[AfrICANN-discuss] FW: Issue 528: Worldreader.org trials Amazon Kindles in Ghanaian schools and plans to roll-out in other African countries

Anne-Rachel Inne anne-rachel.inne at icann.org
Sat Oct 30 11:28:21 SAST 2010

Issue no 528
29th Oct 2010


Top Story


Telecoms News


Internet News


Computer News


On the Money




Worldreader.org trials Amazon Kindles in Ghanaian schools and plans to roll-out in other African countries

Worldreader.org’s CEO David Risher is passionate about encouraging reading. After a “road to Damascus” moment in an orphanage in Ecuador with a locked library, he decided with his co-founder that Kindle e-readers would be an effective way of relighting the reading habit in developing country schools. He chose Ghana to try out this idea and this week he talks to Russell Southwood about progress so far.

In this issue


telecoms news
Safaricom signs M-Pesa Mobile Money deals with Uchumi Supermarkets and Naivas
Telecom Namibia Battles Underground Cable Damage
Telkom Kenya Calls Back With Lower CDMA Charges
France Telecom steps up interest in Benin
Internet NEWS
MTN relaunches UUNet as MTN Business in Kenya and targets the corporate market
Spectrum Out With Back-ups for Internet
Mobile Internet Revolution Takes Zimbabwe by Storm
Computer news
Controversy Brews at Addis Chamber Over IT Solution Buy
Plans to Set Up Science & Technology Park in Gambia
Mauritius to Employ 30,000 Ugandans to position itself as IT hub
On the Money
Zimbabwe Parliament Ratifies U.S.$45 Million Loan for NetOne
Red tape holds up Microsoft BEE deal
Lower revenues, higher ad costs prompt net income slump for MobiNil in 3Q10
Rural Varsities Get Better Connected in South Africa in R28 million funding deal
Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage
Web and Mobile Data News
People, Events, Jobs and Opportunities, Contracts



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Worldreader.org trials Amazon Kindles in Ghanaian schools and plans to roll-out in other African countries

Worldreader.org’s CEO David Risher is passionate about encouraging reading. After a “road to Damascus” moment in an orphanage in Ecuador with a locked library, he decided with his co-founder that Kindle e-readers would be an effective way of relighting the reading habit in developing country schools. He chose Ghana to try out this idea and this week he talks to Russell Southwood about progress so far.

David Risher took his family off round the world on a year long vacation, visiting places in Asia and Latin America. He and his wife schooled their children while away using books on an Amazon Kindle e-reader. During one part of their trip, they visited an orphanage and found that what had once been a library was padlocked and no-one could find the key.

”The girls in the orphanage had lost interest in reading.” These two things came together and he and his co-founder began to think about how they could give access to books to students using the Kindle e-reader device:”The technology is useful in the developing world where paper can’t reach.”

Worldreader.org chose Ghana because according to Risher:”Its Government was stable and it was focused on education.” It ran a two week trial and during that time it became clear that the students felt it was like using a mobile phone. However, there were four hours training time over the two weeks for both teachers and students.

Now it is in the process of putting e-readers into six schools, two from each different education level: primary, junior high and secondary. A research project will be conducted with another set of schools that have no e-readers for the purpose of comparison. So there will be 500 teachers and students with access to the device and 500 without.

An international donor is paying for the research that will ask two fairly fundamental questions: do the students with access to the Kindles read more and does their reading level increase? Alongside these two questions, it will look at how the Kindle is used in the family setting and how the teacher incorporates new material into the curriculum. Refreshingly, Ritter wants the research to be “arms-length and credible for us and the funders” rather than a piece of advocacy work.

The Kindle e-readers will have three roughly equal categories of material: classics like Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo and Nathanial Hawthorne for advanced years study (where the material is out of copyright); local books in English and vernacular languages that it has helped Ghanaian publishers digitise; and text books. Among the local books is one called The Shark about a student wrongly accused of having an affair with her teacher.

Content will be rolled out in three phases. Phase 1 will be pre-loaded books that come with the Kindle loaded on by Worldreader.org. Phase 2 will be materials that the teachers have added. And phase 3 is where it might get really interesting. Students will be given US$15-20 to buy any books they want:”If we give children a budget to rent or buy books, it will become demand-driven.”

So how well can the Kindle survive the rough and tumble of the school environment?: “It is good but not great. School is where kids throw things around. We haven’t lost any to this kind of damage yet. We partnered with M-Edge who make neoprene jackets for them and they’ve donated jackets that we hope will protect them.” In the medium to long-term, he’d like to be able to influence their design to make them faster and more rugged.

The money to be able buy the US$250 readers has come from a range of different sources, largely private: from some ex-Microsoft employees in Seattle who wanted smart ways to invest their money socially and through “in-kind” donations. Amazon donated some initial readers and is offering discounts on the rest.

Worldreader.org chose the Kindle because it is more or less a single function machine and is therefore cheaper than its equivalent tablet devices like the iPad:”For the developing world, an iPad is overkill.” Risher also believes that as a reader only it is less distracting for students. The 3G capability means that books can be delivered in relatively far-flung places as 3G networks expand. It has only limited Internet capability:”You can get it to cough up a Wikipedia article but its Internet functionality is very limited.” Furthermore, the 1 hour recharge lasts in most instances two weeks but obviously makes access to electricity a must.

The mid-term ambition once the pilot has been evaluated is two-fold: firstly, to learn the lessons of the pilot and to continue to expand and secondly, to roll-out to more countries, some of which will be in Africa in the near term:”In choosing, there are many factors but two are really important. There are infrastructure factors: is there 3G coverage? But the real issue is we’re trying to change human behaviour. So in the next geography we go to, it will be about the willingness of Government to embrace this.”

Worlreader.org are not the first organisation to travel this road so it’s worth reviewing some of the general issues raised when this kind of project comes into view:

* Africa’s not a reading culture: Yes, Africa has a wonderful oral tradition of storytelling and should have for many years to come. But reading is a key skill from the most basic functional literacy (filling in a form) to accessing the new digital world (SMS and the Internet). Notwithstanding the continuing debates about the dumbing- down impact of global culture, there is a clear causal link between reading levels and the development of a society. And perhaps this may be as strong a causal link as the roll-out of broadband. There are issues of local language and the availability of local materials but these are more likely to be solved if there is a distribution system in place.

* It’s a waste of money. Why don’t they just spend more money on education (or something else that the person thinks is important)?: This is a classic development argument that is both self-defeating and unreal. Ten years ago, development experts were arguing that more water stand-pipes were needed, not the Internet. The truth is that the development community does not really get to make these choices. Middle class African parents will buy themselves or their kids iPads or Kindles and get ahead in the race to succeed. Private investors put in 3G networks that others will use. Classrooms that have no windows when the Kindles arrive will simply demonstrate uneven development and in the best of circumstances, inspire people to improve things more generally. They find money to build churches and mosques, so why not money to improve schools? However, this will only happen if the teachers, parents and children love the device that is introduced and prove it can work. And on things like the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), the jury’s still out.

