2012 roundup: The year in review

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Techzim 2012-round-up

January

Liquid, ZOLThe year kicked off with one of the largest ISPs in Zimbabwe ZOL, announcing that it had been acquired by Liquid Telecom, a move which resulted in the Econet Wireless Group cementing its position as Zimbabwe’s largest telecoms firm.

Telecel announced a new managing director for the company, John Swaim as former MD Aimable Mpore made the exit. Swaim, a stop gap MD, only stayed for 6 months after which he was replaced by Francis Mawindi.

Google announced in early January the launch of “Search plus Your World” and we thought it was a selfish move and ultimately not a positive development for the wider internet.

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Later in the month, the Internet went black as various internet companies protested against SOPA.

Econet Wireless also announced in the same month that they had emerged the victors in the court battles with Bharti Airtel over a stake in Airtel’s Nigeria operation.

February

New Red Telecel ZImbabweOne of the first things new Telecel MD, John Swaim did was to rebrand the company. Meanwhile, as other operators dropped broadband prices Africom did the opposite.

Around mid-February, we reported that someone had stolen the H Metro’s identity on Facebook. H-Metro is a local tabloid owned by government media house, Zimpapers. After failing to claim it back for a while, Zimpapers basically gave up a month later.

Local daily deals website Dhiri, announced they were taking a break to “regroup”. The website is not back.

Dhiri was not the only one to go away in February, Econet announced its mobile based life insurance product, EcoLife, had been axed.

March

The announcement by a Zambian startup that they had closed a US $4 million series A round dominated the news in March, and gave hope to many an African entrepreneur.

Following serious boardroom problems, Africom announced in March that executives Farai Rwodzi and Simba Mangwende were not Africom Directors. This announcement was followed later in the year by not announcing that actually Kwanayi Kashangura was back at the helm of the group.

One of the few developer challenges to happen in 2012, the ForgetMeNot eTXT Apps Challenge, was launched in March.

Econet announced in the month that its EcoCash mobile money service had reached 1 million registered users. The service had been launched just 7 months earlier.

A local startup YoTime introduced a solution to the change problem in Zimbabwe by offering mobile subscribers means to recover their change by getting mobile phone airtime.

Local NGO, Kubatana, won an award for their Freedom Fone project.

April

In April, we published the ranking of Zimbabwe’s news websites according to Google’s services.  In the same month, it’s revealed that Econet’s EcoCash service is adding 200,000 users each month.

whatsappWhatsApp announced in the month that they are not a threat to mobile operators. Yeah right, we thought.

One of the many high profile website hacks to happen in the year took place. The ZITF website was hacked.

On the startup side of things, a new service called Lendme Airtime, which lends mobile subscribers from all networks airtime, was announced. We also wrote about local event listing and business directory website, finditfast.co.zw.

International, Google launched Google Drive, a service to compete with Dropbox, Microsoft’s Skydrive and others.

We complained about the national broadcaster, not having some internet radio. The government’s newspaper company however is first to launch an SMS news service in March.

May

TelOne, in may announced that their ADSL service, which they have a monopoly on, was now available in more cities; Marondera, Gweru and Mutare.

As Econet sees no meaningful uptake of its MMS service, the company announces a 50% slash in prices. We don’t think this will significantly improve the uptake. The savings from messaging services like WhatsApp, Mxit and biNu make it pointless to use WhatsApp for those with capable devices.

BlackBerryWe wondered why Zimbabweans love BlackBerry so much.

Zimbabwe’s revenue collector, ZIMRA starts engaging Zimbabweans on social media websites, Facebook and Twitter.

SmartPay. A new financial services company launches a new payments platform based on a “smart card” to spread financial services to the unbanked. We have our reservations about the model.

Econet announces the completion of a $307m funding round. Word in the market however is that only a bit of this is new money for the company.

We wondered as the month closed, whatever happened to one of Zimbabwe’s inventions, a pap cooking machine called the Gwattamatic.

June

chipslogo-thumbOne of the first Software as a Service implementations is announced; a partnership between Utande (Internet Service Provider) and Chips, a SAGE partner in Zimbabwe. LinkedIn one of the largest professional/social network services on the internet loses user passwords reminding us that completely secure services are all but a myth.

After months and months of waiting, one of the largest banks locally, FBC, launches it mobile money service, called Mobile Moola, and announces its new MasterCard acquirer status.

The inventor of the Gwattamatic, takes us through his pap cooking machine’s life.

Another much awaited launch takes place; Utande launches its WiMax service after months and months of “we’re about to”.

July

The month opens with another hacking. This time it’s one of the 3 popular daily newspapers in Zimbabwe, the Daily News.

But there’s some good news for lovers of fast reliable fibre internet; ZOL makes deliberate move to offer more affordable Fibre to the Home internet in Harare.

Meanwhile, Telecel announces hitting the 2 million subscriber milestone and government owned Internet Access Provider, PowerTel expands service to Mutare, Rusape and Marondera. Africom is also on a network expansion drive.

On the devices front, one of the few device launch events happens in Zim, Samsung executives fly from South Africa to launch the Galaxy S3.

It’s revealed later that month that TelOne and NetOne, government owned telcos; owe Econet Wireless $85 million in interconnection fees.  NetOne and Econet are to have very public fight over the issue later.

FootballzoneA local football news startup launches, it’s called Footballzone. It’s traction since launch makes it a startup to watch.

We also had an interview with Altfin Health General Manager, Thembi Moyo, where we discussed their new mobile based medical aid service, MedAccess.

We attended the government’s National ICT Policy review and also received opinion posts from people that attended.

