Thursday, September 27, 2012


Kenyans using mobile phones in Nairobi  
Kenya has confirmed that a switch-off of counterfeit mobile phones will take place at the end of the month.
In addition, networks will be forbidden from activating new "fake" devices bought after 1 October.
Government officials said the move was designed to protect consumers from hazardous materials and to safeguard mobile payment systems.

They added it should also help them track users and limit violence ahead of March's general election.
The action had originally been scheduled to take place at the end of 2011, but was twice delayed to give subscribers a chance to replace their devices. However, the Ministry of Information and Communications has said this would not happen again.
The government said three million users were using counterfeit handsets as of June.

Official data suggests the country had 29 million mobile phone subscribers at the end of March.
Duplicated codes The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) defines fake handsets as "copies of popular brands and models made from sub-standard materials" that have not been licensed by the organisation.

They are sourced from China and other parts of Asia, as well as Nigeria and South Africa.

Man walks past mobile phone shop in Nairobi  
Analysts say the action could cause a boost in sales low-end mobile phones
The CCK said "sub-standard components" were often used which had not been put through safety checks and might emit higher than recommended radiation levels.
They have proved popular since they are often sold at a heavy discounts to legitimate models, thanks in part to the fact that retailers avoid paying import taxes.
But the commission said they had caused an increase of dropped calls for all users because of "their inability to connect seamlessly to the mobile networks".
Law enforcement agencies had also complained that some of the devices used duplicated IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identifier) codes, making it difficult to track down users suspected of using their handsets to plan crimes.
In addition, when the government publicised the switch-off in June it also linked the move to efforts to restrict fraud.
"In this era of mobile banking, use of counterfeit devices, which are manufactured without due consideration to the recognised security standards, may expose our mobile money systems as well as the wider banking and financial system to unnecessary risks," said the communications secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo.
"The government cannot allow this to happen and thus our decision to have all unregistered SIM cards and counterfeit handset mobile phones phased out by 30 September 2012."
Election violence The move was initially opposed by the Consumers Federation of Kenya, a campaign group which said the action would punish users who were not to blame for the fact fakes were sold.

 Thousands of Kenyans were forced from their home after 2007's disputed election
But last month the organisation dropped a theat to go to court to block the switch-off after a study suggested most Kenyans supported the effort.

Sunday's deadline also means counterfeit models can be barred from networks ahead of the election on 4 March 2013.
About 1,300 people were killed and hundreds of thousands forced from their homes because of clashes following 2007's disputed presidential election.

There is concern the vote could spark further violence, and the CCK has suggested that ensuring all mobiles were registered could act as a deterrent.

"As the general elections draw near, we... have an obligation to ensure that the mobile telecoms industry is not used to perpetrate instability and to incite violence," said Francis Wangusi, the commission's director general.

Precious metals Users can send a free SMS message containing their 15-number IMEI code to check that their handset is recognised as genuine.
The fact millions of devices will need to be replaced presents phone manufacturers with an opportunity to boost sales.
But there are also been worries that abandoned handsets could end up in landfill sites, damaging the environment.

Nokia Asha phones  
The crackdown coincides with Nokia's launch of a new budget range of smartphones branded as Asha
To minimise the risk Nokia and Samsung have partnered with a local recycling company and mobile service providers to allow users to safely dispose of counterfeit models at collection points in major cities.

"Mobile phones contain many valuable and useful materials that can be recycled, including precious metals and plastics," said Bruce Howe, general manager for Nokia East Africa.

"For every one million phones recycled, it is possible to recover nearly 35kg of gold and 350kg of silver, which can be re-used in the production of future electronic goods."
The firm added that it believed Kenya's move was a model that could be adopted elsewhere in Africa and beyond.
Uganda has already said that it planned similar action.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Monday, September 17, 2012


Lagos, Nigeria -A little over a decade ago there were about 100,000 phone lines in Nigeria, mostly landlines run by the state-owned telecoms behemoth, NITEL. Today NITEL is dead, and Nigeria has close to 100 million mobile phone lines, making it Africa's largest telecoms market, according to statistics by the Nigerian Communications Commission.
Across the rest of the continent the trends are similar: between 2000 and 2010, Kenyan mobile phone firm Safaricom saw its subscriber base increase in excess of 500-fold. In 2010 alone the number of mobile phone users in Rwanda grew by 50%, figures from the country's regulatory agency show.