* Africans can’t afford it: At US$250, this puts it squarely out of the reach of all but the LSM9-12 categories. However, at US$100, which is where the price of Kindle-type devices is most likely headed, then it’s easier to imagine a wider range of users wanting to buy it for their children. We’ve seen iPad knock-offs that Chinese manufacturers are claiming that they can bring in at under that price. All over Africa, there is a thirst for education amongst parents of a wide range of backgrounds and incomes, and if they are convinced that reading will help their children get ahead, then it will begin to succeed both inside the market (where parents buy them) and outside the market (where donors buy them).

* But it doesn’t give them Internet access or full this or full that: The Kindle is uni-functional as against something like the OLPC, which is multi-functional. The strength of uni-functional is that it brings the price down and in concentrating on one thing allows the user to get quick access to that single function. You don’t always have to be worrying about software glitches, incomprehension at operating systems and the delicacy of PC innards in a tropical climate. However, there a ladder of expectations across all technologies. If some of your friends start getting smartphones to access Facebook, you don’t say to yourself, “well, I’ll just sit this one out while they get on with it.”

Too much African education is repetition and rote learning. The more students and their parents as knowledgeable, or even more knowledgeable, than teachers, the greater the opportunities of raising the level of expectation beyond learn and repeat-type lessons. Demand-driven education – both inside and outside the classroom – may well expand horizons faster than any Ministry of Education or curriculum can keep up with. The digital transition in broadcast has already seen education channels introduced in Kenya and Nigeria. Who knows, we may even get to a position where students understand how to analyse problems and then begin to solve them. And in that they’d certainly be ahead of most of the current elderly generation of African leaders. But hey, maybe I’m just an optimist.

It’s worth repeating that Africa now has the bandwidth to make these kind of technology interventions that ten years were the embarrassing failures where things like PCs were sometimes not even unpacked from their boxes in schools. Now there is the bandwidth to deliver to the edges of the 3G network, so the question will be: will students love to use this device and will it make reading more widespread?





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Safaricom signs M-Pesa Mobile Money deals with Uchumi Supermarkets and Naivas

Safaricom has started to target high turnover retail chains business using its money transfer service, M-Pesa with its latest deal with Uchumi Supermarkets. The deal, which will enable Safaricom's subscribers to use the M-Pesa service to buy goods from two of Kenya's leading retail chains was signed last Friday, deepening the country's foray into the era of cashless transactions.

The partnership involving Uchumi Supermarkets, which is Kenya's second largest retail chain by annual turnover, and fourth placed Naivas deepens the mobile money transfer platform's transformation into a key electronic commerce tool with the potential of upsetting the cash-based transaction system that currently dominates the country's commerce.

"Our aim is to bring about a situation where M-Pesa subscribers will leave home with money in their M-Pesa accounts and not need any other form of cash to transact during the day," said Michael Joseph, the outgoing Safaricom CEO. "This is only the beginning of a new revolution because we also plan to sign up petrol stations, restaurants, hotels, and chemists as M-Pesa Buy Goods partners," he said.

The move comes at a time when Safaricom's main income earner - sale of airtime - is under severe pressure from a fierce price war that has seen calling tariffs drop to rock bottom levels in the past two months.

Safaricom's signing up of more retailers is hinged on the expectation that use of the service by the estimated 12.5 million M-Pesa customers will boost the company's top line, and help scale down its reliance on voice calls as the main revenue earner. Joseph said the service will initially be free, but will later attract charges.

The Uchumi supermarket's chief executive, Jonathan Ciano said about 20 million shoppers visited Uchumi's stores last year, an indication of the high revenue potential based on the low-margin, high volume pricing model. In the year ended June 2010, shoppers at Uchumi spent Sh9.6 billion. As a listed company, Uchumi is the only supermarket in Kenya that publishes its annual accounts.
(Source: Daily Nation on the web)

Telecom Namibia Battles Underground Cable Damage

tFrequent cable cuts by contractors and builders are resulting in a sharp increase in telecommunications service disruptions, Telecom Namibia said this week. Cut cables usually mean that communications services are needlessly interrupted in a neighbourhood, town or even in a wider area, affecting hundreds of homes and businesses.

Telecom spokesperson Oiva Angula said the disruptions were impacting on the company's business both from a quality and financial perspective. "In order to provide end-to-end, always-on connectivity, other service providers rely on leased circuits procured from Telecom Namibia. This service provisioning is backed by strict Service Level Agreement (SLA) norms due to the need for high quality and resilient connectivity.

"However, frequent stoppages due to cable cuts experienced in the networks cause serious losses to Telecom Namibia - which pays significant penalties on account of non-conformity to SLA norms," Angula said in a statement.

He said the "unpleasant surprise" could be avoided if construction companies and others first contacted the nearest Telecom Namibia office before starting a project that involved digging or disturbance of the earth of any kind.

"A severed cable can be costly to the person or company responsible for the damage, and even more hurtful to someone who needs to make an emergency call but cannot because the phone line is cut," he said.

He called on contractors and builders to familiarise themselves with all services - electrical, water and telephone - at a site before they start work. Telecom Namibia said it will issue a drawing, free of charge, detailing all the information it has on underground cables in the area where work is to be carried out.

"In recent months we have discovered contractors working without mark-up drawings on site - this is a highly dangerous practice and steps must be taken to ensure proper safety procedures are followed," Angula said. He said anyone who failed to comply could be liable for repair costs or civil penalties.
(Source: The Namibian)

Telkom Kenya defends its landline turf with lower CDMA charges

Telkom Kenya has moved to defend its landline turf which has been hit by stiff competition from mobile phones by slashing its tariff on the wireless network offered on CDMA technology by 71 per cent. Subscribers will now make calls for Sh2 per minute down from Sh7 per minute charged previously within the network. Calls from the CDMA wireless service to other networks will cost Sh4 per minute.

The telecoms company has also cut its SMS charges to Sh1 within network while to other networks will be billed at Sh2. Telkom Kenya CEO Mickael Ghossein said the move has been informed by the changing market dynamics and facilitated by the recent successful integration of the different platforms used to support all their telephony services. "This is part of our ongoing commitment to making communication affordable to all, irrespective of the time", Ghossein said.

The high cost of maintaining landlines, estimated at Sh2 billion annually and operate on copper cable prone to vandalism has limited Telkom Kenya from lowering its rates. The high calling rates has seen more consumers shift to cheaper options.

The number of fixed lines uses saw a decline of 0.5 per cent, having decreased to 245,791 in March 2009 down from 247,082 in December 2009. This was against the backdrop of increase in number of mobile users from 19.4 million to 19.9 million in the period under review, registering a growth of 2.7 per cent, statistics from Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) indicate.

At the same time, the number of fixed wireless subscriptions experienced a decline of 41 per cent from 551,132 in December 2009 to 325,022 in March 2010. The new Orange fixed line tariffs will see a reduction in the cost of calling per minute from Sh14 to other networks to Sh12 per minute. Calls to other Orange fixed line handsets, Orange Wireless and Orange mobile will now be charged at Sh.6 per minute from the previous Sh7.

Telkom Kenya will also be offering 30 bonus on-net minutes for all post-paid fixed customers, with the new tariffs is a move at wooing customers. "The bonus minutes will be applied automatically and will be consumed before any billable minutes", he said.

