambian economy. The USD4m investment round also includes USD500,000 in converted debt funding from Mennonite Economic Development Associates.

    Mobile Transactions has also received previous equity funding from Frontier Investments and Sarona Asset Management. Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam.

    Mobile transactions and payment processing companies are a popular new target for PE investors in Africa, where governments, donors and the private sector in many countries are working to expand access to financial services through technology and ‘cash-lite’ mobile banking.

  • In a statement issued in Accra on Tuesday, it was revealed that UniBank Ghana Limited has collaborated with Airtel Money and Star Micro Insurance.

    The aim is to offer life insurance coverage for free (no premiums paid) as an additional benefit to subscribers who use Airtel’s mobile commerce product, Airtel Money.

    Airtel stated that Airtel Money users and their next of kin would be covered by the insurance package when they keep an average minimum balance of GHC 5 at the end of every month.

    Kola Sonola, the Director of Mobile Commerce at Airtel Ghana, says Airtel is pleased that the introduction of the insurance policy tops up the other numerous advantages Airtel Money offers to users.

    He said, “What we are doing at Airtel is to look at introducing products which are innovative and which our subscribers will find useful.”

    Sonola stressed that Airtel Money is continuing to build partnerships with other financial institutions and businesses to ensure it provides its subscribers with products to suit their daily needs.

    Donald Gwira, the Head of Corporate Communications and External Affairs of Airtel Ghana, explained that Airtel Money users would enjoy the insurance benefit, when they text ”uniBank” to short code ”3131”. They will then receive a confirmation message upon success. The product is open to Ghanaian residents between the ages of 18-75.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

Digital Content

  • iZimbabwe’s Fungai Machirori, has launched  a website dedicated to discussing and articulating Zimbabwean women’s issues and experiences. Being one of Zimbabwe’s most insightful writers and one who’s already been already writing so much about her experience as a woman means the website is set to deliver quality content, something that you’ll agree is so much in short supply on the local web in Zimbabwe.

    Two days ago the website went live. Already the amount and depth of information on the site is pleasing. Looks like Machirori has managed to bring together a talented team of writers. The tech side of the project looks solid too; the website has been designed by the same folks who work on Zimbojam, Zimbabwe’s most popular and fast growing entertainment news website.

    It’s been said too many times and it remains true that Zimbabwe, and indeed the wider Africa, needs more relevant content for its internet users. Her Zimbabwe brings that, and it brings top quality content too.

    In terms of the type of content the website has, from what we can tell, it’s a multi-author blog written mostly by women but also has male writers contributing. The iZimbabwe article refers to it as a portal, a term that lost meaning (to us at least) ages ago, so we’ll just go with calling it a ‘multi-author blog’ for now. The posts include videos as well, like this one in which the founder explains what Her Zimbabwe is about. You can visit herFacebook page here:

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  • World Economic Forum chooses SEACOM’s Brian Herlihy as a Young Global Leader for 2012
     
    Brian Herlihy, Executive Director at SEACOM, has been named as one of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) 192 Young Global Leaders for 2012. The annual honour recognises up to 200 outstanding young leaders from around the world for their professional accomplishments, commitment to society and potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world.
     
    Herlihy’s role in helping to bring high-speed Internet access to more of Africa’s people through the SEACOM high-capacity submarine cable system earned him a place on the prestigious list. He is the founder of SEACOM and was the Chief Executive Officer of the company at launch, and now focuses on strategic projects essential for SEACOM’s continued growth and success.
     
    As one of the 2012 honourees, Herlihy will become part of the broader Forum of Young Global Leaders community that currently comprises 713 outstanding individuals. The YGLs convene at an Annual Summit, which will be held this year in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on 14 to 18 April.

  • Create your own SMS application with ForgetMeNot Africa and launch it on the Econet Zimbabwe network

    There’s an amazing opportunity in Zimbabwe to create your own apps business. ForgetMeNot Africa, Jumpstart Community, TechZim and Econet Wireless Zimbabwe are working in partnership to offer the chance for Zimbabwean developers to create new SMS applications. Details of the ForgetMeNot Africa Optimiser Platform can be found here.

    Successful developers will earn revenue for apps that are successfully launched in Zimbabwe on the FMNA platform, and the winning team/individual receive up to 3 iPads and $2,000 seed capital. The ForgetMeNot Africa team will provide consistent support and mentoring for all developers and there’s even a potential opportunity to have your app launched in other countries where FMNA operates.

    Key dates:

    • 27th March – JumpStart Community Launch Event (18:00 at the Harare Club)

    • 28th March – Workshops with FMNA technical personnel (08:00 and 13:00 at the Harare Club)

    • 20th April – Ideas Deadline

    • 2nd May – Shortlist Announced

    • 19th May – TestDrive final (at the Harare Club)

    To enter:

    1. Become a member of the Jumpstart Community

    2. Register as a developer on the FMNA platform

    3. Submit your app onto the Econet eTXT platform

    For more information on the Zimbabwe ZeTXT apps challenge visit the official website, and join the official ForgetMeNot Developers Facebook page