During the early years of mobile in Africa, the Short Messaging Service (SMS) was at the heart of the revolution. Today the next frontier for mobile use in Africa is the internet.

"Mobile is fast becoming the PC of Africa," says Osibo Imhoitsike, market coordinator for Sub-Saharan Africa at Norwegian firm Opera, whose mobile browser is enjoying an impressive uptake on the continent. "In fact there isn't really anything more personal than a mobile phone nowadays."

Last October, for the first time ever, the number of Nigerians accessing the internet via their mobiles surpassed the number of desktop internet users, figures from statcounnter show

The trend has continued since then. Most of those devices will be low-end Nokia phones, tens of millions of which have already been sold on the continent. The more expensive "smartphones" are however also increasing in popularity, as prices drop. Blackberry's market share has been rising in the developing world, bucking the trend in Europe and North America.

Google, for its part, plans to sell 200 million of its Android phones in Africa and it is estimated that by 2016 there will be a billion mobile phones on the continent.

In 2007, President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, said: "In 10 short years, what was once an object of luxury and privilege, the mobile phone, has become a basic necessity in Africa."
Below are seven ways that mobile phones have transformed the continent:

M-PESA is a mobile money transfer service launched by Safaricom, Kenya's largest mobile operator and Vodafone, in 2007. Five years later M-PESA provides services to 15 million Kenyans (more than a third of the population) and serves as conduit for a fifth of the country's GDP.

In Kenya, Sudan and Gabon half or more of adults used mobile money, according to a survey by the Gates Foundation and the World Bank.

The runaway success of M-PESA in Kenya is inspiring similar initiatives across the continent, from South Africa to Nigeria to Tunisia, as governments struggle to extend banking services to large numbers of the population -- across sub-Saharan Africa only one in five adults own bank accounts.
Many Africans now use mobile money to pay their bills and airtime, buy goods and make payments to individuals, remittances from relatives living abroad are also largely done via mobile banking.

One lesson from the 2011 uprisings across North Africa was that mobile phones, with the infinite opportunities they offer for connection and communication, are able to transform ordinary citizens disenchanted by their governments, into resistance fighters.

Realizing this, the beleaguered Mubarak regime successfully put pressure on Egypt's mobile phone networks to pull the plugs, in a bid to slow down the tempo of opposition activity. And so on January 28, 2011 mobile phone networks in Egypt went dead.

Three years earlier, in the aftermath of bloody elections in Kenya, citizens were able to report violent occurrences via text messages to a server (via the Ushaidi platform) that was viewable by the rest of the world as they happened.

Across the continent mobile phones are also bringing unprecedented levels of openness and transparency to the electoral process, empowering citizens from Cairo to Khartoum to Dakar to Lagos.

Nokia capitalized on the growing popularity of social networking in South Africa to launch MoMath, a mathematics teaching tool that targets users of the instant messaging platform Mxit.

 Mxit is South Africa's most popular social media platform, with more than 10 million active users in the country, the company says.
The potential for transforming the continent's dysfunctional educational system is immense, as mobile phones -- cheaper to own and easier to run than PCs -- gain ground as tools for delivering teaching content.
It is hoped that mediating education through social networking will help reduce the significant numbers of school-age African children who are not receiving any formal education.

A 2009 survey found that "entertainment and information" were the most popular activities for which mobile phones are used in Nigeria, in particular for dialing into favorite radio shows, voting in reality shows, downloading and sharing songs, photos and videos, as well as tweeting.

However companies are creating mobile-only platforms targeted for this market. Africa now teems with online platforms like Kulahappy (a popular online Kenyan "entertainment channel" developed for the mobile screen) and AfriNolly, which bills itself as "African movies in your pocket."
Nigeria's mobile music industry (covering everything from mobile downloads to ringtone and caller-tune subscriptions) is now a multimillion-dollar industry.