The CEO also said that there has been a phenomenal increase in the number of new fixed line operators despite stiff competition from the mobile sector. Orange has in the past three months lowered its mobile calling tariffs and internet access costs. Orange is the only wireless service (CDMA) provider in the country so far, and dominates the fixed line market
(Source: Business Daily)

France Telecom steps up interest in Benin

Financial journal Les Afriques writes that France Telecom (Orange) has stepped up its interest in taking over state-owned Benin Telecoms, according to an unnamed source speaking to the publication.

France Telecom is known to have held talks on entering the Benin market through a planned privatisation deal, since indicating its interest back in 2007, when the proposal was aired by the African state, but according to the quoted source, the French giant has recently entered a ‘final round of negotiations’ with Benin Telecoms’ board and the government. ‘Since the idea of privatisation was announced, a number of internationally known operators have expressed an interest,’ said the source, adding that financial and technical offers remained under scrutiny, whilst it has been rumoured that Orange’s submission is in pole position, helped by intense lobbying efforts from the company’s delegation in Benin over the past few months.

Another persistent rumour is that a possible deal could also include Bell Benin Communication, a cellco owned by businessman and politician Issa Salifou, despite Benin Telecoms also owning a 100% GSM subsidiary, Libercom. Regardless of the details, the potential takeover fits into Orange's expansion strategy in Africa, with the group currently finalising acquisitions in Togo and Morocco. In the latter market – where it has agreed a minority share purchase of Medi Telecom – it will compete with Maroc Telecom, owned by France rival Vivendi, which is another company previously mentioned in connection with a possible purchase of Benin Telecoms.


telecoms briefs

- Cell C has made a pit stop in Polokwane in its race to hook up the country’s main towns and cities to its third-generation mobile network.Polokwane, the capital of Limpopo province, will have 67% network coverage for now, slightly lower than many of the other cities in which the company has launched its new network.
However, Cell C’s Head of Marketing, Simon Camerer, says the city will have 98% coverage by January next year.Residents of Polokwane, will receive average download speeds of between 6Mbit/s and 9Mbit/s.Gauteng residents will be hoping Pretoria and Johannesburg will be the next on Cell C’s list. Cell C CEO Lars Reichelt has said Gauteng should go live in mid-November. However, he has also said that the Gauteng roll-out has been more difficult than expected.

- An argument over whether South Africa’s telecommunications regulator has jurisdiction to rule in a dispute between Telkom and Vodacom, MTN and Cell C over interconnection fees, could spell bad news for the traditionally fixed-line operator. Telkom wants the mobile operators to pay it 93c/minute for calls it carries from them onto its new mobile network, 8ta. In turn, it wants to pay them the lower “termination rate” of 89c/minute (in peak times) and 77c/minute (off-peak) for calls in the other direction. The three incumbent operators are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the asymmetrical regime that Telkom wants imposed and has taken the matter to Icasa for resolution. Vodacom on Friday argued that the Icasa committee does not have the right to set an interconnection rate. It said the Electronic Communications Act only allows Icasa, as a full council, to make a decision on pricing. However, Telkom said the act fully empowered the committee to make a ruling on the matter. The committee was required to investigate and make an appropriate finding on an interconnection dispute if requested to do so by the Icasa council, it said.



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MTN relaunches UUNet as MTN Business in Kenya and targets the corporate market

Last Wednesday UUNET was re-branded as MTN Business Kenya, to reflect its principal shareholder. MTN group is Africa's largest telecommunications operator with nearly 130 million cellular subscribers in the region and in the Middle East. "We are leveraging on MTN's continental footprint to up our game in the internet market," said the new outfit's managing director, Tom Omariba.

This is anticipated to renew rivalry in the corporate data market, where the firm currently has about 700 customers. Its competitiors AccessKenya, Safaricom and Telkom Kenya are also fighting from their end to remain strong. According to Omariba, the new structure will give the firm impetus to play within the data sphere and will carry internet traffic from pan-African networks to the rest of the world by leveraging on MTN Business.

"With the rebrand, one of our core objectives is to open up the region for business with additional VAS offerings," said Mr Omariba. In 2004, Verizon South Africa bought UUNET Africa, including the Kenyan subsidiary.

However, in 2008, South Africa-based mobile operator MTN bought 100 per cent of corporate internet service provider Verizon South Africa, which was owned by US-based Verizon Communications (70 per cent) and local group Jay & Jayendra (30 per cent).

Later, MTN (60 per cent) and Telkom South Africa (40 per cent) in a joint venture formed SDN Mauritius that took over 70 per cent of UUNET Kenya. The other 30 per cent is taken by local shareholding.
(Source: Daily Nation on the Web)

Tanzania: National Electoral Commission’s web site not ready for forthcoming election

With only four days to go before the 2010 General Election, information on the National Electoral Commission (NEC) website is shockingly outdated as very few facts and figures are available about the October 31 elections.

The total number of visitors to www.nec.go.tz, currently standing at about 3,500, is an indication of how few people are relying on it as a source of information, although the outdated and limited details can be frustrating.

A quick visit proves that NEC was yet to post up-to-date details of voters and polling centres, or the presiding officers as deployed countrywide. Coupled with constant breakdowns, and the continued use of obsolete information, the site could mislead those intent on using it to monitor or follow the voting progress on Sunday and the subsequent counting exercise.

It is not clear why NEC is yet to update some of the information, including changing the names of former MPs, some who are deceased and others who had already been replaced during by-elections. An example of the site's shortcomings is the retaining of the status of deceased MPs such as Juma Akukweti, Richard Nyaulawa and others as members of the National Assembly. There is also no list of presidential candidates running this year, with Chadema's Dr Willibrod Slaa still being referred to as MP for Karatu.

Under the tag of Voter Register, the latest entry is an update for 2007/2008 that put the total number of voters at 18 million, with an additional 2 million new entries. NEC had indicated this year that those who have been cleared to vote stand at over 19 million.

Last week, the NEC principal education officer, Ms Ruth Masham, told The Citizen in a phone interview that the Commission had been experiencing technical problems in running the website. Asked why tit had not updated it, she said: "This is an internal matter whose details I can't disclose to you but we are working on it and will soon bring it to date." However, part of the problem appears to be a shortage of staff, including those with IT skills.

"We have been overwhelmed by preparations for the General Election and as a result the person tasked to update and manage the website could not get time to do so," Ms Christina Njovu, NEC's public relations officer told The Citizen last week in a telephone interview.

Only a few websites including that of the Bank of Tanzania (BoT), parliament and the national bureau of statistics appear updated, modernised and busy. Some websites belonging to ministries have not been updated with critical information for the past year. The ministry of East African Cooperation is another huge non-performer.

Unlike the corresponding websites of other East African partner states, the local website has no single material posted regarding the East African Common Market protocol that came into force in July. For more than two years, the ministry of Energy and Minerals website is more or less like a "dummy." It has neither energy nor minerals statistics posted on it. "Statistics coming soon," it reads.