Google’s Ory Okolloh gave a talk in Harare where she talked about innovation, thinking big & placing big bets.

August

Government owned mobile operator NetOne, came out pointing fingers at none other than the government for causing losses at the company because of unpaid phone bills.

Early in the month, it was revealed that Econet was switching the platform powering its mobile money system EcoCash from Pattern Matched to Comviva.

POTRAZ announces that telecoms operators will be forced to share infrastructure.

biNuAs biNu raises money, we noticed that the popular Smartphone in the cloud service for emerging markets is morphing into a social network.

Following the revelation last month that NetOne and TelOne owe Econet $85 in unpaid interconnection fees, Econet terminates interconnection with NetOne making it impossible for subscribers on either network to call the other network. The reason: NetOne had told Econet “We don’t owe you anything!” The public fight lasts a couple of days, NetOne is reconnected and the matter goes to the courts. POTRAZ’s silence is deafening.

Zimswitch provides an update of their new ZimSwitch Shared Services platform which will allow payments to be switched between bank accounts via various devices, including mobile and the web.

September

September is ZOL Jumpstart Challenge month. The startup competition which is organized as part of a local tech community initiative, Jumpstart, is held on 6 September. Over 4 applications are received, and of them, 3 are selected the winners.

September is also the month that the most valuable tech company in the world launches the latest device in its revolutionary iPhone line, the iPhone 5. Reviewers think it’s a rather lukewarm launch but devices sales tell a different story. Latter in the year we post as Zimbabwean perspective review of the device.

Viber for feature phonesMore mobile developments; Viber announces that it’s come to Nokia s40, Symbian and Bada devices. Good news for emerging markets. Bad news for SMS and MMS in general.

TelOne announces the launch of SHDL, basically a DSL variant that supports same data rates up and down, thereby being ideal for business applications like video conferencing.

As Econet reveals impressive stats for its mobile money service, Telecel CEO reveals in an operations update that they killed off their mobile money service, Skwama. An unrelated development sees Telecel accused later in the month of stealing a VAS concept by a VAS entrepreneur and the matter escalates to courts.

POTRAZ the telecoms regulator provides stats confirming that Zimbabwe’s teledensity is now at 90%.

We find this video of Zimbabweans unboxing Mac laptops quite amusing.

The ZAMPS survey results suggest that newspaper readership in general is on the decline and we post out thoughts on this.

October

October kicks off with an announcement by Facebook that they have hit the 1 billion user milestone!

Africom announces a new partnership with MTN, which we find hard to understand. An explanation only comes close to the end of the year.

EcoCash Mobile MoneyEconet announces the introduction of EcoCash payment means in Kombis (public mini buses). The company also announces the increase of transaction limits and later hires MPESA talent, one Japhet Aritho. Another big EcoCash talent move is Darlington Mandivenga, former Econet Burundi CEO, who has been brought to Zim to run Econet Services under which EcoCash falls. We interview him.

As startup challenges become common on the continent, we post our thoughts on issues with  grant and challenge funded entrepreneurship.

The government makes available, passport application forms online for download, but the initiative meets more than its fair share of problems.

We post the most liked Facebook pages in Zimbabwe.

On the startups front, we post our thoughts on developing products that are relevant to the local market.

November

The month starts with the introduction by Utande, of smaller bundles and cheaper internet for its WiMax service.

TelOne LogoStill on internet services, TelOne, the provider of the lowest priced internet, switches its billing to “unofficially unlimited data” to limited prepaid packages. The apparently poorly planned and very unsmooth changeover results in very irate subscribers.

Staying on internet, PowerTel introduces weekly & biweekly mobile broadband packages.

With Econet virtually ignoring web payments with its EcoCash service, a university student chooses to not sit and complain but do something about it, he develops a proof of concept, which we get to test and love.

A new yellow pages site is launched and it comes with lovely smartphone apps.

We successfully hold our first ePayments Forum in Zimbabwe.

We post an Everything you need to know about Zimswitch’s Vpayments gateway guide document in a bid to answer some common questions about the platform.

A guest author discusses why most Zimbabwean web and mobile startups fail. Another guest post a week later: Why most Zimbabwean start-ups AREN’T failing. That is the question.

 

December

All the discussion about startups failing (or Not failing enough), feeds into a Jumpstart event held at the start of December; a discussion panel where Jumpstart invites some established entrepreneurs and in December.

A new local food blog, ZimboKitchen.com, launches. There’s pleasing attention to producing quality unique local content which has us chaffed.

More developments on the EcoCash front: Econet partners banks directly, first it’s CBZ, then TN Bank with promises of more to follow.

Like all lovers of the freedom to participate that the Internet brings, we too view the ITU meeting to discuss internet regulation suspiciously, as we do a Zimbabwean minister’s suggestions for the need to regulate the internet and social media in Zimbabwe.

The government driven Annual ICT Achiever’s awards are held. Like similar awards in past years, there’s discontentment about the winners.

As talk about eCommerce and ecommerce platforms increases, Zimbabwe’s largest online classifieds company, Webdev, prepares to launch Vpayments integrated hosted shopping cart.

The hackers are not done yet, before the year closes, More than 30 YoAfrica hosted websites are hit at same time. Later, popular entertainment blog and a prominent website discussing Zimbabwean women’s issues are hit too. A Moroccan hacker also hits 3 South African government websites in the month.The largest building society in Zimbabwe, CABS, also has it’s website hacked.



3 Comments

  1. ic0n1c says:

    Nice article, got everything!

  2. Optimus Prime says:

    Good one

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