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UNICEF mobile innovation making impact in Africa

Four years after its introduction, a mobile innovation called RapidSMS, developed by two United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) employees, continues to bring about significant change in key regions throughout Africa. Africa Renewal reports on the progress of this mobile realtime information application.When in 2009 Christopher Fabian and Erica Kochi, two employees of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), developed RapidSMS, a platform for data gathering and group communication using the short messaging system (SMS) on mobile phones, their aim was simply to tackle the problem of slow data transmission within the food security surveillance system in Malawi. Four years later, RapidSMS is touching the lives of millions in many African countries, helping to record births and monitor distribution of mosquito nets in Nigeria, monitor neonatal health in Zambia and track food distribution in the Horn of Africa, among other uses.

Internet could add $300bn to Africa GDP

A new report by McKinsey & Company shows that use of the Internet in Africa could add US$300bn to the continent’s cumulative gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025. The report, “Lions go digital: The Internet’s transformative potential in Africa”, studies the progress of the Internet in 14 economies that make up 90% of Africa’s GDP: South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Angola, Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. Johannesburg-based McKinsey director, and co-author of the report, Saf Yeboah-Amankwah says the Internet is a catalyst for economic growth in China, India and Brazil, and has contributed more than 10% of total GDP growth in those markets in the past five years. “Its impact in Africa to date has been much smaller, but is likely to accelerate in the coming decade — and could have a transformative effect the continent’s development.”

Could pre-paid internet be Africa’s broadband saviour?

Depending on where you live in the world, it might be hard to imagine going about your life without easy access to the internet. For many, it has become more than a source of entertainment and information. From doing business, to keeping in contact with others, to participating in the news and conversation on a global scale, the internet has become an integral part of modern society. In South Africa, access to reliable, affordable internet isn’t always a given. That’s why companies like Telkom Mobile have launched pre-paid internet programs. Like pre-paid options in the mobile phone market (you pay a fee up front to gain access to cellular service), Telkom’s pre-paid internet offers affordable internet access to areas that typically have to go without.

African teachers and students nominated among world’s most innovative

Four schools and eight teachers from across Sub-Saharan Africa have been nominated as part of Microsoft’s 2014 class of Mentor Schools and the Inaugural Class of Expert Educators. The nominations recognise visionary educators who are using technology to equip student outcomes and new generation skills as well as teachers who demonstrate effective use of technology in learning. The four nominated schools were chosen from more than 250 applicants globally, from 80 countries, including Nigeria’s government secondary school Jabi, Gayanza High School in Uganda, SARM state secondary school, Mauritius, and Aga Khan secondary school, Kenya. Djam Bakhshandegi, director of corporate citizenship and partners in learning for West, East, Central Africa and Indian Ocean islands, education encouraging innovation is the key to success of modern society.

Last chance to enter Innovation Prize for Africa competition

The extended deadline for entries in the Innovation Prize for Africa is 30 November. The award will recognise entrepreneurs, academics or inventors who have innovations that could potentially provide an African solution to some of the continent’s every day challenges. Entry in the competition is free, and eligible innovations must be by Africans for Africa. Africans in the Diaspora can also apply if their innovations are of significance for Africa. The innovation or associated business must be registered in Africa.

Sub-Saharan schools among world’s most innovative

This week, four schools and eight teachers from across sub-Saharan Africa were nominated amongst the world’s best as part of Microsoft’s 2014 class of Mentor Schools and the Inaugural Class of Expert Educators. These exclusive one year programmes recognise visionary educators who are using technology to improve student outcomes, equip them with 21st century skills, and who are paving the way for other teachers by demonstrating the effective use of technology in learning. “At Microsoft, we strongly believe in the role that well-prepared educators play in helping today’s youth overcome the emerging opportunity divide and guiding them toward the education, skills and opportunities they need to prosper in the hyper-connected era,” says Djam Bakhshandegi, Director of Corporate Citizenship and Partners in Learning, West East, Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands.

