" ITREALMS: August 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007

Office Open XML enjoys positive momentum - Microsoft

The current debate on the proposed global standardization of the Ecma Office Open Extensible Markup Language (Open XML) has been enjoying positive momentum and widespread use, according to Microsoft Corporation.

Also, Microsoft said that over 2000 partners representing 67 countries on six continents have given their green lights for the ratification of OOXML by the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

Commenting on recent media reports on the debate, the Public Relations and Events Manager, Microsoft Nigeria, Ms Ndidiamaka Victoria Uwadoka, informed that even third parties have also endorsed the standard.

This, she said, includes contributors from the Open Source community and those appreciative of interoperability software solutions.

“Other third parties have endorsed the standard, including contributors to the Open Source community and those who appreciate the need for interoperability among mixed software solutions,” she declared.

In addition, Ms Uwadoka said that contrary to reports, African civil society organisations as a homogenous group are not against the Open XML, stressing that over 2000 partners representing 67 countries on six continents have given their support for Open XML approval.

“More than 2000 partners representing 67 countries on six continents support Open XML and its ratification by ISO,” she said, adding that this expanding community of voices recognised the fact that this format gives partners many opportunities to innovate and deliver the full value of XML-based technologies to customers.

“ … Helping them to achieve their goals of increased productivity and decreased costs,” Ms Uwadoka asserted.

She explained that although Microsoft has been instrumental in the development of the Ecma Office Open XML standard, “Open XML is not a Microsoft standard but an international one.”

Microsoft further said that Open XML is an international, open standard for word-processing documents, presentations, and spreadsheets that could be freely implemented by multiple applications on multiple platforms.

According to her, the work to standardise Open XML is being carried out by a technical committee of Ecma International, which includes representatives from Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, British Library, Essilor, Intel, Microsoft, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, Toshiba and the United States Library of Congress.

“The standard is under the maintenance of Ecma; Microsoft has just one vote of the more than 20 members,” she stated.

Microsoft further said that contrary to reports, United States and Germany have voted ‘Yes’ with comments to accept Open XML as an ISO standard.

As said by her, “’Yes, with comments’ means that it was a progressive outcome from the national standards body, and Ecma looks forward to resolving these comments during the ballot resolution process, claiming that South Africa will only be voting on Sunday, September 2, this year, while the finale ISO ballot process will be in 2008.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Innovative weblogging and social change

Features of the week:

The new phase of development in the nation’s telecommunications sector has been found in the Value Added Services (VAS) based on information sharing. REMMY NWEKE in this report examines the effect of weblog as a means of sharing information for social change.

The web call blogs

Now, evidence abound in the West African Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) that shows it has taken a new dimension with the evolution and advent of blogging.

This was boosted with the acceptance of ICT and strengthened by the massive roll-out of the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), which has pushed up the need to improve on value added services such as the Internet in the country, as the subscriber-base rises.

Blogging, an ICT industry term is daily increasing reception among various upcoming professionals since the web advancement caught up with the region and in Nigeria and Ghana precisely, hence, the need to examine blogging by parts of media, civil society and political class in West African region at large, to drive social change.

Primarily defined as act of keeping a dairy on the web, weblog often referred to as a web-log, weblog or blogging, while those involve in carrying out this mission of pushing more information through the ‘community journalism’ module are known as bloggers.

Also, blogs have since grown into what some experts categorized as push-button-publishing, a concept that has simplified its module of ownership and publication, which actually takes the push of a button to accomplish.

So, to own a weblog, a potential blogger requires, a computer system connected to the Internet and then make a choice out of the several Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) templates. This entails that programmers; those who coded the initial formula for weblog made it free for users to have access to the programmable codes and change same at will, without hiccups of proprietary.

This is unlike proprietary software being propagated by the likes of Microsoft and Adobe, were simply paid for; align to FOSS activists believe that this attitude contributed to the widening of digital divide between several stratums in the society.

Creating blog …

Creating a weblog lasts for less than 10 minutes, depending on the skilfulness of the potential-blogger and the speed of the Internet access. And by simply logging on to any weblog-inspired sites such as UserLand.com, ScriptNews.com, TypePad.com and Blogspot.com to name a few, borders on issues of paramount importance to an individual and content generation could be consistently raised among peers both locally and globally, and given the ‘global village’ epistle, with the choice of making it FOSS affair or private like in http://donaldduke.blogspot.com.

Typically, weblogs are initiated on non-profit basis though dated with logs as in diary, which could be updated daily, weekly or as frequently as possible. It’s also published in reverse chronological order, making it handy on a specific subject with sub-themes. Name it and there is a blog for it and could contain recorded ideas too.

13 blind men?

Ten online media websites were examined during the course of our investigations across seven acclaimed national dailies in Nigeria and three magazines, additional to three Ghanaian media websites. The outcome showed that only one media website reflected a weblog column in its home page, which is an intension to tap into the future and benefits of weblog through engaging its readership and obviously getting some newsworthy materials as feedbacks. Incidentally this column was found in Daily Champion, was not active.

Others consist of Nigerian Tribune, The Guardian Nigeria, The Nation, The Sun, The Punch, Vanguard, The News, NewsWatch and Weekly Trust.

Ordinarily weblogs afford people with the ICT-power to write, share experiences by posting them online, and through a new global diary format called ‘a web in our log’ by some industry analysts.

As for neighbouring Ghana, our investigations showed that media organisations in this domain are not distanced to ICT but the effect of blogs and consequent usage or propagation is totally absent.

Study also revealed that an Accra-based Ghanaian Chronicle, styled to be independent and published thrice weekly, does not have weblog column, while Daily Guide also based in Accra was very difficult to access and Ghanaian Times was not different either.

Nigerian Journalists blog!

