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Zimbabwe and regional technology news and updates

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Chips Computing Services Wins Best Achiever Award For X3 ERP

Chips Computing Services has won the Best Achiever Award for Sage Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) X3, barely a year after the product was launched in Zimbabwe.

Chips Computing Services, which holds the Sage Pastel franchise in Zimbabwe and is the official distributor of Sage and Pastel products, won the award, which is based on sales, ahead of many other participants from across the world, including South Africa and Australia.


Zimbabwe’s Mobile Penetration Doesn’t Stand At A Mere 20%

Casually reading an article posted by the Herald a week ago, I was met with a statement that made me stop:

…Potential for better returns in the sector is abound considering that the penetration rate by Econet, Telecel and NetOne, largely confined to urban areas, stands at a mere 20 percent in a country with more than 12 million people.


Communications Regulators’ Association of Southern Africa Holds Impact Assessment Workshop in Zimbabwe

The Communications Regulators’ Association of Southern Africa (CRASA) will, starting tomorrow, hold an impact assessment training workshop at Elephant Hills in Victoria Falls. The 2 day workshop is aimed at providing forums where awareness of the need for impact assessment in the policy and regulation making processes are discussed.

The workshop is being attended by regulatory authorities and the SADC region telecommunications and internet service providers.

CRASA operations manager explains in the secretariat message for the workshop:


Weekly Roundup – 20 March 2010

PowerTel and the BTC Fibre Deal

There was an article in this week’s Sunday Mail on PowerTel’s fibre deal with Botswana Telecommunications Corporation. Again no mention of the bandwidth capacity being purchased. We searched around and found this pdf on the BTC website. It says “…under the agreement with BTC will get access to direct international undersea connectivity with the SynchronousTransport Module One (STM1) at a maximum of 155Mbps.”

The PowerTel managing director, Samuel Maminimini made the usual promises business leaders make after achieving such milestones:


Telecel Zimbabwe’s Board Suspends Acting Chairperson, Jane Mutasa

Telecel Zimbabwe’s board of directors has announced that its acting chairperson, Jane Mutasa, has been suspended from the board to enable her to defend herself against the criminal charges that have been preferred against her in Zimbabwe.

The following statement was issued after a board meeting that took place today:

“At the extraordinary board meeting of the Board of Telecel Zimbabwe, held on March 19, 2010, the directors resolved to suspend Mrs Mutasa as director of the company to afford her an opportunity to defend herself against the charges that have been preferred against her by the state following allegations of fraud brought to the police by the company.


Pastel Software Zimbabwe Announces Launch Of New Evolution Modules

Pastel Software Zimbabwe, the official Sage Pastel distributor in Zimbabwe, has revealed plans to launch new Pastel Evolution point of sale and branch synchronisation add-on modules in June this year. This will be the first time these modules have been available in Zimbabwe.

Experts from Sage Pastel International’s headquarters in South Africa will present, explain and demonstrate the new modules on June 7 and 8.

Pastel Software Zimbabwe runs as a division of Chips Computing Services and distributes Pastel software directly and through a network of local dealers. It is the only Platinum Certified Sage Pastel Partner in the country. Sage Pastel grades its business partners as Silver, Gold and Platinum, with Platinum being the highest grade. The only other partner in Zimbabwe, Omni Africa, is a certified Gold Business Partner.


Econet Slashes Off-Peak Calling Rates To 10 cents

Ok. The good news first: Starting this week, Econet has slashed its off-peak calling rates to just 10 cents. Off-peak here refers to 10PM to 6AM everyday.

The not so good news:…


Egypt, South Africa And Nigeria Account For More Than 80% Of Google Code Jam Africa Qualifying Contestants

The first round of the Google Code Jam Africa 2010 is over. Of the 54 countries in Africa, only 18 made it through the qualification round of Code Jam Africa 2010 and of these, only 3 countries accounted for more than 80% of the contestants; Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria. This is despite there being no country specific entry restrictions (well, save for Internet connectivity).

An indication of the countries with super brain developers? Or maybe that of those with interest in software development? Maybe of those that knew about the contests?


Weekly Roundup – 5 March 2010

Econet held a breakfast meeting today to give an update to stakeholders on the network upgrade project that has been taking place since last year. We’ll give you an update of the discussions held once we have something.


An Overview Of Zimbabwe’s Telecommunications – POTRAZ Presentation Download

We got this presentation here from a function we attended last week. The presentation was made by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) and generally covers the current state of telecoms industry in Zimbabwe. Coming from them, we’re sure it’s pretty accurate.


Why Google Produces The Most Relevant Search Results

Like many people, for a long time now, Google has been my default search engine. This default state of my online experience makes it easy to forget that there are other options out there; that I could look at the web through a different set of lenses. And that indeed, there might actually be a better experience elsewhere.

I don’t want to use Google just because everyone likes it, so every now and again I like to sample the other popular search engines of the day. The one thing that has made me stick with Google for the past 5 years stills stands out; the priority given to relevant local results.


Google Announces Code Jam Africa 2010

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.


No Love For G-Tide Phones On Facebook

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!


Chamisa To Launch The National ICT Strategic Plan Next Week

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”.


An Ultra Low Cost Phone For Africa

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 Unearths Recharge Cards Fraud Worth US$ 1.7 Million

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.


How Much Is A 3G Enabled Econet Line Worth On The Black Market? $150!

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.


Telecel Slashes International Call Rates To As Low As A Local Call

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.


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:


Telecel Website Taken Offline

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 To Introduce A Pay Phone “Call-Me-Back” Service

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.


Econet Puts A Hand To Mobile Phones

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 Announces The G-Nigeria Event

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.


“MTN set to acquire…” Rumours All Over Again. We Hope It’s A Solid Deal This Time.

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.


Year 2009 In Review

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.


G-Tide Launches Regional Office In Harare

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.


Users Love Typing Website Addresses Into Search Engines And Google Understands That

Last week we posted an article on Zimbabwe’s Google search trends in 2009. In the article we noted something interesting about how people use browsers and search engines. The top ‘rising searches’ in 2009 on Google for 2009 are all variations of facebook; “facebook.com”, “www.facebook.com”, “facebook login”, and just “facebook”. Shows just how much more popular the social networking site has become in the past year. It also shows something else; people Google Facebook instead typing it directly into the address bar.


New Facebook Privacy Settings Seek To Do Away With Privacy

On visiting facebook last night, I was met with a prompt to update my privacy settings. Basically, the new privacy settings default your profile views to everyone. Including the boss whose friend request you haven’t responded to in over a year now. And pervy male stalkers crawling the net like search engines. Prospective employers too; they’re in the habit of Googling interviewees these days. The only information Facebook is suggesting you keep to your circle of friends is your email address, phone number and physical address.


What Zimbabweans Searched For On Google in 2009

According to Google Insights for Search, Zimbabweans just love facebook. We love it so much it’s in the first four spots in 2009’s top ten rising searches. At number 1 as “login facebook” then 2 as “facebook.com”, 3 as “www.facebook.com” and 4 as just “facebook”!


Replace Adobe Reader With This Lightweight PDF reader

Whenever my Firefox freezes, I immediately check if Adobe Reader’s trying to open a PDF from inside the browser. More often than not this is the reason and killing the tab (which is not always a click-and-close process) makes the fox happy again. Adobe Reader is THAT bloated, well for me at least.