AfDB to co-host ‘Africa Day’ in Washington

The African Development Bank Group (AfDB), in collaboration with the World Bank Group, will host the first ever ‘Africa Day’ during the Law, Justice and Development (LJD) Week 2013, on November 20th, at the World Bank Group Headquarters in Washington DC. Every year, the LJD Week is organized to provide a forum for legal and development practitioners, scholars, governments and civil society to discuss the critical role the law and judicial mechanisms can play in furthering development outcomes. The aim of “Africa Day” is to bolster knowledge on key and emerging legal issues on the African continent. Participants of Africa Day will explore how law and justice can help translate voice, social contract, and accountability into development impacts in Africa.

UNICEF mobile innovation making impact in Africa

When in 2009 Christopher Fabian and Erica Kochi, two employees of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), developed RapidSMS, a platform for data gathering and group communication using the short messaging system (SMS) on mobile phones, their aim was simply to tackle the problem of slow data transmission within the food security surveillance system in Malawi. Four years later, RapidSMS is touching the lives of millions in many African countries, helping to record births and monitor distribution of mosquito nets in Nigeria, monitor neonatal health in Zambia and track food distribution in the Horn of Africa, among other uses.

Why mobile money uptake is low in Africa

Why is the uptake and adoption of mobile money slow and sluggish in Africa? An expert has given insight into the reasons, stressing that unless these challenges are addressed, the situation will remain so. Group Vice President, Executive Business Line, Mobile Authentication, Glesecke and Devrient, Wolfgang Decker identified the absence of a global regulatory standard, trust and low awareness as some of the factors inhibiting the adoption and wider penetration of mobile money services in Africa.

Content and fixed broadband to drive internet traffic in Africa

Moving forward in African traffic management technologies will be realised through content and fixed broadband networks, according to Richard Bell, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Wananchi Group, during his presentation at AfricaCom 2013, in Cape Town. Bell said he has been involved with building telecommunications infrastructure in East Africa for the last 20 years. “Africa’s telecoms industry has been dominated by the mobile phone story,” said Bell. In 2002, when the Wananchi Group was being formed, there was were no fibre cables on the continent and all their capacity was received by satellite, which costed as much as US$4,000 per megabit.

Africa should be optimistic about connectivity, still work to do – panelists

Africa should be optimistic regarding the current state of connectivity as undersea connectivity is good, although there is work to do on terrestrial connections, according to panelists at AfricaCom. Speaking at AfricaCom 2013 in Cape Town, on Thursday, panelists said the progress made in deploying internet across Africa has been strong so far, but there are still many areas without internet and as such connectivity is not yet sufficient on the continent. “I think most of Africa and especially South Africa should be very optimistic about its position as far as connectivity is concerned,” said Marten Scheffer, general manager of network engineering at Neotel.

Broadband inter-governmental forum in South Africa

The Ministry of Communications hosted an Inter-Governmental Forum (IGF) in Pretoria on Friday, 15 November 2013, it said in a press statement. According to the Ministry, the IGF was used to discuss the national broadband policy and provide an update on schools connectivity, broadcast digital migration and the green paper on the ICT policy review. The meeting was attended by Ministers, Communications Deputy Minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, provincial MECs, Chairperson and Chief Executives of State-Owned Companies, senior national and provincial government officials and senior leaders of the South African Local Government Association.

The road to broadband growth in South Africa

Speaking at AfricaCom 2013 in Cape Town yesterday, Carel Booysen, executive for business broadband at Telkom South Africa, discussed the role broadband and internet access plays in the growth of the country’s economy. In terms of why the internet and broadband change innovation, Booysen said: “Firstly it enables – on a global platform – access to knowledge that accelerates and enables further invention and innovation.” He said internet and broadband exponentially increases the ability of people to create, exchange, and debate ideas, which are “the building blocks of innovation”.