Today, blogs in Nigeria and Ghana are visible on Technorati.com and search would unveil estimated 289 blogs on Nigeria sorted out by relevance, cutting across arts, blogs, books, business, design, entertainment, humour, life, media, movies, ICT, music, news, personal, politics, sports and travel among others.

As-such there is a Nigeria Official blog-DTI with 60 blogs linked to it that definitely have to do with Nigeria, even as specific events could be sourced through and positive focus on Nigeria.

Equally, Nigerian ICT-media has explicitly risen to the occasion with weblogs dedicated to the sector, including ITRealms Online and ICTNewsNow to name a few.

Research also informed that very few journalists actually have access to the Internet, while very little have access at homes; even at offices journalists find it difficult to blog because supervisors could be watching which would amount to abandonment of duty.

Mr. President’s blog!

Significantly one of the April 2007 election’s Presidential aspirant in Nigeria, Prof. Pat Utomi, has been severally described as the new face of Nigerian technocrats, mostly as he has a blog called UtomiNotes.com; where he share his thoughts and actions towards the new Nigerian dream hinged on WordPress, a FOSS component.

Apart from being the first Nigerian presidential aspirant to take such a step, it goes to show Prof. Utomi’s passion for ICT-entrenched growth and need to engender this factor in every facets of the economy. In so doing, it was seen by stakeholders as an alternative to reaching out to millions of Nigerians in diaspora and specifically the youth, whose embrace to blogging is on the rise.

Experience is said to be the best teacher, especially if shared the Utomi way and expected to boost ICT penetration in the country.

Blogger’s Voice

Speaking on impression of blogs in the region, Nigerian blogger cum ICT Consultant, Mr. Gbenga Sesan, said that there are a number of blogs and bloggers in West Africa both in terms of citizenship and location, but this does not compare favourably with the high volume of blog traffic that exist in some other regions of the globe.

“In West Africa, Nigeria commands a high number of blogs and bloggers. Blogs on Nigeria and by Nigerians cut across various discussion topics on a number of platforms through which some of these blogs can be seen as a group; the Nigerian Weblog Ring, Nigerian Blog Aggregator and Global Voices,” he said, calling for more collaboration among bloggers, especially with the much-needed task of popularising blogs as a tool of local content propagation, citizen participation and tool for development.

He said that blogs impact positively in Nigeria, especially this election year, even as he blogs about the elections among other topics and judging from the comments, people are reading politics a lot these days.

He noted that some candidates are going online, citing Prof. Utomi’s Notes, where he shares stories from the field, campaign pictures and response to questions raised thereof.

On way forward, he advocated for collaboration among bloggers to sharpen each other, learn more and jointly to take advantage of blogging, declaring, “Let’s drop guns and pick up keyboards. It’s time for West Africans to blog!” Even as improved Internet access would naturally facilitate increased number of bloggers from this region.


Efforts by media practitioners could boost blogging in the region, if various stakeholders group like the Joint Action Committee ICT Awareness and Development (JACITAD) set up in 2003 with 75 per cent membership drawn from the media, queue into available options in partnership with local, international and service provision entities to make this dream a realty through workshops narrowed down to webloging, Internet-ready Personal Computer ownership structure for media practitioners and annual prizes for best-of-blogs in West Africa and precisely Nigeria.

courtesy: Haayato Mediatric
ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

MTN spends N700m monthly on power supply

Leading Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) operator in the country, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, has declared that it spends close to N700 million monthly on provision of alternative power supply for its operations nationwide.

While decrying the state of epileptic power supply in the country, at a one-day stakeholders summit on the “State of Nigeria’s Energy and Power Sector: Implications for Telecommunications Development,” at the weekend, the chief executive, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Ahmad Farroukh represented by the Head, Regulatory, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Wale Goodluck, said that approximated N700 million is being spent on monthly basis by MTN on diesel and related costs to keep the network running.

“We spend close to N700 million on diesel per month,” he asserted, noting that no telecommunications operator would like to run its operations on alternative power supply like in generating sets.

“Self provision of power supply is expensive,” he declared, adding that presently the renamed power company of the federal government, the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) is now regarded as back-up for all the operators in the country.

Justifying his claims in a special presentation made at the occasion on “The Challenge of Accelerating Network Expansion in an Expensive Energy & Erratic Power Regime: Exploring bio fuels as cost-effective alternative,” Mr. Farroukh said that an estimated 400 litres of diesels per hour is being consumed and when multiplied by 24 hours of all the base stations running into thousands owned by the operator it would be getting close to N700 million every month.

According to him, every operator that knows its onion now has two generating sets of between 15 to 20 KVA, dubbed master and slave to sustain operations.

Just as they have to contend with the challenge of security and how telecommunications services impact on the citizenry eventually.

As said by him, an estimated 40 generating sets could not be reached for routine maintenance due to community issues, especially those who are seeing telecom operators as kind of national cake that ought to be shared.

This is coming even as about six generating sets have been declared missing from the site of location, pointing out that all this contribute to the kind of quality of services that consumers get at the end of the day, just as on average, each of the cabins housing base stations has two air-conditioners.

Telcos, Mr. Farroukh said, are investing lots of fund on security and intelligent security as well, stressing that the number of organisations in search of generating sets to serve them have grown in recent times in the country, hence these generating sets have to be mainly imported.

He also alleged that some of the stolen generating sets are being offered on second hand value openly in the market.

“We can do nothing about it and even the security agencies seem helpless,” he lamented.

On the industrial noise pollution of using generating sets, Mr. Farroukh pointed out that communities have to take a stand if they want telecom services and obviously ready to safe guide such equipment and then live with the noise pollution.