Interestingly, Lithuanian mobile social networking site, Eskimi, recently became the second most visited site in Nigeria, after Facebook, and is in the top 10 bracket in several other African countries. Half of the site's seven million-plus active users are Nigerian.

Mobiles have been finding innovative uses in refugee camps, allowing displaced persons to reconnect with family and loved ones.
An NGO, Refugee United has teamed up with mobile phone companies to create a database for refugees to register their personal details.
The information available on the database allows them to search for people they've lost contact with.
South Africa's 2008 xenophobic attacks inspired the launch of SMS emergency reporting and relief system.

Mobile phones have made a huge difference in the lives of farmers in a continent where the agriculture sector sis one of the largest employers. Most of these people will be "smallholder farmers," without access to financing or technology.

By serving as platforms for sharing weather information, market prices, and micro-insurance schemes, mobile phones are allowing Africa's farmers to make better decisions, translating into higher-earning potentials. Farmers are able to send a text message to find out crop prices in places thousands of kilometers away.
As far back as 2003, Kenya's Agricultural Commodities Exchange partnered with mobile operator Safaricom to launch SokoniSMS64, a text-messaging platform to provide pricing information to farmers.

M-Farm also offers a similar service, while the iCow is a mobile app billed as "the world's first mobile phone cow calendar." It's an SMS and voice service that allows dairy farmers to track their cows gestation, acting in effect as a veterinary midwife. Farmers are also given tips on breeding and nutrition.

A simple text-messaging solution was all 28-year-old Ghanaian doctoral student, Bright Simons needed for his innovative plan to tackle counterfeit medicine in African countries. The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 30% of drugs supplied in developing countries are fake. In 2009, nearly 100 Nigerian babies died after they were given teething medicine that contained a solvent usually found in antifreeze.
Simons' pioneering idea was to put unique codes within scratch cards on medicine packaging that buyers can send via SMS to a designated number to find out if the drug is genuine or not.

The system is now being used by several countries in Africa and rolled out to places such as Asia where there are similar problems with counterfeit drugs.
In South Africa there's Impilo, a service that allows people to find healthcare providers anywhere in the country 24 hours a day, using their mobile phones.

Mobile phones are going to play an increasingly important role in mediating the provision of better healthcare to the citizens of African countries. Phone companies are realizing that mobiles are highly effective -- and potentially lucrative -- for the dissemination of health and lifestyle tips, and reminders for doctors' appointments.
In June 2011 a consortium known as the mHealth Alliance organized a Mobile Health Summit -- touted as Africa's first -- in Cape Town. The Alliance describes itself as a "[champion of] the use of mobile technologies to improve health throughout the world.


Saturday, September 8, 2012


Mvumbuzi wa huduma ya "Hei Julor", Herman Chinery-Hesse wa Ghana.

Mvumbuzi wa programu hii ya Kighana Herman Chinery-Hesse alitaka kuchukua hatua dhidi ya matukio ya ujambazi wa kutumia silaha mjini Accra. Ndivyo alivyokuja na programu hii ya "Hei Julor" au "Ewe mwizi" kwa lugha ya wenyeji wa mji huo.

"Hei Julor" ni programu ya mfumo wa usalama inayotumiwa katika simu ambapo mtu anaweza kutuma ujumbe mtupu kutoka kwenye simu zaidi ya tano zilizosajiliwa katika eneo, pale makaazi ya mtu au biashara yanapovamiwa.

Hatua hii inasababisha kutumwa kikosi cha waokoaji kutoka kampuni binafsi ya ulinzi, na wakati huo huo watu wengine kumi wakiwemo majirani na marafiki wanapata ujumbe huo na wanaweza kufika haraka nyumbani kwa mhusika ili kumsaidia.

Huduma hii ya Hei Julor ilizinduliwa chini ya mwaka moja nyuma, wakati wa vuguvugu la mageuzi katika mataifa ya kiarabu na wakati ambapo maandamano ya vrugu yalikuwa yanafanyika nchini Uingereza.

