Google on Friday announced "Google Code Jam Africa 2010", a coding contest event in which professional and student programmers are asked to solve complex algorithmic challenges in a limited amount of time. The competition is a web-based test and participants can program in the coding language and development environment of their choice. Registration for the contest runs up to 15 March and Round 1 of the competition starts on the same date. Successful coders will battle it out in round 2 after 7 days.
I received a page suggestion yesterday to a not so usual Zimba page on Facebook. One that doesn't hide it’s feelings for G-Tide. It’s called “I Hate G-TIDE Cell Phones”. First I thought well, negative campaigns are not new on Facebook but I’ll just check it out and leave. But then I looked at the number of fans and stopped a bit. The page was created yesterday morning (Zim time) and by the time I viewed it in the evening, 51 people had subscribed. I visited it just now to find the fans had doubled to 111! No mean feat for a Zim page just 2 days old. The viral effect is working against the Tide here!
We finally received a copy of the strategic plan from the ministry. Here it is for download. We provide a summary of the most significant strategic objectives for those of you too 'busy' to read the whole document. We also note a few important issues at the end, that we feel are lacking in the ICT ministry's' strategic plan.
We attended the launch of the ICT strategic plan yesterday. An overview of the the strategic plan; what went into it, how it was developed and how it is going to be implemented (and monitored) was given by the permanent secretary of the ministry, Eng. Kundishora. Unfortunately there were no copies of the strategic plan for the audience to take home, but we'll lay our hands on one in good time and post it here. Click back here in a few hours.
The Zimbabwe Minister of ICT, Nelson Chamisa, will on 22 February launch the national ICT strategic plan for the period 2010 to 2014. The launch will take place at Jameson Hotel in Harare at 1400hrs local time. The ICT strategic plan was approved last month and is expect to be a guideline for the country in the implementation of ICT policies and regulation. Chamisa explained that it’l be “a road map for the Ministry of ICT on how the country can strategically exploit and benefit from ICTs”.
In obvious reference to Econet’s delayed full rollout of data services to mobile, subscribers Zimbabwe Online (ZOL) is telling customers they don’t have to wait - we have great wireless broadband spread across the country and it is available right now! The message was sent out in a promotional email to customers titled “Introducing ZOLspot Wireless high-speed Broadband from just US $30. Faster than 3G and available today all over Zimbabwe!” To use the ZOL wireless broadband, customers buy a prepaid scratch card available at any ZOLSpot and get immediate access to the Internet. The scratch cards are valid for 6 months from the first time you use them.
Vodafone yesterday announced the launch of two ultra low cost handsets targeted at consumers in the emerging markets of Africa and Asia. According to the Vodafone press release, the handsets (Vodafone 150 and Vodafone 250) will launch in the coming weeks in India and across Africa. The Vodafone 150 will retail unsubsidised at below US $15 and the Vodafone 250, US $20, depending on the local market.
Telecel, the second largest mobile operator in Zimbabwe, confirmed today that it has unearthed a recharge cards fraud case amounting to US $ 1,7 million. The unscrupulous Telecel employees involved in the case, swindled the company through issuing recharge cards and starter packs using manual invoices, an invoicing method long banned by the company.
Ok, it’s official (well, in the unofficial sense), if you have US $150 to burn, you can make a few calls to guys who know guys, who know guys, who know guys that are selling Internet-ready Econet mobile lines and one will be delivered to your doorstep within the hour. The official price of an Econet line is US $5 and internet subscriptions cost a flat $25 a month. We made a few calls ourselves and got offers ranging from $130 to $150. We tried to negotiate the price down with one guy and got the much expected “either you pay $150 or you don’t want the line, simple!” So business sure is brisk for these dealers from the dark side.
Starting today, if you have a Telecel mobile line and need to call someone in the US, the UK, Australia, the Emirates, China or India (Update: Canada too), you will be charged local call rates. Calls to these destinations can now be made for as little as 25 US cents. Note though that this doesn’t apply to calls to Vodafone numbers in the UK. This compares quite favorably to making international calls on other Zim mobile networks (Econet and NetOne) which costs anything between US $0.30 and US$8,70 depending on the international grouping of the destination.
Earlier today, we posted an article on a presentation the Zimbabwe Minister of ICT made at a function organised by the computer society of zimbabwe yesterday. We promised to make available an mp3 file of the whole presentation so here it is. We would have loved to upload the full video as well but bandwidth is an issue here.
The Zim ICT Minister on AU theme: Information and Communication Technologies in Africa: Prospects and Challenges for Development
The Computer Society of Zimbabwe organized a presentation by the Zimbabwe Minister of ICT, Nelson Chamisa yesterday evening. The presentation was on the just ended African Union 14th Ordinary Summit whose theme was “Information and Communication Technologies in Africa: Prospects and Challenges for Development” He touched on using Information and Communication Technologies as instruments for achieving peace and enhancing development and disaster response. Specifically, he talked about the following issues:
Starting this month, Zimbabwe’s leading Internet Service Provider, Zimbabwe Online (ZOL) will be offering VSAT Internet services. VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) is an Internet solution capable of delivering high speed Internet to any location through satellite connectivity effectively, allowing very remote areas without telecommunication infrastructure to connect seamlessly to the internet. Getting your own ZOL VSAT installed will cost US $1,800 (setup fees) and a minimum monthly subscription of US $180.
If you have an Econet line activated for Internet, there might be some ways to save a few extra dollars on calls and SMSes. There are some nifty tools used world over to make “free” calls and SMSes especially where the mobile network operator is kind enough to offer unlimited internet traffic for a flat monthly subscription. What most subscribers are using for calls at the moment is Fring and Nimbuzz (our favourite). The call is made using the Skype platform so both the caller and recipient need to have Skype accounts. For SMS there’s mjoy, a mobile web application to send texts for free to almost anywhere in the world.