He maintained that in the real terms, it’s difficult to find the solution of power supply through wind, bio fuel, and solar energy apart from diesel as a means of alternative power supply outside PHCN.

Therefore, he advised that fixing PHCN, which has been commenced by the federal government, is the only solution if power supply generation is to be cost effective.

“PHCN remains the only solution. It’s the only organisation to generate power with cost effective,” he said.

MTN Nigeria, which commenced GSM operations in Nigeria on May 16, 2001 is part of the MTN Group, and prides itself as the continent’s leading cellular telecommunications company after paying the $285 million for one of the four GSM licenses in January 2001 and has invested over $1.8 billion on building mobile telecommunications infrastructure.

And since August 2001 when it launch services in Lagos, MTN claims provision of services in over 223 cities and town and over 10,000 villages and communities across the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, while its subscriber base is in the neighbourhood of 15 million.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

FG to find lasting solution to energy crisis

The Federal Government (FG) has said its determined to find a lasting solution to energy and power crisis in the country anchored on the premise of Public-Private Partnership (PPP).

Minister of Information and Communications, Mr. John Odey gave this assurance at the stakeholders’ summit on power and energy, organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) in Lagos.

Mr. Odey who was represented by Mr. Samuel Osahon, noted that the government is not unaware of the immense challenges businesses have to face due to erratic power supply especially in the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) sector and is determined to find a lasting solution.

He expressed dismay that in spite of abundant primary electricity resources in the country, including coal, natural gas, geothermal, tide, solar, biogas, biomass to name a few, the inadequate power supply and outages have persisted.

He pointed out that the effect of this on the economic growth and developments have been quite profound.

“The capacity to create wealth at individual and corporate levels has consequently been constrained leading to low output,” he noted.

As said by the minister, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adu’s administration is determined to find a lasting solution on energy and power thus considering it the top priority of his government.

“This administration is determined to actively engage Nigerians on every aspect of governance in order to deepen the gains of democracy … With this approach, Nigerians both home and abroad would be able to think positively and give necessary encouragement to government efforts in developing the country.

Also speaking, chairman, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr. Ransome Owan corroborated Mr. Odey, saying that government alone cannot provide adequate energy and power supply to the populace.

“Power is made in Nigeria and its problem requires made in Nigeria solution. Government cannot do it alone but needs Public-Private Partnership (PPP),” he said.

He pointed out that in the energy and power sector, it has been discovered that power is grossly inadequate in demand and there must be constant planning for the future which takes upto 12 years to mature or yield any good result.

He emphasised that out of the estimated 140 million Nigerian, only 4.5 million are recognised by PHCN as consumers, noting that for instance, in South Africa, $7.5 billion was voted for spare capacity while in Nigeria the case is the reverse.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

What to know about OOXML

Market Intelligence:

Like in the April general elections, Nigerians, especially stakeholders in the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) sector would today, Wednesday, August 29, 2007, assemble at the headquarters of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) in Lekki-Lagos State, to decide on whether or not Nigeria should adopt the controversial DIS 29500 ‘Office Open Extensible Markup Language (OOXML).’

OOXML is a standard being proposed by software giant, Microsoft Corporation seeking the certification of the International Standards Organisation (ISO), even as Sunday, September 2, 2007, has been scheduled as the final global voting day on the subject by ISO.

Before now, countries of the world and members of ISO have the opportunity of picking a date before the main global voting session to reach a consensus on the matter on whether or otherwise OOXML should be given or accepted as a global standard for document format.

However, experts have been raising dust of the implication of endorsing such a format in spite of the efforts at various levels of the globe to further close the digital divide.

The opposition to the OOXML endorsement being led by the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) argued that OOXML has many flaws disqualifying it from being globally applicable and acceptable, especially by ISO.

XML is a programmable code initiative by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which permits information and services to be encoded with meaningful structure and semantics, which computers and humans could understand.

Software experts described XML as a great formula for information exchange, and easily extendable to include user-specified and industry-specified tags.

United States, South Africa, Kenya, Spain and others, for instance, have already taken a stand by saying ‘No’ to the adoption of OOXML as a global standard.

Champion Infotel investigations revealed that if adopted, it is only those that own Microsoft Office 2007 could benefit from the document format.

“If you use any Office apart from 2007 edition, you first have to upgrade. I cannot understand why norms cannot be used unless certain proprietary changes had to be made,” one advocate told Champion Infotel.

It was also gathered that there would be no implication of voting ‘No’ to OOXML, mostly since some countries have began migration of their operating systems to Open Document Formats (ODF) as an alternative file format, including South Africa.

“Office Open XML’ (OOXML) does not meet the criteria defined by ISO and others for an International Standard, adding that OOXML is an immature documentation of one vendor’s proprietary document format, which depends on software patents held by this vendor,” our source declared.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

GAPP: Omatek takes gospel to Ogun

Foremost Original Equipment manufacturer (OEM), Omatek Computers Limited, has taken its Personal Computer (PC) penetration gospel to Ogun State.

Speaking at the inaugural partnership with the Government Assisted Personal Computer Purchase Programme (GAPP) in Ogun State recently, the Managing Director, Omatek, Mrs. Florence Seriki, said her firm has resolved to support Ogun State government to ensure that greater number of its citizens and especially the civil servants are computer literate, beginning with the ownership of PCs and laptops.

She noted that through the state’s GAPP, computer acquisition version of Computer for All Nigerian Initiative (CANi) project of the federal government, that the bureaucratic bottlenecks associated with civil service would become a thing of the past, tasking those interested in the computers to acquire it now with utmost ease.

She also expressed delight on the opportunity to spread what she described as the “digital age gospel” in Ogun State through Omatek brand, emphasizing that the use of computers to access the global information highway will accelerate civil service operations.