Chinery-Hesse: "Baba wa Teknolojia Afrika"

Herman Chinery-Hesse akiwa ofisini wake.
Herman Chinery-Hesse akiwa ofisini wake.
Katika matukio yote mawili, teknolojia ya simu za mkononi kama vile ujumbe wa Blackberry au BBM ulikuwa ukitumika kuratibu shughuli. Chinery-hesse, ambaye amepewa jina la baba wa teknolojia barani Afrika anakumbuka jinsi yeye na marafiki zake walivyokuja na wazo la "Hei Julor."

"Tulikuwa tunafuatilia maandamano katika nchi za kiarabu and nchini Uingereza kupitia redio mchana moja na ikatujia akilini kuwa walikuwa wakitumia BBM kuratibu maandamano hayo. laazima itakuwa na manufaa makubwa kwa jamii yetu, katika utamaduni wetu au nchi yetu. Na kwa sababu hiyo, tulikuja na wazo la "Hei Julor."

Haikuwachukulia muda Chinery-Hesse na marafiki zake wanaofanya kazi katika kampuni ya programu za kompyuta ya "Softribe" kuweka mawazo hayo katika vitendo.

"Tumekuwa wataalamu kwa vile hii ndiyo kazi tunayoifanya kazini kwetu, kwa hiyo tulikuwa na vifa vyote vinavyohitajika. Tulikaa ofisini, tukamualika kila moja kuhudhuria kikao na kujadili namna ya kuja na huduma ambayo kila moja angeweza kuipata kwa bei nafuu na kuizuia Ghana kuwa taifa la wahalifu." Anasema Chinery-Hesse.

Wafanyakazi wawili wa huduma ya Hei Julor nchini Ghana.
Wafanyakazi wawili wa huduma ya Hei Julor nchini Ghana.
Ili kujiunga na huduma hii mteja anahitaji kununua kadi yenye kodi, ambayo mteja anaituma kwa kampuni hiyo. Chinery-Hesse anasema programu hiyo imesanifiwa kwa ajili ya wenye uwezo mkubwa na hata waliyo na uwezo mdogo. Anasem wateja wenye uwezo mkubwa wanaweza kulipia huduma hiyo kwa mwaka mzima, na wale wenye uwezo mdogo wanalipa cedi 10, sawa na euro 4 kwa mwezi.

Teknolojia hiyo imeokoa maisha ya baadhi ya watu. Chinery-Hesse anakumbuka mifano ya watu wawili hivi karibuni.

"Wa kwanza alikuwa mwanaume moja mzee aliyepatwa na kiharusi na kulikwepo na watu nyumbani kwake lakini yeye alikuwa ghorofa ya juu na alikosa nguvu za kushuka chini au kupiga ukelele wa kuomba msaada lakini simu yake alikuwa nayo kwa hiyo alichokifanya na kutuma Hei Julor mchana, na kampuni ya ulinzi ilikuja kumpeleka hospitali."

Kituo cha mawasiliano cha kampuni hiyo ni kodogo sana lakini kikiwa na vyombo vya kuhefadhi na kusambaza taarifa za intanet duniani kote. Kwa mujibu wa afisa moja wa juu, wafanyakazi mar nyingi huwa na kompyuta aina ya laptop ili kuwa na mawasiliano na wateja wakati wote. Mkurugenzi wa kampuni ya Softribe, Anthonio Tettey anasema kwa sasa wana wateja zaidi ya alfu moja.


Huduma ya Mafuta-Go nchini Uganda.

Wanafunzi wa Uganda wavumbua "Mafuta-Go"

Huduma za simu za mkononi zinazofahamika kama "Apps" zinapata watumiaji wengi Afrika, ambapo wanafunzi wawili wa teknolojia ya habari wa Uganda wamebuni App inayoonyesha mahali pa kununua mafuta ya gari kwa bei rahisi. 

Edward Sekeywa anaendesha gari lake mjini Kampala. Tangi lake la mafuta linakaribia kuwa tupu na hivyo ni lazima aharakishe kwenda kununua mafuta. Lakini mafuta hayo yanauzwa kwa bei ghali mjini Kampala. Hata hivyo, bei zinatofautiana kutoka kituo kimoja cha mafuta hadi kingine. Ili kufahamu mahali atakapoweza kununua mafuta kwa bei nafuu, Edward anaitazama simu yake ya mkononi.

