With less than a million citizens, Djibouti struggles with the abysmal ICT indicators. Its internet hums with 12% penetration while mobile SIM penetration is 36% only. Now flip the page. Nine submarine cables transit at Djibouti to link Africa, the Middle East and Asia with Europe. Australia is coming soon!
The Economist is a plum. In all honesty, I was thrilled we were mentioned. I wish they had gone to people with real data on Africa like RIA, rather than those who simply speculate, but still, a thoughtful piece. While the claim re radio may hold true for Africa, it definitely is incorrect for the Indo-Gangetic plain. Once restricted to the tech-literate, these are now common and easy to use.
Professor Ali Mazrui, originally of Makarere University in East Africa, has passed away. Eulogies are coming out fast and furious, among them this: There is one crucial similarity between prophets on the one hand and public intellectuals on the other. Both seek to define the terms of the debate in an argument. But the terms of a debate cannot be defined alone; this endeavor requires a worthy adversary. It is in this sense that Mazrui and Rodney defined the terms of the debate in the 1960s.
Net neutrality sticks in one’s mind. Alliteration helps. The guy who cooked up the term ran for Lieutenant Governor nomination in New York and lost, but not too badly. Guess that helps explain its inherent openness to multiple meaning imposition. Net neutrality has an extraordinary range of meanings, not all consistent with each other.
Africa lags far behind in every front of ICT indicators, according to the latest report of ITU. Subsequently a recent study of Analysis Mason said, “Every African country has international fibre connectivity, but lack of competition at the national level is keeping prices high.” The study has detected that 35 of the 48 Sub-Saharan countries have no competition among national fiber providers. Eight have limited competition – that is, two providers besides the mobile companies, usually the incumbent fixed-line operator and either the government or the electricity transmission company. Only five countries (Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe) can be said to have effective competition among multiple players.
Two new infoDev-led studies provide insight into the use of mobile phones at the BOP in Kenya and another in 12 countries in Africa including South Africa The Kenya study (carried out by iHub Research and Research Solutions Africa) found that over 60% of the Kenyan BOP owns a mobile phone. However only 25% of them use Internet on their mobile phone. This is quite high in comparison to LIRNEasia’s 2011 Asian study where less than 4% of the South Asian BOP surfed the Internet via the mobile with Java been the exception where 10% accessed internet via the phone. Further more it was found that at least 20 per cent of the Kenyan BOP respondents felt it was necessary to make real sacrifices to recharge their mobile credit. The estimated value of the sacrifice the respondent was willing to make, in foregoing other activities, was an average of 84 US cents.
For two days, I’ve been immersed in debates around WCIT, here in Accra at the African preparatory meeting. The delegate from Egypt, who had control of the text, was the most committed advocate of imposing a form of accounting-rate regime on data flows. According to him, the data are a burden on the network, they cause harm to the network, and the access network operators are subsidizing them. His views extend to content: he believes that the content is in some cases inappropriate. I could understand this attitude from an executive of an old style unreformed voice telephony company, longing for the good old monopoly days when the network was operated for the benefit of the managers and employees and the customers were an annoyance to be tolerated.
> Bhairti Airtel may revise low-cost strategy in Africa > > In Telecom.paper 29-02-2012 > > [Mobile World Congress 2012] > Bharti Airtel may devise a new strategy for the African market, following what it termed an unexpected response to its low-cost model developed in India. According to the Daily Nation, the mobile company told participants at the Mobile World Congress in Spain that it was surprised to find that the African market did not increase its talk-time, which was critical to supporting its low-cost model. MD Sunil Mittal said unlike India, they were surprised that in Africa, lower tariffs could not increase volumes. In Africa, subscribers use the money saved on lower calling rates to buy food and not to talk more.
The pendulum swings again. It was around 10 years ago that the great retreat was in full swing, with US and European telcos retreating from emerging markets (and even masking their investments as France Telecom did by making Mauritius Telecom the holding company for its African operations). Now they’re unloading European businesses to go where the action is. France Télécom, led by Stéphane Richard, is shedding assets in Europe, where phone companies are vying for a shrinking pool of new customers amid tightening regulation, to embrace faster-growing markets in Africa and the Middle East. “It makes sense to exit the difficult Swiss market and may give them more flexibility on the cash-flow side,” said Giovanni Montalti, an analyst in London at Crédit Agricole Cheuvreux.
First, you must read Steve Song’s self-described rant. He is a thought leader. Will do anyone good to read his thoughts. What follows is my response: This could be the beginning of a good brawl, so let me first thank Steve for starting the debate right, with some facts wrong and slightly in rant territory. Without these elements one would not get a lively debate.
Curious why they are not using simple m payments. Also curious why Africa? Standard Chartered Bank and MasterCard have developed a solution that will allow people in the East African nation to make online purchases with their cellphones, obviating the need for a credit or debit card. The service, called PayOnline, will soon be expanded to other African markets. It allows Airtel Money customers to make online purchases via a 16-digit code, much like using a credit card.
Interesting piece in the Guardian on mobile more than voice. What I found most interesting was the emphasis placed by the Community Knowledge Worker on things other than communication, such as the reliable weather information and the cooperatization. To register, a farmer must provide exhaustive details about his farm, household and income, as well as the things he needs most to improve his livelihood. Many in the area still wonder why Grameen isn’t providing them with physical aid, but Simon tells me he is working to change that mindset. “Let someone give you knowledge, then you are rich.
I’ve been thinking about m applications for two full days. Not the normal crowd I hang with, regulators, ministry officials, operators; but people who are starting new companies and various people helping them. People working on energy startups, agri-market incubators, and, yes, also ICT entrepreneurs. Two ideas that came up: Most people who think about m apps are still stuck on the Apple App Store. Great model but requires two things LIRNEasia’s people (BOP in emerging Asia) do not have at the present time: smartphones and credit cards to make payments from.
The shoe is yet to drop in terms of South-Asia-like retail prices, but Bharti is beginning to move out its famed outsourcing model to Africa. The story emphasizes IBM, but one has to be understanding of the US-centric NYT. I.B.M.
CHAKULA is a newsletter produced by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC). Named after the Swahili word for ‘food’, it aims to mobilise African civil society around ICT policy for sustainable development and social justice issues. The latest issue features an e-interview with LIRNEasia’s CEO Rohan Samarajiva, but it is not the only reason why we thought of highlighting the issue. The content is interesting and very readable. We publish two e-interviews from July 2010 issue here fully, as they are not available on public domain.
In the end, it comes down to the Budget Telecom Network Model. The recent Bharti 10.7 billion USD offer for Zain has depressed share prices and generated a big debate. But it really boils down to this: The trick for Bharti, which pioneered low-cost telecoms in India, will be to bring down Zain’s high cost base and win subscribers, say analysts — and to get subscribers to talk more using lower tariffs. Bharti is famous for its so-called “minutes factory” business plan — the low-cost, high-volume model that has made it India’s leading mobile company.