In addition, she revealed that Omatek has already mapped out an undisclosed number of PCs and laptops for the state to boost its GAPP project.

She implored interested civil servants and individuals to embrace the project, especially at this era of electronic governance.

“The eras of carrying files are gone. Its all about e-governance now,” she asserted, adding that those who embrace the programme would never regret it, predicting that, they would be competitive among other states in the country and abroad.

According to her, to acquire PCs through GAPP in the state has been designed to make life easier and the product affordable for the citizens, mostly now that AfriBank Nigeria Plc is supporting the initiative.

The bank, she said, provided N1.5 billion facility to Omatek for the launch of e-xpress in the state, thereby making it possible for everyone to be able to buy a computer and pay by instalments over a period of 12 to 24 months.

In his remarks, the Ogun state governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel said that GAAP is another milestone of his administration in an effort to transform the state into an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) hub in the country.

Otunba Daniel, represented by the state’s ICT consultant Mr. Bayo Banjo, the governor lauded the strategic partnership between Omatek and Afribank, which has given boost to Ogun State GAPP.

A project, he said, was aimed at empowering the civil servants in order to assist the state in building home grown professionals.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Security is vital in mobile messaging – Manafa

Chief executive officer, Race Telecommunications International Limited, Mr. Theo Manafa, has said that security is a vital part of mobile messaging business especially in push electronic mail (push-email), and is a differentiating factor Seven Always-On has against competitors.

Champion Infotel recalls that the French government recently banned the use of Blackberry device in the country for fear that information sent through the device is not secured and this makes it vulnerable to unauthorized access.

Speaking on the development, Mr. Manafa said, that security goes beyond adding firewalls to a server and encrypting users personal data when it comes to push e-mail.

He also said that as Nigeria continues to adapt to the push email technology, there is need to safeguard against the threat of unauthorized access to the information sent to the mobile device through the push email server.

“The consequences of unauthorized access to data can be devastating and it poses a threat to national security,” Mr. Manafa said, stressing that security borders on making the user feel comfortable with the system and feel in control of the information sent to his mobile device without the risk of interception.

Mr. Manafa pointed out that although e-mail had existed for many years, one of the first uses of the system with a portable “always on” wireless device was the Blackberry service, adding that Blackberry was called addictive, wonderful and now, it has become a threat to national and corporate data.

He emphasised that conventionally, the information sent from the Blackberry goes through a handful of servers in the United States and Britain and the concentration of data on the server poses a threat to the security of data.

He noted that the French government argument was that the US security agency has the ability to view the content of any data sent through Blackberry server and any email that risk falling into foreign hands will pose a threat to national security.

Equally, he said, a study carried out recently revealed that Blackberry poses a data security problem, just as Total, an oil company in France has never allowed its staff to use Blackberry for security reasons.

According to the company, “there are plenty of other perfectly good push email devices in the market.”

The senior economic advisor to the French Minister, Alian Julliet was quoted as saying that government and businesses should be more wary on how they use technology to exchange information especially while using the Blackberry.

“With Blackberry, there is a problem with the protection of information; it is expected that other governments and security conscious organizations may follow in the trend to keep the Blackberry device at arms length,” Ms Julliet said.

However, Mr. Manafa, Seven Always is similar push email solution and serves as a full mobile office offering for mobile operators and service providers.

According to him, it delivers all the benefits of real time enterprise and private messaging with a very comfortable user experience and end-to-end security bringing all the components that users are familiar with when using their computer to check their email.

Seven Always-on products, Mr. Manafa said, have been designed to address the security needs of the most demanding enterprises, taking into consideration the unique challenges that are prevalent in the mobile environment.

“Unlike other mobile email solutions that replicate and store data, Seven pushes data to mobile devices in real time. The data is delivered from enterprise applications that reside behind the firewall directly to the mobile device,” he asserted.

He explained that Seven utilizes the most advanced security technologies to ensure that no one but authorized users can read or access corporate data.

“All the messages exchanged between the desktop and the mobile device is encrypted using a key only available to the connector software and the mobile device. This key is never transmitted over the public Internet or wireless network and it is never available to the relay server or its hosting organization,” he said.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Koch leads @ HP Africa

Technology distribution giant, Hewlett Packard (HP) has announced the appointment of Rainer Koch as the managing director and Technology Solutions Group (TSG) leader of HP Africa operations.

This appointment was immediate effect, just as Mr. Koch is expected to report to Ken Willett, vice president and managing director HP Middle East, Mediterranean , Africa (MEMA).

Mr. Koch succeeds Olivier Suinat, who had assumed duties as the vice president sales, Technology Solutions Group for HP Central & Eastern Europe earlier this year.

Mr. Koch has been acting managing director and Technology Solutions Group lead of HP Africa since May 2007.

Before the latest appointment, Mr. Koch headed the HP Services business in Africa since 2004 where he was responsible for accelerating business growth across the entire HP services portfolio.

His career in the IT industry extends over 22 years, having joined HP Germany in 1985 as a consultant and account manager and since then has held several senior management positions in Central & Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa .

“Rainer has demonstrated strong leadership, sound execution and excellent knowledge of the African ICT market combined with exceptional passion for customers and their success,” Mr. Willett said.

Koch is a German national and holds a diploma in economics and computer science from the University of Applied Sciences in Frankfurt, Germany.

HP focuses on simplifying technology experiences for all of its customers; from individual consumers to the largest businesses.

With a portfolio spanning across printing, personal computing, software, services and IT infrastructure, HP is among the world’s largest IT companies, with revenue totalling $97.1 billion for the four fiscal quarters ended April 30, 2007.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

VIA unveils pc3500 for Vista-ready PCs

In the bid to further drive the penetration of its VIA PC-1 Initiative, the foremost fabless supplier of market-leading core logic chipsets, VIA Technologies Incorporated, has unveiled pc3500 mainboard for Vista-ready Personal Computers (PCs).