The EAC ministry website is outdated, despite its first page claiming that: "It is our fervent hope that our website provides you with beneficial information and assists you in understanding the EAC integration process." The director for Information and Communication Technologies at the ministry of Communication, Science and Technology, Dr Zaipuna Yonah, says the responsibility to manage the websites is within the ministries and agencies themselves.

He said the authorities have realised there is a deficiency in ICT utilisation for communication and has called a meeting for tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss, among other things, matters pertaining to mismanagement of government websites.

"It is unfortunate that the government is not harnessing fully the potentials of the ICT infrastructure it has improved," said Mr Mwenda, chief executive officer of WiA Group, a telecommunications investment management firm in Tanzania. He said lack of effective use of ICT was hurting the country because many potential local and international investors increasingly relied on the internet to get information.
(source: The Citizen)

Mobile Internet Revolution Takes Zimbabwe by Storm

Zimbabwe entered a new digital era last week Friday when the largest mobile phone network Econet Wireless launched its mobile broadband package available to their estimated 4.5 million subscribers.

Econet CEO Douglas Mboweni said this was the most ambitious project they had undertaken since 1998 when the company was launched adding the broadband would be pivotal in reconstructing the country's economy.

Reporting from Harare our correspondent Simon Muchemwa said three broadband packages were being offered; "On the Go" for customers on the move using internet capable handsets and laptops, the "@Home" package for home users surfing for leisure, school and light business and "@Work" for business users.

Muchemwa said customers were asked to send a blank text message to 145 and a confirmation would then be sent by Econet confirming if the line has been activated. Subscribers can then buy internet 'bundles' ranging from 1 to 1000 megabytes to allow them to connect to the internet. Each megabyte costs 50 US cents although many customers were given a free promotional 100 megabytes.

The project has cost Econet close to US$100 million and covers many of the major cities. Previous attempts at launching the service in September last year resulted in an over-subscription and Econet had to suspend offering the service to new customers until the necessary upgrade had been completed.

While the economic advantages are obvious, Muchemwa reports that activists are excited at the prospect of the technology helping to discourage rights abuses. 'Anyone with a camera or video phone can capture incidents of political violence and within minutes the whole world will be watching,' he said.

Cost however will remain the main stumbling block for the service to take root effectively. At 50 US cents per megabyte, many people will struggle to afford the luxury of sending and receiving large files. Early signs are promising though with Muchemwa saying in the first day of the launch hundreds of people in Harare could be seen glued to their phones and laptops surfing the internet.
(Source: SW Radio Africa)

Internet briefs

- Broadband Infraco, the new State-Owned Enterprise (SOE) that will sell high capacity long distance transmission services to network service providers in South Africa, has confirmed that it will unveil its new ZAR1 billion (USD144.1 million) network during the third week of November. The company has been plagued by licensing issues since its inception three years ago. Broadband Infraco has since confirmed that it will operate exclusively within a wholesale business model, targeting both fixed and mobile operators, as well as internet service providers. Licensed operators may buy multiple capacity increments of 155Mbps - up to 10Gbps. Broadband Infraco’s lowest capacity service reportedly offers transmission speeds akin to 20 HD movies being screened simultaneously.

- AccessKenya has announced that it has expanded its WiMAX network to the towns of Nyeri, Nanyuki and Mukurwe-ini in central Kenya. The company said that there have been numerous requests for its services in these areas, with AccessKenya identifying sufficient commercial potential in the region. New customers will benefit from Layer 2 and Layer 3 Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), inter-branch connectivity, MPLS and other value-added services, all of which will be linked to AccessKenya's backbone. In 2009 AccessKenya expanded its WiMAX network from Nairobi and Mombasa to Nakuru, Eldoret and Kisumu in order to meet the growing demand for its services. AccessKenya had signed up 3,000 residential customers during 2009, and is expecting to reach 7,000 by end-2010. Corporate leased-line connections increased from 2,550 to 3,150 during 2009. In August 2010 AccessKenya claimed that it had a 42% share of corporate customers.

- The prospect of having affordable and unprecedented high speed internet services by telecom consumers became brighter last week as Nigeria's Second National Operator, Globacom, formally commenced the commercial services on its multi-million dollar international 10, 000 kilometres submarine optic fibre cable, Glo 1.



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Controversy Brews at Addis Chamber Over IT Solution Buy

The acquiring of a multimillion Birr software solution by the secretariat of the Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association (AACCSA) has provoked stern controversy among the board and management, following a deal entered into between the chamber and CIMAC Inc, an Information Technology (IT) firm based in California.
The chamber is installing an expanded enterprise resources planning (ERP) solution which it procured with 5.2 million Br in funds from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). The ERP solution includes financial, membership, project, human resources, and procurement management as well as payroll and property administration.

Teshome Beyene, secretary-general of the chamber, signed the contract agreement with Seyoum Bereded, representative of CIMAC in Ethiopia, on August 13, 2010. While SIDA granted the chamber close to one million dollars in 2008, the process of selecting an IT vendor took a little over a year.
Meant for seven components of the chamber, the lion's share of the money is set aside for IT. The secretariat hired Africom Technologies Plc, a local company, in July 2008, which it paid 150,000 Br to consult the chamber on its technology requirements.
Africom produced a strategy document and terms of reference (ToR) for the public tender. The document was sent for evaluation by GAIA, a Swedish consultant which the chamber had contracted for evaluation.

Subsequently, a team of three went to the Paris Chamber of Commerce in March 2009, and the East Sweden Chamber of Commerce (ESCC) in May 2009, to determine whether an in-house developed IT solution or a standard off-the-shelf solution would be better for the chamber. The team settled on solution provided by Microsoft.
"Based on the assessment of the team made after the visit and recommendations from Africom and GAIA, it was decided that an off-the-shelf solution was best for the chamber," Teshome told Fortune. "Wes decided to use a solution provided by Microsoft."
For the country's oldest private sector institution which has a 40 million Br annual budget, installing a state of the art IT solution will transform its operation, particularly in managing the status of its 7,000 members on its database, argue those who support the decision by the chamber to buy the solution.
However, not everyone is on the same page regarding the purchase. The issue of whether the chamber's operations require the acquisition of a highly sophisticated and very expensive ERP solution was debated by the board of directors.
A strong critic of the board's decision is Demissie Assefa, a board member who was elected with the second highest number of votes next to Brehanu Getaneh, president of United Bank (UB).

ERP is more appropriate for companies with multiple and diverse operations such as manufacturing plants and airlines, Demissie told Fortune. Its licence and ownership fees are much higher than the original price to acquire the solution.
After a majority of the board of directors voted in favour of the project, the chamber signed an agreement with its Swedish counterpart for the purchase and delivery of computers and servers at a cost of 2.7 million Br, on October 10, 2009.
Five companies which are agents of the Microsoft solution and based in East Africa were invited to take part in the bid. Only four showed interest, of which two, CIMAC and TechnoBrain, submitted technical and financial proposals. They also held their respective presentations to the technical team and executive council members as well as a special advisor and experts from different departments of the chamber.

