Some thoughts on the ZOL Startup Challenge

Nearly 2 weeks ago, we had our first ZOL Startup Challenge final where 3 talented winners were chosen from a very strong field. Since then the dust has settled and a number of people have made comments on the Challenge and process. I thought I'd give some thoughts as the idea originator, main sponsor and one of the four judges.

Eco-cash:Opportunities for Zimbabwe’s technology entrepreneurs

The announcement that Econet will be launching Eco-cash, a mobile payment solution is good news for the country. This will bring in new opportunities for technology entrepreneurs if the service takes off. We have to start thinking about businesses that will run on the platform. I will share some of the businesses that could be set up, using examples mostly from Kenya where the M-Pesa mobile money service has been very successful.

Double Standards: Why Facebook should be locked out of China

For those who don’t know it yet, China is now the second hottest hub for startups and internet based enterprises in the world ( after Silicon Valley). Investors and entrepreneurs everywhere you think of are cracking their heads to figure out a way to be a part of the world’s biggest market by internet users and most other metrics.

CSZ: Entrepreneurial Development Using ICT

We received the notification of this month’s Computer Society function and we thought we would share it with you. First because the speaker at the function, Mr. Cosmas Rashama, is one of Zimbabwe’s most known Cisco instructors, and second because he’s speaking on a topic most of you would love to discuss, Entrepreneurial Development Using ICT.

ICT Development Index: Zimbabwe moves four places up

Yesterday, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) released latest the global ICT pricing and penetration data report. You can find the report here. A key feature of the report is the ICT Development Index (IDI), which ranks 152 countries according to their level of ICT access, use and skills, and compares 2008 and 2010 scores.

IDBZ says it has not signed any credit facility with NetOne

Last month, reports came out in the local press that NetOne had secured USD 60m to help with its mobile broadband rollout. We picked up the news here too. According the reports then, the funds had been sourced from China Export-Import Bank, Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ), CBZ Bank and BancABC. We have since seen a report by Trade Finance that basically says the 60 million funding claims were simply not true. IDBZ’s involvement in the funding at least.
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Econet shows us how a social media campaign is done

We have just been informed that Econet has begun running a Facebook campaign for its eTXT service. Econet has had some misses publicising and advertising its internet products but this one definitely looks executed quite well so far. It appears Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile operator has found some brainiac to guide them!

The impact of the politics that dog Telecel Zimbabwe

Normally we like to keep clear of non-technology issues. It allows to focus and write about the things we know best. People at Telecel (or just people with interests in Telecel) however keep spending generous amounts of time generating news on the other side of the line. And it clearly affects the technology side of things at Telecel.

Tracking your vehicle, kids and more through SMS

Some weeks ago, two gentlemen from a company called Ingoma Telecom, came to our offices to show us a car tracking product they’re distributing in Zimbabwe. The product itself is called Tramigo and it’s manufactured by a Finland based company going by the same name. We have been using the device for about 2 weeks now, testing and seeing if it’s as amazing as the gentleman claimed.

Econet, here’s our Eco-Cash wish list

Eco-Cash is likely to change a lot of things for a lot of people. Whether you are mobile operator, a payment services provider, a traditional bank or a more modern bank just starting to offer mobile money services to the millions of unbanked Zimbabweans, Econet will in some way disrupt your business. Econet has almost half of the country’s population on its mobile network. That about says it all. But it’s not just disruption. It’s opportunity as well. Without over-generalising, there’s a myriad of issues with payments right now and Econet has enormous potential to introduce some needed convenience. If they do it right of-course.

Africom officially interconnects with Econet and TelOne

Today, Africom sent a message to its customers through SMS announcing that the Africom CDMA network is now officially interconnected with the Econet mobile network and the TelOne fixed line network. This in addition to the existing Telecel interconnection. Africom also took the opportunity to remind the market that making calls to other networks costs only US 12 cents, less than half of what the incumbent GSM operators currently charge.