Vice President of Corporate Marketing, VIA Technologies Incorporated, Mr. Richard Brown, said that this new product would strengthen the firm’s leadership in providing the world’s most energy-efficient computing platforms.

VIA Technologies announcement of the VIA pc3500 Mainboard, which is a low power, feature-rich platform, he said, enables Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and system integrators to build Windows Vista Basic PCs that draw less than 24 watts in Idle State – less than half the requirement of the US EPA’s latest Energy Star Program Requirement for Computers: Version 4.0.

He explained that to draw less than 24 Watts when in Idle, a system based around the VIA pc3500 Mainboard draws only 1.09 watts when in sleep mode, and 0.68 Watts in standby (off mode), comfortably meeting the latest energy star requirements for a category A system.

According to him, the system even draws less than 35 watts when playing back a Digital Video Display (DVD), one of the most power-intensive computing applications.

“With the launch of VIA pc3500 mainboard we are leading the way in developing innovative low power platforms that enable our OEM and SI customers to meet the growing worldwide demand for energy-efficient PCs,” he declared, adding that consumers and business users who purchase PCs based on the VIA pc3500 mainboard will not only be able to significantly reduce their energy costs but also minimize their environmental impact while running all the latest software applications.

Mr. Brown pointed out that the VIA pc3500 is the latest addition to the energy efficient VIA pc-1 Mainboard line, and is based on the VIA CN896 digital media IGP chipset, featuring the VIA Chrome9 HC IGP with a DirectX 9.0 3D accelerator for high performance, a 2D accelerator for productivity applications, and the Chromotion 3.0 video display engine for advanced hardware-based video processing.

Combined with the power efficient VIA C7-D processor supporting the 400MHz VIA V4 bus, the VIA pc3500 mainboard delivers high performance and a rich digital media experience at an average power consumption of less than 25 watts.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Docemo launches services for SMEs

Experts in empowering Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to optimise Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) tools, Docemo Business Systems, has launched its services in the country.

President, Docemo Business Systems, Prince Michael Docemo told Champion Infotel in Lagos that by opening its office in Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of the nation, they are now ready for business in the most populous nation in West Africa.

According to him, Docemo has been in operation for over five years offering ICT-related training and advice to SMEs and decided to replicate the same services in the country.

He stressed that in ICT industry, Docemo has an edge in offering training for SMEs through enabling them to derive insight from customer relation management (CRM) modules to keep them in touch with their customers.

Prince Docemo also said that his firm’s focus would be on hands-on training to boost the application of IT tools by participants in its training.

“We try to focus on those who have theoretical experience by converting this knowledge into practices,” he said.

Docemo president accompanied by the Marketing Executive and Support Engineer, Messrs Emmanuel Okoye and Segun Bello, further said that his firm conducted a study in order to ensure that the business modules being introduced are in tandem with demands.

“We have done a study on this kind of project and we know people are looking for well-trained individuals,” he said.

Equally speaking the Managing Director of the company, Mrs Olori Maxine Docemo, said that its training takes up to six months segmented into phases of three months for practical and internship.

As said by her, the first three months would be devoted in acquiring practical experience for participants while the next three months would be for industrial training.

This, she said, would enable any participant have adequate practical to withstand the challenges in working environment.

“It takes six months - three months on practical which would be in house and another three months in the field and would cost about N70,000 per trainee,” she said.

Mrs Docemo expressed optimistic that the future looks really bright in the country in this kind of specialised training for SMEs.

“We’re really prepared to face the challenges in the Nigerian environment,” she declared.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Telkom SA explains acquisition of Multi-Links

Telkom South Africa has explained why it recently acquired a Nigerian Private Telephone Operator (PTO), Multi-Links Telecommunications Limited, describing the step as a marriage of two giants across the continent, event as it said Multi-Link is a financially sound company.

This is coming as the telco plans to invest $1 billion in five years on Multi-Links expansion.

The South Africa’s leading fixed-line operator, Telkom, it would be recalled recently acquired 75 per cent of Multi-Links for US$280 million.

Giving this explanation, the new chief executive officer, Multi-Links, Mr. Justin Ramayia, in his maiden session with media in Lagos, said that although Telkom acquired Multi-Links based on its credential of quality of service and similarity in good corporate governance.

According to him, Multi-Links is a pioneer private telephone operator that was established in 1994 and got its first license to operate Private Network licenses on May 1, 1996.

He stressed that Multi-Links is an established trusted brand in telecommunications market in Nigeria.

“Known for good corporate governance, renowned for good service quality and has pioneered CDMA 2000 deployment in Africa,” he said.

Mr. Ramayia equally declared that Multi-Links is a financially sound telecommunications company, adding that investment into the telco in Nigeria would boost Information and Communication Technology knowledge and skills transfer that is needed to grow the industry.

He emphasised that Multi-Links’ subscribers within Lagos and its environs enjoy reliable wireless telephone service integrated with high speed Internet service.

Multi-Links, it was gathered has a loyal subscriber base of more than 100,000 and with its recent expansion the company is positioned to enhance this to over 500,000 by the end of 2006.

On the other hand, Telkom said it would bring its leadership on the continent to bear on the growth of the company as the largest fixed line operator in Africa.

Other services Telkom boast of include voice, data services, IPLC, leased hosting services, e-commerce platform and security among others.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

‘Reltel is CDMA company of the year’

The latest United Access Licensee, Reltelwireless, said it has won the “Coded Division Multiple Access (CDMA) Company of the Year,” at the Nigerian Telecoms Awards, held recently in Lagos.