A technical committee comprised of four - Ketema Bayou, IT manager and chairperson of the committee; Ahmed Aboubeker, capacity building manager; Abdulkadir Hussien, training centre head; and Ayalneh Zerihoun, planning and project services head were tasked with evaluating the proposals.
Both companies scored above 70pc in their technical proposals, according to the findings of the technical committee.
Ketema, chairing the technical team, voiced his dissent with the score given to TechnoBrain in a letter he sent to the secretary-general after the evaluation was concluded. The proposal of TechnoBrain did not meet the specifications in the ToR, he argued.
"TechnoBrain's proposal, while it had Microsoft components, also contained other components which it had developed in-house and which was a complete deviation from our specifications," Ketema told Fortune.With three of the technical committee members voting otherwise, both companies were eligible to bid on their respective financial offers.
However, after three meetings, the chamber's top management decided to drop TechnoBrain from the bidding process and opened the financial proposal made by CIMAC, which had scored 80.25pc, but not of that of its contender.
This was done in a clear violation of the bid document floated for the procurement, according to which a bidding company that scored above the cutoff point of 70pc would qualify to be evaluated financially. TechnoBrain had scored 75.25pc.
The decision to drop TechnoBrain was made after a recommendation from the chair of the technical committee and GAIA pointing out that its proposal contained solutions that were not Microsoft certified, according to Teshome. In addition, "a tender shall be rejected if at this stage it does not respond to important aspects of the ToR," according to SIDA's procurement guideline.

Controversy began after two of the technical committee members and those on the board of directors called for the cancellation of the existing tender and suggested that the chamber redo the bid. The removal of Ayalneh from his position and sending him on forced leave was considered retaliation by the secretariat for his dissent in the handling of the bidding process.
"I believe that I am under pressure to leave my job because of my dissent in the selection of an IT [vendor] while I was working as a technical committee member," Ayalneh appealed to the board of directors in a letter dated August 2010. He questioned the relevance of the technical committee if in the end the management selects its own preferred bidder.
Despite the existence of such dissent within the technical committee, the secretariat decided to consider only CIMAC's financial proposal. As a result, Teshome wrote to SIDA explaining the basis of his decision and requested a "no objection," which he was granted in a positive response on June 17, 2010.
The financial offer of 6.4 million Br before VAT made by CIMAC was included and opened on June 21, 2010. After six rounds of negotiations between the chamber and CIMAC, a deal was made at 5.2 million Br. CIMAC's offer included a licence fee for two years, although the chamber has to pay for it on a yearly basis after that.
The agreement for the delivery of the solution was for one year; CIMAC, which does not have any experience installing the software in Africa, will finish the project in less than the agreed period, according to Seyoum.
However, the board of directors who voted for a budget of 4.8 million Br for the procurement of the ERP solution was not informed before the signing of the agreement, which involved a higher cost than they had approved.
"The deal, which was more than the allotted budget, came as a surprise to the board when it read about it in the chamber's newspaper," Demissie told Fortune.
The amount approved by the board was only for the fiscal year, while what he had signed for was to be disbursed over the coming years, Teshome argued.
Ayalew Zegeye, president of the chamber, declined to comment on the matter, saying that he had been away when the agreement was signed and is not aware of such disputes brewing within the chamber.
(Source: Addis Fortune)

Plans to Set Up Science & Technology Park in Gambia

The government of The Gambia, in partnership with UNESCO and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) are exploring ways and possibilities of setting up a science and technology park in the country.

This development was unveiled Tuesday afternoon at State House in Banjul during a meeting by the Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh with a six-man experts delegation from UNESCO-ISESCO, who are in the country to assess the potential for The Gambia to set up the aforementioned project. The project described as the initiative of the Gambian leader, if successful, would be the country's first science and technology park to be established as part of the relentless drive towards the realisation of the country's development vision.

The president reaffirmed that his government wants to develop this country very rapidly, and stressed that for that to really come true, it takes more than just agriculture, tourism and other sectors, thus, the need to embrace science and technology. He pointed out those countries such as Japan, Malaysia amongst a host others, achieved development thanks to science and technology. Given the importance of this initiative, the president again stated that this is a golden opportunity for The Gambia, which it must not miss, while challenging the concerned stakeholders to take the issue with extra-seriousness and total commitment to see it through. He said that the future of this country depends on the initiative.

"This is one thing that we have to take very seriously because the future of our country depends on this. This is a golden opportunity, something that money cannot buy. It is the only way that we would be able to achieve Vision 2020. Without science and technology, forget it," he emphasised, while further challenging the government officials assigned to the initiative to show unquestionable degree of dedication and commitment.

President Jammeh also used the opportunity to stress that if Africa does not take science and technology seriously, the continent will continue to lag behind. "We are the richest continent in terms of natural resources and to exploit these resources, you need technology. So if you don't have the technology, no matter what you have underground, it will not benefit you," he emphasised. He then concluded by reiterating gratitude to UNESCO and ISESCO for coming to help The Gambia out in its development needs.

For her part, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, the vice president and minister of Women's Affairs was equally thankful to UNESCO and ISESCO for the move, and underscored the significance President Jammeh attaches to science and technology. She said that with the existence of the science and technology park in the country complimented by the education system in place, the country is creating a knowledge-based society. Like President Jammeh, VP Njie-Saidy also reiterated the importance of science and technology, noting that without it in this day and age, one cannot be anywhere. She described that science and technology as very key to development, while observing that many countries are developed due to science and technology.
(Source: Daily Observer)

Mauritius to Employ 30,000 Ugandans to position itself as IT hub

Mauritius wants to recruit about 30,000 Ugandan graduates of information technology as it positions itself as an IT hub. The Mauritius government recently contacted the faculty of computing at Makerere University over the deal. The faculty graduates about 900 IT students every years ago, the highest in the region.

Michael Niyitegeka, an official of the faculty, said Mauritius first contacted the faculty about two years, but the programme stalled over the global economic slowdown. However, Mauritius recently revived interest in recruiting Ugandan IT graduates. "We are waiting for clarification from Mauritius on the specific types of skills," said Niyitegeka.

Mauritius is reportedly compiling more data from local technology firms on the specific IT skills required. Niyitegeka said initially the programme was supposed to be handled by Makerere, but the university is now co-opting the Government so that the state can own the process and manage the recruitment process. Makerere is seeking to involve relevant government authorities like the National Information Technology Authority that have promised to follow up on the offer.

Industry sources expect the process to start early next year. Experts advise that the country's Ministry of Labour has to cross-check the work terms and conditions to ensure that Ugandans are not exploited. "They (Mauritius) have the infrastructure and the facilities but lack the human resource. Uganda has the advantage of numbers compared to any country in the region," said Niyitegeka from the corporate affairs department.

The faculty has emerged as a centre of excellence in the region, with a global appeal. Niyitegeka said the skills needed are largely in database management systems, application development and the applicants must know English and French.
Click to learn more...

Uganda now has to move first to grab the opportunity in the globally lucrative sector of business process outsourcing, he added. This involves call centres, data entry, software development, e-learning and transaction processing. The salary is expected to be about $500 depending on skills, experience and competence. In Uganda, graduate trainees are paid about $100 monthly.
(source: New Vision)


Computer briefs

- Twenty one civil servants from the Workforce Development Authority (WDA), Kicukiro College of Technology and Tumba College of Technology have completed a six-week course in Cisco applications.The training was organised by WDA in partnership with Cisco Networking Academy.