A critique of the Start-up Challenge

The depth of talent showcased at The Start-up challenge gave me renewed optimism for Zimbabwe. I wish to congratulate the deserving finalists and the organisers for putting on a fantastic show. Although some projects didn't end up making the finals, most had strong concepts and I hope the entrepreneurs are not discouraged but continue to pursue their ideas. Even as we celebrate this success, we need to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the format used, to build on the strengths and improve on the weaknesses to ensure even more successful events in the future.

biNu registers rapid growth in Zimbabwe mobile app market

We came to know about biNu some several months ago when we wrote articles about eTXT. There was a lot of mention about it on our Facebook page. Readers compared it to eTXT and later Dasuba. The messaging component of biNu at least. I personally didn’t try biNu until 12 days ago, and what an impression it has left on me! The stats we received from biNu are impressive too. biNu usage has grown rapidly in the country. According to the startup, just in the month of August 2011, biNu had in excess of 60,000 unique users, 1.9 million sessions and 22 million page views in Zimbabwe alone.

Ubuntu how to: moving databases

I recently wanted to move a database from one computer to another. Fortunately I found a welcome guide at Moving the files is not really difficult, you can use FTP. Moving the database is a bit more challenging however.

IT Security in the emerging markets – threat or fiction?

While sitting at a coffee shop across the street from a large Bank, a person pulls out their laptop, hacks the (secure) Wi-Fi network of the bank, and by their 3rd cup of coffee has access to a desktop computer in the bank with full local access. Sounds far-fetched? Think again. That person is now writing this article. Thankfully the entity in question had requested this test to occur, but it does highlight a very important topic for discussion: African countries are growing in ICT, fast. Are they ready for the attention they will attract from hacking syndicates and cyber criminals?

SA comms minister says government will not regulate BlackBerry services

Yesterday, we posted that the South African government was considering allowing the police access to the BlackBerry encrypted messenger service (BBM) in their operations to catch criminals. The article was based on reports that the South African deputy communications minister, Obed Bapela, had said BBM posed a security risk that the government needed to “address with urgency”. The deputy minister said that the SA government wants to review BBM.

ZOL Start-up Challenge: Predict and win competition winner

Thank you for the overwhelming entries to everyone who participated in the ZOL Startup Challenge - Predict and Win competition. The winner of the 1.5GB ZOLspot voucher is Simbarashe D.
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ZOL Startup Challenge: Predict and win competition!

As you probably know, tomorrow is the big day; Five finalists in the ZOL Start-up Challenge will battle it out for the top prize at the finals. The top start-up will be awarded US $5,000 cash and US $5,000 worth of internet services from ZOL. Two runner-ups will each get US $2,500 cash and US $2,500 in internet services. Today, we're happy to announce that one of you our readers also get to win something in the challenge.

Press Release: Econet prepares launch of mobile payment system

Econet Wireless will at end of the month launch a mobile payment system that makes it possible for Zimbabweans to pay for anything using their cellphones. The company has spent millions of dollars on developing the system, which will be launched to its over 5-million customers, completely eliminating the need for any notes for purchases below $20.

Startups, pride and open source

Since I started working with the internet back in 2001, I have used open source software to create. Indeed, back then open source software was the only opportunity to create online for a lot of people. I was in a Zimbabwean city called Gweru, and software piracy then was not as rampant as it the case now.

ZOL Startup Challenge Finalists: FUNZA

Funza is an online recruitment platform targeted at grassroots recruitment. It is the only concept stage startup to qualify for the finals. Escar concludes will also provide its development, placement and consultancy services in the greater sub-region.
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Financial Express: a startup takes aim at Goliath

Not too long ago, Kabweza and l met Tommy Deuschle of Big Africa - a start-up that has gone through many pivots. According to Tommy, the current focus of the company is to become a virtual startup/business accelerator by leveraging on the power of relationships in business. His aim is to create a self sustaining network of businesses that compliment and consolidate each other. One of these startups that Big Africa is a part of is Finx (Financial Express).

ZOL Startup Challenge Finalists: Sadomba-Mahari, AvisPar

The idea of the AvisPar Visual Package was conceived by Kudzai Sadomba, a gaming developer with, according to the startup, 10 years of programming experience. Sadomba Mahari pitched the AvisPar suite of applications at the Startup Challenge in Harare on 03 August 2011, and secured a place in the 5 finalists battling it out for the top prize on 08 September 2011.