Head, Corporate Communications at ReltelWireless, Mr. Oge Udeagha, informed that by this award, Reltelwireless has now won all the awards, from different industry, media and government organizations, in the CDMA category of the Nigerian telecommunications sector, from the last quarter of year 2006 till date.

Mr. Udeagha also said that the recognition was a tribute to the dedication and drive of the management, staff, dealers and other strategic partners of the company in providing best-in-class telecommunications solutions to its valued subscribers, at most cost-effective rates.

“This is not ‘yet another award’ to us. We’re extremely delighted to be recognized, once again, as the best. This one is for our subscribers whose loyalty to the network has ensured that we keep ahead of competition, and because of whom we are in business. We are humbled by this award, and wish to tell our subscribers to always expect nothing but the best telecommunications services from Reltelwireless,” he said.

According to him, ReltelWireless pioneered series of product and tariff re-engineering, and best CDMA network coverage in Nigeria, thus making us the undisputed leader of the category. These awards have confirmed this rating.”

He recalled that ReltelWireless has consistently won all recent awards in the CDMA category of the telecoms industry, including the Nigeria IT & Telecom Awards (NITTA), City People Award, Lagos Sate Government Enterprise Award among others.

Currently, he said, ReltelWireless covers more than 12 cities, with plans to go live in 30 more, within the next two months.

Reltelwireless, founded in 1998, offers fixed wireless, mobile telephone as well as high speed internet and data services.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

IT & Telecom Digest to host Ndukwe

Plans have been advanced for the hosting of the chief executive officer, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Chukwuka Anene Ndukwe, also known as Mr. Telecom, in Lagos, to commemorate his 59th birthday.

The occasion being organised by a Lagos-based Information and Communication Technology (ICT) magazine, IT & Telecom Digest, is scheduled to hold at the Golden Gate Restaurant, Ikoyi-Lagos on Sunday, September 2, this year.

Revealing this plans to Champion Infotel, Editor-in-chief, IT & Telecom Digest, Mr. Mkpe Abang said that the event is in line to honour Dr. Ndukwe to a special dinner party specifically to celebrate him.

He also pointed out that it would be a double celebration for the NCC boss as the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) operations in Nigeria mark six years of unmatched success and growth despite the odds and challenges.

“The evolution is evident in the ubiquity of the mobile phone device from the lower rung of the economic ladder to the society’s high and mighty,” he declared.

For him, Ndukwe has been widely described as an enigma not only in Nigeria but also outside the shores of the country.

“The over 38 million telephone lines growth that Nigeria has achieved under Dr. Ndukwe’s stewardship as the head of the NCC is a testament to the sheer ingenuity he has infused into the commission. It is interesting to note, and sometimes amazing to a segment of the society that the NCC is a government agency; yet it has earned the respect and even envy of the private sector,” he asserted.

noting that Ndukwe has remained unassuming, humble and modest in spite of his successes.

According to Abang, Dr. Ndukwe has given so much to his generation and the country that no amount of time or resources spent to celebrate him now or in the future should be spared.

“If we all can do even a minute part of what Ndukwe has done for this country, then certainly Nigeria will be ahead of many so-called advanced countries,” he declared.

Meanwhile, stakeholders in the industry have been expressing support for the initiative taken by IT & Telecom Digest to host Mr. Telecom.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

EIU ranks Africa 4th in broadband penetration

Africa has been ranked the fourth in broadband penetration among six continents that were sampled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in the year 2007.

The study conducted by the EIU, according to the Highway Africa News Agency (HANA) reports, rated Africa as fourth in its uptake of broadband services within the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, scoring 7.4 behind North America 10, Western Europe 9.9, Central and Eastern Europe 7.6. After MEA came Latin America with 7.3 and Asia Pacific 7.1 within the six regions under review.

“Scores are on scale of 1-10, with 10 representing the highest level of affordability,” EIU stated.

Africa’s positive but slow response to broadband is attributed to Africa’s gradual liberalisation of the telecommunications market.

EIU precisely cited South Africa as an example of where broadband deployment progress has made broadband access much more affordable in recent years if online retails sales are anything to go by, said the report.

“South African e-commerce consultancy World Wide Worx reports that online sales of consumer goods grew by 25 per cent in 2006 to the tune of R688 million (about $94 million), and expects it to expand by another 35 per cent in 2007,” EIU added.

South African enterprises, the study indicated have in turn leveraged online services to manage growth more efficiently, particularly in newly competitive industries: low-cost airlines have burgeoned in South Africa in the post-apartheid era, in large part owing to online bookings.

EIU explained this phenomenon by citing four primary airlines who sell online tickets and have made a fortune of R1.8 billion in 2005, with Kulul.com accounting for 60 per cent of that trade, thus becoming the country’s largest online commerce site.

The study released at the 2007 eNNOVATE expo in Lagos, further noted that as broadband goes increasingly wireless, consumer familiarity with mobile devices such as phones and handheld computers would help individuals make the most out of the Internet.

The survey also showed that the ability to tap into broadband while on the move is increasingly becoming a contributor to improved employee productivity in many countries.

The EIU also said that this influence is not in the area of penetration only but equally its affordability to households in developing economies most of which are in Africa matters.

“Broadband is increasingly affordable in the developing world,” the white paper made available to HANA stated.

In addition, EIU pointed out that the goalpost has shifted in terms of connectivity based on broadband accessibility.

The study also shows that certain types of connectivity are proving better than others in enabling e-readiness and broadband has been found to be enjoying more effect in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry worldwide.