- Hackers on Monday hacked into the servers of MWEB and posted the login details of some clients on the web while the internet service provider was migrating to new servers. It is not the only South African company to be targeted by hackers. According to HackingStats, a South African electronic crime investigation company and website where more than 17,000 hackers post their successes, 1558 websites have been hacked in South Africa this month. More than 14,000 websites were hacked since January - 53 of them government sites.



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Zimbabwe Parliament Ratifies U.S.$45 Million Loan for NetOne

Last Wednesday Wednesday Zimbabwe’s Parliament ratified a US$45 million loan from the Import Export Bank of China for NetOne's second (2G) and third generation (3G) network rollout project set to transform the information communication technology (ICT) industry in the country through connection of the Zimbabwean optic fibre-network to the undersea cable in the Mozambican channel.

Minister of Finance Tendai Biti moved the motion for the ratification of the loan that was contracted on June 1 in Harare between the government and the Chinese bank. The loan has a grace period of five years during which period only the interest and no principal is payable by the borrower to the lender, and goods, technologies and services to be purchased by the proceeds of the loan should preferably come from China.

Biti urged parliament to ratify the loan saying it was good for the nation which still lags behind in technological advancement when compared to the region and the world. The minister said: "Zimbabwe is 23 years behind in technological infrastructure development. The loan will enable us to increase capacity to move to third and fourth generation phone technology (3G and 4G). The country's use of ICT leaves a lot to be desired. There are only 371,000 fixed telephone lines serving only 3% of the population while only 1.4 million people have access to the Internet. We are ranked 132 out of 135 on the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness on Report on technology readiness.

The minister reassured parliament that the loan would not be abused as in the past because of the manner in which the agreement was structured. "Huawei Technologies of China will manage and implement the roll out project. This project will have maximum impact on the rural communities. NetOne will only be a partner in the project but will not have direct access to the resources," the minister said.

The loan is also expected to put NetOne on a good footing to compete against its main competitors locally. Econet leads the pack in subscribers with a massive 4.1 million subscribers, followed by Telecel with 1.,27million and lastly NetOne with 1.1 million subscribers.

Biti said the government was considering offers from international companies that were willing to become strategic partners to NetOne when it is finally privatised in the near future. "The cabinet has agreed on privatising state telecoms utility. Privatisation is on course and I cannot mention the potential suitors now suffice to say some big players on the continent are sniffing around," he said.
(Source: Zimbabwe Independent)

Red tape holds up Microsoft BEE deal

Microsoft is waiting for the department of trade & industry to give it the go-ahead for its empowerment plan so it can proceed with plans to invest nearly R500m in several local black-owned software development companies.

Red tape appears to be holding up the process. Micosoft had been expected to announce the names of the companies it will invest in at the end of May.

“If it were up to me, we would have the process underway already,” says Microsoft SA MD Mteto Nyati, who has now requested a meeting with trade & industry minister Rob Davies to ascertain if there is a way of accelerating the process. Nyati says the company has identified four companies from 650 applicants.

KPMG has assisted the company in the process. Representatives of the Shuttleworth Foundation, the Black Management Forum and the Centre for Entrepreneurship helped make the final selection of four.

But Nyati says the company’s investment plans now require the nod from the department, which has got involved to ensure Microsoft is giving the four black-owned businesses a “fair deal”.

The software giant announced its “equity equivalence” plan in April. In terms of the plan, it will invest R472m in the identified companies over the next seven years.

The plan was hatched between Microsoft and the department because, like other US companies, Microsoft can’t sell a stake in its SA operation for regulatory and other reasons.

Nyati says trade & industry is doing the right thing by reviewing the process. “They have to make sure that the companies we have chosen will get the best out of the investment,” he says.
(Source: TechCentral)

Lower revenues, higher ad costs prompt net income slump for MobiNil in 3Q10

Egyptian cellco MobiNil has released its financial results for the three months ended 30 September 2010, revealing a 41% plunge in net profit, which the operator attributed to lower service revenues and higher costs related to advertising during the month of Ramadan.

In its third fiscal quarter MobiNil posted turnover related to mobile services of EGP2.707 billion (USD467 million), down 3.1% year-on-year, and while takings from connection fees, handsets and roaming all grew against the same period a year earlier, service revenue, which accounts for the bulk of the company’s turnover, fell by 4.7% to EGP2.501 billion.

Net income from mobile services stood at EGP289 million for the three-month period, down 41.2% from EGP491 million a year earlier. Despite the declines, MobiNil CEO Hassan Kabbani did note that the quarter had seen ‘a slowdown in the rate by which revenues are declining despite the seasonal affect of Ramadan.’

Meanwhile, including financial results from the company’s fixed line operations – MobiNil finalised the acquisition of local ISP LINKdotNET and has begun consolidating its results – total company revenues for the quarter were EGP2.74 billion, representing a 2% y-o-y drop, while consolidated net income was EGP280 million, down 42.9% against 3Q 2009. Earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the operator were down 14.1% at EGP1.083 billion.

At the end of September 2010 MobiNil reported that its mobile subscriber base had risen to 28.4 million, up from 24.6 million a year earlier.
(Source: Telegeography)

Rural Varsities Get Better Connected in South Africa in R28 million funding deal

R28 million has been approved to partially fund internet access networks for rural higher education campuses. Higher Education South Africa and the Tertiary Education Network of South Africa (TENET) had requested to further extend points of presence on the existing network to strengthen universities research and teaching capabilities.

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said funds had been approved because the capacity of universities to conduct research was of great importance as it would allow each university to have all its campuses connected at sufficiently high bandwidths.

"This enables shared production and distribution of teaching and learning materials, deployment of centralised administrative systems and processes for the efficient management of multi-campus institutions, access to high performance scientific computing facilities and other educational and research resources via the existing backbone and equitable internet access to other research and education networks globally," Nzimande said.

The first phase of the project, funded by Science and Technology Department for a three year period ending on 31 March 2010, connected seven major cities and towns to a high speed (10 gigabytes per second) network, providing 70 university and research campuses with high speed connection of at least one gigabyte per second to points of presence on the high speed backbone.

It also delivered optical fiber metropolitan access network in Johannesburg that interconnects seven different campuses of the University of Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand, high speed connection from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) satellite application centre at Haretbeesthoek to the CSIR main campus and the Wits main campus and optical fiber access networks in Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria.

However, Nzimande noted that due to network coverage limitations caused by a lack of adequate funding for the project, the full rollout of the project was compromised by not being extendable to the majority of South Africa's remote and rural campuses.

"By being able to provide additional funding toward the completion and extension of this network coverage, there will be enormous benefit to institutions that are not able to connect to the network or who are not able to connect at sufficiently high speed," Nzimande said.