"App hii inanionyesha mahali ninapoweza kupata mafuta ya bei rahisi zaidi hapa mjini na kituo kilichopo karibu na hapa nilipo. App inafahamu mahali nilipo na hivyo inanionyesha vituo vya mafuta vilivyopo karibu. Nadhani ni jambo la muhimu kwa sababu ya kupanda na kushuka kwa bei katika mtaa huu wa Kololo. 

Hivi sasa nimechagua kituo cha mafuta kiitwacho City Oil Kamocha na App hii inanionyesha kwamba pale mafuta yanauzwa kwa shilingi 3,350. Nitakwenda kujaribu." Anasema Edward.

Edward Sekeywa anaanza safari. Ana umri wa miaka 40 na ni mmoja wa watu wa tabaka la kati linaloongezeka nchini Uganda. Bw. Sekeywa anafanya kazi katika shirika lisilo la kiserikali. Anamiliki gari aina ya Volkswagen na nyumba na ana mtoto mmoja tu. Ingawa anapokea mshahara mzuri, Sekeywa anaeleza kwamba ni lazima atumie fedha yake kwa busara. Anapofika kwenye kituo cha mafuta, anashtuka.

"Hili ni jambo la ajabu. App hii ilinionyesha kwamba bei ya mafuta ni shilingi 3,350 lakini hapa bei ni 3,600. Samahani bwana. Hujambo? Mafuta yanauzwa shilingi ngapi? Sawa, basi nitachukua ya shilingi 20,000. Ameniambia kwamba kwa mara ya mwisho walikuwa na bei ya 3,350 wiki moja iliyopita."

Edward Sekeywa akitafuta mafuta ya bei rahisi.

Mafuta yanauzwa kwa bei ghali Uganda. Ingawa hakuna kodi inayotozwa, mafuta hayo ni lazima yasafirishwe hadi bandari ya Mombasa na kisha kuchukuliwa kwa magari maalum na hatimaye kufikishwa kwenye vituo vya uuzaji. Hivyo, gharama ya usafirishaji ndiyo inayoifanya bei ya mafuta iwe juu.

Hivyo ni muhimu mtu alinganishe bei, kabla ya kulijaza gari lake mafuta. Hilo ni jambo lililogunduliwa mapema na wale walioubuni huduma ya kulinganisha bei za mafuta.

Christine Ampaire na Daniel Odong ni wanafunzi wa teknolojia ya habari. Wanaeleza kwamba mwaka moja uliopita walianzisha kampuni yao walioipa jina la Code-Sync. App yao iitwayo Mafuta-Go ni ya bure na inaweza kutumiwa na kila mtu. Ampaire na Odongo waliweza kugharamia utengenezaji wa App hiyo kwa fedha walizoshinda katika shindano Pivot East la kubuni Apps za simu za mkononi.

Wavumbuzi wa "Mafuta-Go"

Wavumbuzi wa "Mafuta-Go", Christine Ampaire na Daniel Odongo.
Wavumbuzi wa "Mafuta-Go", Christine Ampaire na Daniel Odongo.
Ampaire na Odongo waliweza kujinyakulia zawadi ya dollar za Kimarekani 10,000. 

Hivi sasa watumiaji wa App ya Mafuta Go wanaweza pia kupata taarifa juu ya mahala panapouzwa mafuta kwa bei rahisi kupitia ujumbe unaotumwa katika mitandao ya kijamii kama Facebook na Twitter.

"Tunajitahidi sana kuwa na ushirikiano na vituo vya mafuta ili programu ya Mafuta Go iweze kujazwa taarifa kutoka vituo hivyo moja kwa moja. Lakini hivi sasa inabidi kila asubuhi tumtume mtu na pikipiki kwenda kuchunguza bei za mafuta katika vituo vya Kampala." Christine Amapire anaelezea mipango yao ya baadaye.

Mbali na kuwaonyesha watu bei mkatika vituo vya mafuta, App ya Mafuta go inamwarifu pia mtumiaji wake iwapo kituo fulani kimeishiwa kabisa mafuta.