The study was written in co-operation with the International Business Machines (IBM) Institute for Business Value.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

ATCON partner PMM on Cyber cafe workshop

Umbrella body of telecommunications entities in the country, the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), is partnering with Private Media Mart (PMM) to organise a one-day workshop for survival for Cyber Café operators in the country.
Affirming this, ATCON president, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem said that all is now set for the workshop.
He noted that lack of information on appropriate technologies, wrong choice of hardware and software as well as poor management techniques have been the reason why many cyber café operators are closing shop.
Dr. Ekuwem pointed out that out of all the cyber cafes that began business with the boom in the Internet business within the tail end of the 20th century in Nigeria, less than 1 per cent is presently in business, adding that out of this figure, some of them are working under capacity.
He also said that the workshop is to proffer solutions to the operational challenges facing these café operators.
“ATCON in partnership with Private Media Mart Limited (PMM) has concluded plans to host a Cyber Café survival workshop in Lagos,” he declared.
According to him, the idea behind the workshop is the need to conduct a business cum technology solutions forum for the players in the industry.
The workshop, slated to hold on September 21, 2007 in Lagos, will bring together investors and prospective investors in the cyber café business to engage in knowledge sharing with providers of appropriate technologies and professional management consultants.
The technologies targeted at the workshop include, but not limited to Internet solutions, computer software, cyber café business consultants, power solutions, Internet applications, security solutions and Small and Medium Enterprise fund providers.
Daily Champion gathered that the workshop is also aimed at encouraging more potential investors to participate in efforts at accelerating the expansion of Internet services to sub urban and rural communities in Nigeria.
“That is why we are involving the Ministry of Information and Communications, Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NigComSat) and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) as well as the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) are billed to participate,” he said.
Also speaking, Managing Partner, PMM, Mr. Ejiofor Agada said that the workshop is not going to be another discussion session for telecom industry players, stressing, “It is going to be an avenue where challenges are resolved, problems solved, cyber business interests rekindled and the high mortality rate amongst cyber cafes across the country arrested.”
The workshop will equally feature a mini exhibition where technology providers would showcase the latest solutions for cyber cafes and other Internet users.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Celtel FDI reaches N379bn, launches SME scheme

By end of this year, the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of the Pan-African Celtel Nigeria must have reached $3 billion, about N379 billion in the country, within its two years of operation.

Disclosing this at the launch of the telco’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) scheme in Lagos on Tuesday, the chief executive, Celtel Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of MTC Group, Mr. Adebayo Ligali, said that the mobile company targeted investment profile by December 31, 2007 would be about $3 billion.

“By the end of 2007, Celtel Nigeria, through our parent company, the MTC Group would have invested a total of $3 billion FDI in Nigeria in two years. The launch of this SMEs bundle pack today is yet another promise kept aimed at making life better for our customers,” he declared.

He also said that the features of the product for the SMEs involves a special number range like 0808 SME XXX has been made available in three Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards per park.

This, Celtel explained would enable SME to benefit from the friendly tariff plans structure to boost their growth and access to enjoy over 70 per cent discount on comprehensive motor insurance cover via public quoted Leadway Assurance Plc.

Mr. Ligali equally said that the bundle offer comes with entrepreneurship training opportunities, access to online SME directory as well as SME compact disc (CD) tool kit included to empower them knowledge-wise.

In addition, interested SMEs would have the opportunity to join the Celtel SME club Internet access and attend Celtel SME exhibitions, which would be sponsored by the telco.

Just as they have a dedicated first-rate customer care line available on 131* among others, which initial cost has been fixed at N3,600.

According to Mr. Ligali, the new product is aimed at empowering potential entrepreneurs to grow profitable businesses under the micro, small and medium enterprises scheme.

The special guest to the occasion and governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, represented by the state Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mr. Niyi Oyemade, commended Celtel for the SME initiative.

He noted that the initiative is coming at a time unemployment has assumed an exceptional height, even as he disclosed Lagos state government has begun a programme of empowering youths in gainful employment through its holiday job scheme.

Gov. Fashola also enjoined the telco to partner with the state government under the Public, Private Partnership (PPP) in “provision of social amenities through the construction of health facilities, renovation of schools within you Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) budget.”

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Telkom votes N12.6 trillion on Multi-Links’ expansion

Telkom South Africa, the new owners of the pioneer Private Telephone Operator (PTO) and Unified Access compliant in the country, Multi-Links Telecommunications Limited, has announced its resolve to invest a total of $100 billion (about N12.632 trillion) on the network in the next five years.

Champion Infotel recalls that recently South Africa’s fixed-line operator, Telkom, acquired 75 per cent stake in Multi-Links for US$280 million, about N35.3 billion.

Disclosing this latest development, the new chief executive officer, Multi-Links, Mr. Justin Ramayia who led other management team to address the media in Lagos, said that the current owners of the company, Telkom South Africa is determined to expand its operations in Nigeria in all the states of the federation with voice and data services.

Mr. Ramayia also said the issue of quality would be sustained as far as the network is concerned.

“There is need for continuity and Telkom would continue with the progress made so far,” he said.

Mr. Ramayia equally said that Telkom has instituted a market research on the modules to take in repositioning the company, just as the telcom expects to grow its subscriber-base to 1 million before the end of its next financial year.

According to him, the new management would build its operation based on what he described as triple bottom line, namely people, profit and social responsibility.

“As much as we do business, we must focus on the people,” he assured.

He further lamented that almost every major operator is building its own network infrastructure in the country, which has affected SAT-3, noting that Multi-Links under Telkom is determined to do business with any entity that is willing to relate with the company.

Mr. Ramayia noted that Telkom currently has presence in South Africa, Kenya, Code d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nambia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Nigeria.

Telkom, he said, would soon erect a replica of its Network Operations Centre (NOC) in Nigeria to serve its West Africa market, just as there would be an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skill transfer for Nigerians.