The website of the second largest mobile operator, Telecel was taken down this morning. It's not clear why. We suspect one of two things; either the site's design and content was now just so outdated it wasn't doing justice to the name of this fast growing telco, or this could be a security issue,some nasty hacking business. We've sent an email of inquiry. If the first reason is the case (and we hope it is) it wouldn't have hurt to put some useful info there in addition to the wrongly worded "Telecel Zimbabwe Website is currently under construction". Maybe a logo for identity purposes and additional text like "You can reach us on the following telephone numbers... and we're at this physical address." And maybe some kind of time estimate of how long things will stay like this.
Econet Wireless is currently carrying out the final tests of a payphone 'call me back' service to be rolled out by end of this month. According to Econet’s Corporate Communications Manager, Ranga Mberi, the service is targeted at low income and rural subscribers who may not afford making calls on the network. The announcement was made in a story published on the Econet investor relations website today. "As most people in Zimbabwe are on the Econet network, the new service will allow most people who live in rural areas, or are unable to own their own cell phone, to send messages to relatives, to call them back, for free. It is also expected to be very popular with students, and other young people, who need to contact parents urgently, but may not have money," explained Mberi.
Word has it that Africom is in the advanced stages of implementing a CDMA 2000 mobile network. The new mobile network will ride on its already established metro fibre networks in Harare and Bulawayo. According to our source, Africom is taking advantage of the anything-goes class A operator license they hold to spread into the mobile telephony business, a territory dominated by the ever expanding Econet. Though basically an Internet access provision license, the class A license doesn’t have anything in black and white stopping a licensee from building a mobile voice network. POTRAZ, the telecoms regulatory authority has since suspended the issue of these licenses.
Econet, it seems, has decided to go all the way in providing mobile services for subscribers. It has officially joined the cell phone mad rush, flighting adverts for mobile phones and accessories in the local papers. Econet started out about a year ago with the ‘Buddie Lite’, a ZTE manufactured low end phone with basic telephony and SMS features. Later in the year it introduced another range of Econet branded mobile phones, moderately basic this time. Both ranges were bundled with the prepaid subscriber lines. With this new offering Econet has unbundled the package; it’s a just a mobile phone now, no line. They’re making a bold statement here to all mobile phone dealers; that they’re seriously interested in a piece of the pie. And that’s no small piece we’re talking here, it wouldn’t be worth their while if it was.
Google Africa yesterday announced the G-Nigeria Day 2010 event on their Google Africa blog. The event is to be held at the University of Lagos from 18 to 20 February. The main objective of the G-Africa events is to help African developers and entrepreneurs build localised applications and implement business ideas using Google technologies. The event is facilitated by Google engineers who take attendees through sessions on the latest Google tools and hands-on codelabs.
conet CEO Douglas Mboweni, said today Econet will commission its fibre-optic cable system in the major cities by March this year. 'Major cities' here probably refers to Harare and maybe Bulawayo. He made the revelation in an update of the network upgrade work that has been going on since the start of 2009. He confirmed that the upgrade work is nearing completion and a bundle of services should start rolling out in the next few weeks. Explaining why it took more than a year to complete the work he said: The process of raising money, ordering equipment, and bringing in contractors to build and install equipment takes time. In our case, we were not only expanding capacity but also replacing obsolete equipment that had not been replaced in 10 years. It was like starting from scratch.
Zimbabwe Minister of ICT, Nelson Chamisa would like to see the pressure on TelOne to meet fixed line subscriptions demands eased. How? By re-issuing TeleAccess (remember the guys that sat on a license for 2 years until it was taken back) with an operator's license. According to the Herald, Chamisa will be meeting Attorney General Johannes Tomana to discuss giving TeleAccess another chance. Similar meetings were talked about last year but it’s not clear what became of them. Chamisa’s reason remains; that “the Government would not tolerate monopoly, more so by an operator facing serious financial and infrastructure limitations to meet service demand” and that two operators will result in better service delivery.
The rumours about MTN's interest in acquiring a stake in one of Zimbabwe's mobile operators have resurfaced, only this time it's the government owned NetOne up for grabs. So yes, we're gleefully wagging our tails yet again, hoping this is not just another Telecel story. MTN was last year reported to be courting Telecel in a deal to acquire a controlling stake in the second largest (by number of subscribers) mobile operator. There was a lot of hype around the deal, with subscribers vowing to switch from whatever network they were on to the new Telecel. But the excitement had to die down. What with the long wait? The then 'imminent' deal never was.
2009 came with a shift in ICT policy direction by the government. Customs duty on ICT equipment for example was suspended and currently ICT hardware suppliers only need to pay 15% VAT on imported equipment. Most positive change has generally been attributed to the energetic Minister of ICT, Nelson Chamisa.
This month, the International Telecommunications Union released the “World in 2009, ICT Facts and Figures” report available in pdf here. Below is a summary some of the most interesting facts.
Today, an interesting article posted on Zimbo Jam two days ago caught my eye. It carried news on how one of Zimbabwe’s most popular musicians, Sani Makhalima, has found a solution to close the door on the music piracy problem. The solution: He has set up a new company that is marketing a software product that makes it impossible to read an audio CD on a computer. What in the world is that? Seriously, in this day and age, why would anyone want to propose a music format that cannot be played on computers and portable media players? Is the big picture even in sight? What a disaster in the making!
G-Tide, the makers of the locally popular G-Tide mobile phone launched their regional office in Harare on Wednesday at a ceremony held at the Crowne Plaza. The mobile phone appeared on the market about a year ago and has arguably taken up a significant slice of the mobile phone market in Zimbabwe.