The second phase of the project will see the backbone network being extended to points of presence in Grahamstown, Makhado, Middleburg Nelspruit, Pietermaritzburg, Polokwane, Potchefstroom, Vanderbijl Park and Witbank while TENET will secure at least 50 rural campuses to the presence points.
(Source: BuaNews Tshwane)

On the Money briefs

- The Algerian government has declared that it is only willing to negotiate with Orascom Telecom about the purchase of the company’s local mobile unit, Djezzy, and not with Russian telco Vimpelcom, which has agreed to buy a majority stake in the Algerian telco. Earlier this month, Vimpelcom, Russia’s second-largest mobile operator by subscribers, and Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris agreed to merge their telecommunications assets in a transaction valued at about USD6.5 billion. Algerian government envisions a figure in the range of USD2 billion–USD3 billion for the cellco.

- The government of Guinea-Bissau has announced that Portugal Telecom (PT) is no longer a shareholder in the country’s fixed line monopoly Guine Telecom (GT) and its mobile arm Guinetel. A press release from the government states: ‘The minister of economy has informed the Council of Ministers about the progress of negotiations, which based on a friendly agreement led to the cession of the shares held by PT, representing 40% of GT’s share capital, and the shares held by Portugal Telecom Internacional (PTI), representing 55% of the share capital of GT.’ PTI bought a 49% stake in GT in 1989, but its decision to leave the country in June 1998, at the outbreak of the civil war forced the state to take management control of GT in July 2008, amid accusations that PT had effectively walked away from the two companies. In February 2009 the situation was muddied when PTI claimed it still held a 40% stake in GT and Guinetel.

- MTN Nigeria has signed a deal worth over USD40 million with Chinese equipment supplier Huawei Technologies for the deployment of rural telephony infrastructure in roughly 350 villages across the country before the end of May 2011 while 500 villages will be covered in the second phase before the end of December 2011.’ Following research into Nigeria’s telecoms sector, MTN concluded that around 500 villages and communities and 40 million Nigerians do not have access to basic telephony services. Under the project, Huawei will deploy environment friendly base stations that consume low energy.

- The head of the Tunis stock exchange has confirmed that Tunisie Telecom (TT) is planning a dual listing by the end of this year on the Tunis exchange and a European bourse. Speaking to Reuters, Mohamed Bichiou, chief executive officer of the Tunis stock exchange, said the Tunisian state would contribute 10% of the company's shares, while a further 10% would come from the company’s United Arab Emirates shareholders. TT is majority owned by the state while Dubai’s TECOM Investments and Dubai Investment Group (DIG) jointly hold 35%.Last month Tunisia sold a 3G licence to Tunisie Telecom’s wireless arm Tunicell for USD80 million, putting it on a level footing with rival wireless network operator Orange Tunisia, which secured its W-CDMA concession in July 2009 and has been offering 3G services since May this year.



·        Telecoms, Rates, Offers And Coverage
·        Web and Mobile Data news
·        People
·        Events
·        Jobs and opportunities
·        Contracts

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Telecoms Rates, Offers and Coverage

- In South Africa, Vodacom has thrown down the gauntlet to competitors with the launch of a R1.40 all-day voice call tariff to all mobile operators. Shameel Joosub, the MD of Vodacom SA, said the new rate is the "lowest per-minute rate to mobile networks available to prepaid customers anywhere in SA". He said Vodacom will bill in 30-second increments after the first minute, as opposed to other offers in the market, which are billed in 60-second increments after the first minute. Vodacom has also introduced a flat rate of 50c per SMS for text messages - the same as 8ta. But 8ta gives 50 free SMSes after five sent messages.

- Kigali — Mobile subscribers in Rwanda grew by 44.7% between January and September this year, the industry regulator shows. Statistics obtained from Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) indicate that mobile users grew from 2,497,170 in January to 3,615,467 in September. This is more than a half of the government target of 6 million users by 2012 an indication that the market is growing fast.

Web and Mobile Data News

Technology Revolution Hits HIV Testing and Treatment

Delayed test results often mean HIV patients in Mozambique fail to get timely treatment, but new technology is reducing the need to send tests to far away laboratories, and speeding up test results and HIV treatment.

Mozambique's Ministry of Health has increasingly begun experimenting with new technology to make diagnosing and monitoring HIV patients quicker and easier. After a successful 2009 pilot the country has nationally rolled out SMS or text message printers, which transmit the results of infant HIV tests electronically from two central reference laboratories in Maputo and the northern provincial capital, Nampula, to more than 275 health centres.

Previously test samples and results would have taken on average three weeks, and up to several months to be transported to and from clinics via car, plane and even kayak in remote parts of the country.

According to research conducted by the Ministry of Health and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), who developed the technology, the time it took for clinics to receive test results dropped from an average of about three weeks to about three days after the printers were introduced. Research presented by the Ministry of Health and CHAI at the International AIDS Conference 2010 in Vienna, Austria, showed that this, in turn, reduced the time it took to start infants on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment as part of national prevention of mother-to-child (PMTCT) HIV transmission services by about four months. The number of infants starting treatment also increased by 60 percent.

How the technology works: Clinics collect dried blood spot samples from infants and transport them to the nearest reference lab, where technicians conduct the HIV tests. Results are entered into a database and uploaded onto an online server, which then uses a wireless phone network to transmit results back to clinics. These clinics receive a small, receipt-like print out of the results alongside a patient identification number.

With interruptions in electricity and wireless network signal, the system has an added failsafe - if printers are offline, results are safeguarded in an online queue until the printer is available. The printer's small size also makes storage easy in space-constrained clinics, which must also ensure that the printer is kept in a secure room to guarantee patient confidentiality.

Clinic-based, or point-of-care (PoC), CD4 count machines - vital to measuring an individual's readiness to start antiretroviral treatment - will also be rolled out to selected clinics by the end of November 2010, following positive results from a seven-site trial.

The introduction of an SMS printer to a Matola city clinic, about 30 minutes outside Maputo, has not only meant that babies who test HIV-positive can be started on ARVs sooner - a potentially life-saving intervention - but also reduced the numbers of new mums who disappear from the clinic's PMTCT programme during the long wait times or after having spent time and money on multiple clinic visits to check for results.

The clinic in Matola was also one of initial sites to pilot the PoC CD4 count machine. Smaller than a cash register, it has decreased the wait time for a CD4 count from one week to about 20 minutes, according to lab technician Gerardo Cumbane, who received one day of training on how to operate the new equipment.

As many doctors are hesitant to start patients on ARVs without evidence that their CD4 counts have dropped below 250 - the threshold for treatment initiation in Mozambique - the faster results mean quicker access to the life-prolonging drugs. Currently, the CD4 count machines cost about US$5,000 each.
(Source: IRIN Plus News)

Creation of a Banana Wiki to give reliable spatial information

Soon all information on banana in Africa including the banana growing areas, yield, socio-economic status of the farmers and spread of pests and diseases will be available at the click of a mouse, after experts launched a crop's website.

The banana wiki, (http://banana.mappr.info<http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/8396/239012/1423/0/>) developed by Philippe Rieffel a student of Science in applied Geography at the University of Muenster, Germany under supervision of scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), hopes to make a wide range of reliable spatial information on banana readily available to researchers, policy makers and development workers. "Wiki" was obtained from the free Wikipedia on the internet - websites where anyone can add information. So the banana website has the same concept as anyone will be free to add information.