Negative impact in delays to deploying LTE in Africa

Stakeholders in Africa need to understand the detrimental effect delaying the licensing for LTE service rollout will have on the continent, according to Andile Ngcaba, founder of investment firm Convergence Partners. Speaking at AfricaCom 2013 in Cape Town on Wednesday, Ngcaba said: “Africacom of this year is happening at a very interesting time… It’s happening at a time when the whole issue of internet governance is being discussed by almost every stake holder you can find in the world.”

‘Africa could have internet-connected cars within 10 years’

Internet-connected cars that communicate with each other and the environment could be a reality in Africa in ten years, says senior vice president of Cisco Howard Charney. Charney -- who is in Cape Town, South Africa for the AfricaCom technology conference -- explained to journalists in a briefing about the possible strategies for the ‘internet of everything.’ According to Charney, 99% of what could be connected to the internet is not. This includes the likes of roads, homes and cars. He explained that the ‘internet of everything’ industry could have a value over the next 10 years of $14.4 trillion between 2013-2022.

U.S. Leads Initiative to Increase Energy in Africa

In five years' time, Africa might see significant improvements in energy, thanks to a US-led initiative called "Power Africa" unveiled by President Barack Obama during a recent three-nation visit to the continent. Students will be able to study after dark, clinics can keep their vaccines refrigerated and businesses can work normal hours. The US government is leading the charge for Power Africa, helped by some American businesses and by organizations like the African Development Bank. The initiative is part of a new US policy to focus on the continent's ability to support itself economically, politically and militarily, according to the Associated Press news agency. Observers say it veers from previous "aid-based" pledges in that its purpose is to encourage American businesses to invest.

Over half the world’s biggest brands will be blocked in new gTLDs

More than half of the world’s most-famous brand names already stand to benefit from blocks in new gTLDs, due to the name collisions policy introduced by ICANN recently. That’s the preliminary conclusion of a quick analysis of the 37 block-lists already published. Using Interbrand’s list of the top 100 most valuable brands, we find that only 32 do not appear anywhere — either as strings or substrings — on the collisions lists we have today. Fifty-nine brands are to be blocked as exact matches in at least one new gTLD. Five brands are blocked exactly in 10 or more.

Leveraging Wi-Fi to meet demand for broadband in Africa

“The vast majority of the world is still waiting for broadband service. In the well-populated parts of developed countries, existing fixed phone and infrastructure has made broadband relatively easy to offer, and availability is now very high,” says Michael Fletcher, sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa. “Everywhere else, though, especially across regions in Africa, the high costs of current options, such as deploying new fixed infrastructure or large-scale macro-cellular wireless models like WiMAX, are big barriers to further broadband subscriber growth, yet the demand for Wi-Fi is there, and that’s where we come in.” According to the Broadband Commission’s ‘State of Broadband 2013’ report, mobile broadband is the fastest growing technology in human history.

Africa Reaches the Point Where the Digital Divide Will Turn Into a Yawning Power Divide

he future for a successful Africa is easy to see and the trends are very clear. Consumer devices like smart and feature phones and tablets will continue to increase in number. These will encourage the use of screen-based apps that need to be hosted remotely. Taking advantage of increasing levels of bandwidth, the enterprise market will up its use of things like SaaS and external continuity for their data. All of this will require power-hungry data centres capable of running cloud based services. The implementation of 4G/LTE will encourage much higher levels of video use which again will require local server based access for local content.

Kaberuka named African of the Year

African Development Bank Group President Donald Kaberuka has been named 2013 African of the Year in recognition of his role in spearheading the Africa50 Fund to mobilize the financing of infrastructure projects on the continent. The $50,000 award was announced Thursday evening in Addis Ababa during the African Media Leaders Forum. The prize is sponsored by Nigeria’s Daily Trust newspaper. “[This award] is for his bringing to fruition the idea of domestically financed development,” Salim Ahmed Salim, Tanzania’s erstwhile foreign minister and former Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity (current African Union), said at the forum.