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 We suspect one of two things; either the site’s design and content was now just so outdated it wasn’t doing justice to the name of this fast growing telco, or this could be a security issue,some nasty hacking business.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.