According to Hein Bouwmeester, a GIS specialist with IITA, currently the website is focusing on banana-growing areas in Africa but if successful, will expand to include the whole world. He said the website was developed entirely with open source software and uses 'crowdsourcing' to build onto an existing geo-database. "The idea behind 'crowdsourcing' is that currently there is no accurate geospatial data on bananas in Africa. So, the platform will outsource the data from local experts in Africa," he said. "The core of the website is the editor that enables a user to view and edit banana growing areas and define their characteristics."

According to Bouwmeester, the website is important as it will allow information to be shared across projects and organisations for research and development work. The platform comes in handy as scientists are grappling with the spread of two deadly diseases that are ravaging the crop and threatening the livelihoods of millions farmers. These are the Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) and the viral Banana Bunchy
(Source: The Monitor)


- Safaricom  appoints new CEO Robert William Collymore who replaces Michael Joseph.

- The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) has a new councillor in the form of Ntombizodwa Ndhlovu, who was sworn in on Wednesday. Ndhlovu is one of three new councillors at the authority. Earlier this month, William Currie and Joseph Lebooa were sworn in at Icasa’s Sandton offices.


G- South Africa
8-9 November 2010, Cape Town, South Africa
Google is inviting Computer Science students, developers and entrepreneurs to G-South Africa. Some of  Google’s best engineers, product managers, business managers and leadership will  be speaking about Google’s open web and mobile technologies.
For further information visit http://sitescontent.google.com/gsouthafrica/<http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/8396/239012/1376/0/>

ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN 2010 - Learning for All
1-3 December, Berlin, Germany
Under the banner of Learning for All, ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN 2010 will dig deep into 4 themes that form the pillars of innovation: Learning Content, Learning About Learning, Learning Ecosystems and Learning Environments, which will contribute to successful learning outcomes in the three learning domains: Institutional Learning, Workplace Learning and Lifelong Learning.
For further information visit www.online-educa.com<http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/8396/239012/1384/0/>

2010 Euro-Africa Week on ICT Research & e-Infrastructures
7-8 December 2010. 7-8, Helsinki, Finland
The “3rd Euro-Africa Cooperation Forum on ICT Research” will be an event filled with discussions and debates, networking opportunities and knowledge sharing among key stakeholders in the field and policymakers coming from all over Europe and Africa. This Conference represents definitely a unique opportunity for all parties interested in the ICT domain to increase the visibility and impact of their activities, to network and expand their knowledge.
For further information click here. <http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/8396/239012/1382/0/>

ICT Finance Emerging Markets Global Summit 2010
6-7th December 2010, London UK BIS Conference Centre
The ICT Finance Emerging Markets Global Summit 2010 takes place at a critical time of opportunity for the world’s growth markets. In joining forces, The Commonwealth Telecom Organisation and BroadGroup TMT Ventures, will launch this compelling content and networking rich platform uniquely connecting key players from government and operator organizations in emerging markets with investors, financiers and professional advisors.
For further info, please visit the event website: http://www.tmtfinance.com/cto/ict/Default.aspx <http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/8396/239012/1413/0/> or email events at cto.int<mailto:events at cto.int>.

5th Africa Economic Forum 2011
7-9 March 2011, Cape Town, South Africa Venue BMW Pavilion, V&A Waterfront
Our 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011 (AEF-2011) in Cape Town at the BMW-Imax Theatre, with Africa Exhibition, over 7-9th March 2011, is a landmark Conference on Africa and significant business networking occasion for the top corporate players active in, across and involved with the development of the African continent - Cape-to-Cairo, with Governments and officials in key industries and state institutions.
Contact: babette at glopac.com<mailto:babette at glopac.com> or visit  http://www.petro21.com/events/?id=578<http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/8396/239012/1414/0/>

ICT For Development in Africa – Sustaining The Momentum, Extending The Reach
23-26 March 2011, Ota, Nigeria
The conference will initiate research and practice agenda where ICTs will aid the academia, organizations - public and private and non-governmental to improve socio-economic conditions and directly benefit the disadvantaged in some manner.
For further information visit http://www.ictforafrica.org/<http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/8396/239012/1377/0/>

eLearning Africa 2011 - Spotlight on Youth, Skills and Employability
25-27 May 2011, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
The 6th event in the series of pan-African conferences and exhibitions will focus on Africa's youth. Africa has the highest percentage of young people anywhere in the world. How can it unlock the vast reservoir of talent? How can technology support education and training?
For further information visit www.elearning-africa.com<http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/8396/239012/184/0/>

Jobs and Opportunities


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South Africa

Young, Dynamic International Company is offering an opportunity of a lifetime...
If you have SAP ISU/AMI experience/knowledge don’t let this slip through your fingers but must have 8 YEARS SAP and minimum 5 YEARS ISU experience.

Bachelors Degree
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SAP AMI account, Contact Management knowledge as well as Implementation experience.

Must have working knowledge of synchronization with ERP orders and notifications.
Knowledge of SAP Middleware concepts and configuration synchronization.
Must have knowledge of the SAP ISU module including interfaces meter readings.
Interested candidates can forward their comprehensive written applications to the following e-mail: it.jobs at hireresolve.co.za <mailto:it.jobs at hireresolve.co.za%20>

Correspondence will only be conducted with short listed candidates. Should you not hear from us within 3 working days after the closing date, please consider your application unsuccessful


INEC Shortlists Zinox, Haier to Supply Ddc Machines -Signs Contract Next Week

Abuja — In what appears to be a recurring decimal, the Independent National Electoral Commission has for the second time in weeks issued three Requests for Quotation to manufacturers of computers and other hardware appliances needed for the voter registration exercise expected to commence in January 2011.

The firms that got the RFQs are Nigerian firm Zinox Technology, Chinese-based Haier Electrical Applia-nces Technology and Avante Technology, a U.S. ICT company.

All three will be expected to deliver 132,000 pieces of notebook computers along with other components that will used during the voter registration.

Under the RFQs, Zenox, was asked to submit quotations for 80,000 units for biometric data capture, an increase from the 42,000 units initially awarded to it before the invalidation of original tender process started by INEC two months ago.

Haier Electrical, which was expected to deliver 90,000 units before the cancellation, will now supply 30,000 units while Avante, which previously was dropped for not meeting the Bureau of Public Procure-ment's criteria, was asked to quote for 22,000 units.

INEC sources said 12 companies applied for the multibillion naira contract, which based on the commission's budget of $2,000 per unit, is estimated to cost over N40 billion ($264 million), but only three were considered capable after they had made their presentations last week.

It was also reliably gathered that the quotations submitted by the three ICT firms are expected to be screened by the BPP between now and Monday, while the Federal Executive Council may give final approval for the contract during its meeting next week.

It was further gathered that the benchmark for the supply of the DDC machines has been pegged at $1443 per unit, which was the lowest quote submitted by one of the companies.

Other companies will be expected to match the lowest quote, in the process saving INEC $557 per unit or $$73.5 million.

Haier had previously bid $843 per unit, which it did to undercut other companies, with the hope of asking for a contract review as the contract progressed.

But the tactic forced INEC to cancel the entire process and restart it from scratch.


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