Mr. Ramayia informed that Telkom would be deploying its security expertise to assist Nigerian security agencies, especially in Lagos State.

Multi-Links prides itself as the first to introduce the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA 2000 1X) technology in the country and have been consistent in its deployment of state-of-the-art wireless technology.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Nigerian CSOs kick against OOXML approval

Nigerian-based Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have kicked against the plans by the global software giant, Microsoft Corporation to get its DIS 29500 "Office Open Markup Language (OOXML)" certified by the International Standard Organisation (ISO).

Daily Champion recalls that on Sunday, September 2, 2007, ISO is voting on Ecma 376, “OOXML” while various countries voting dates have been chosen at random, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is expected to hold its voting on the issue on Wednesday, 29, 2007 at its Lekki office in order to form a consensus.

But sounding a note of warning, the CSOs argued that OOXML has several flaws that make it fall short of admission into a global standard, more so by ISO.

XML is a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) initiative that allows information and services to be encoded with meaningful structure and semantics, which computers and humans could understand. XML is great for information exchange, and could easily be extended to include user-specified and industry-specified tags.

“The DIS 29500 Office Open XML h (OOXML) does not meet the criteria defined by ISO and others for an International Standard, “ CSOs insisted.

According to sources close to the body, OOXML is an immature documentation of one vendor’s proprietary document format, which depends on software patents held by this vendor.

This, CSOs noted, block interoperability, hence its in conflict with existing ISO standards.

“More than two hundred other technical comments have been raised by industry, academics, researchers, and experts,“ our source informed, stressing that the ISO JTC-1 directive paragraph 48 section 9.8 requires national bodies to vote “NO with comments” if there remain unanswered technical problems.

“The accuracy and honesty of the voting process has been questioned in many countries,” our sources added.

Already, a website www. NoOOXML.org has added voice to the calls on all ISO members to apply the proper rigor and allow sufficient time to examine all technical comments by ensuring a fair and accurate vote in all advisory committees under a neutral chairman.

Just as experts advised that by abstaining from voting would not be in the best interest of any country.

It was also gathered that SON intends to call for stakeholders meeting in its office in Lekki to ensure full community participation.

“They plan to call a stakeholder meeting on Wednesday next week but confirmed that they can also accept email inputs,“ our source declared.

The Wednesday meeting, our source added, is where they want stakeholders to present facts for or against the proposed standard.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

MTN launches CSR charter in Lagos

MTN Nigeria has launched its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) charter in Lagos, with a ‘21 Days of Y’ello Care’.

Speaking on the charter and its 21 Days of Y’ello Care, the Corporate Service Executive at MTN Nigeria, Mrs Amina Oyagbola said that this marks three weeks of community caring by MTN staff to all the communities where the telco has operations.

The 21 Days, she said, reflects 21 operational units of the telco in Africa, Middle East and Asia.

“Caring for others is a way of life at MTN and that is why we’re visiting communities across the nation to touch lives and spread the Y’ello cheer,” she said.

The occasion, Mrs Oyagbola said, held simultaneously in MTN’s 21 countries of operation over a period of 21 days and was designed to enable all MTN staff reach out to their communities and spread Y’ello messages in the areas of education, caring and beautification.

According to her, education segment involves visiting schools, parks and markets, health cum caring encompasses visitations to hospitals, clinics, orphanages and old people’s homes while beautification has to do with tree planning, street cleaning and actual beautification of our environments.

MTN, she said, has ignited the staff in the areas of CSR through its foundation by way of contributing significantly to the lives of Nigerians.

107 concrete projects in 28 states nationwide, Mrs. Oyagbola said, was done by the foundation in recent times and has been tailored to ensure that staff members are able to participate in the community programmes without adversely impacting day-to-day business operations.

She stressed that the Group President and Chief executive, had earlier challenged all operating units to out-perform each other in securing the highest percentage of employees participating in community care for a coveted prize.

Commissioning the Nigerian charter of CSR, the Group Chief Executive Officer, MTN, Mr. Phuthuma Nhleko commended his Nigerian subsidiary for living up to expectation and taking CSR to the next level.

Equally speaking, chairman, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Pascal Dozie, said that MTN is the most unofficial key partner of the government based on its effort in supporting good governance through provision of good welfare plan for the populace.

“It has improved the capacity and value added to Nigerians,” he said, noting that all these were done through MTN foundation.

He urged Nigerians to see MTN beyond simply a Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) company.

“When we think of MTN, please think MTN as beyond GSM company,” he said.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Linkserve, Sony Ericsson, others listed in 50 W.A. enterprises

Pioneer Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the country, Linkserve Limited alongside handset giant, Sony Ericsson and Nigerian renowned software house, SystemSpecs Limited, have been listed in the top 50 technology business enterprises in the West African region.

Others entities who made the list include Celtel, Microsoft, Areeba of Ghana, Sonatel of Senegal among others were rated as top 50 for year 2007, just as they would be hosted by end of this month in Lagos.

According to a survey by the intelligence unit of IT Edge, a technology business news magazine, the 50 emerged in various categories.

Mr. Segun Oruame, editor of IT Edge informed that the criterion for these selections were determined based on best of technologies, business efforts and acumen as it concerns corporate excellence, service delivery transparency and strict adherence to the tenets of best international practice.

He disclosed that the rating, captured all of the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region, and is the first of such in recent times cutting across the French and English speaking countries.

He also said that the categories covered were from Broadband Internet Services/Solution companies, software companies, international vendors, telcos, and handset manufacturers to Personal Computer (PC) makers’ distribution companies in the region.

As said by him, MTN, Cisco, Systemspecs, Kasapa (Ghana), Omatek, Zinox, Tigo (Ghana), Interswitch, Nokia and HP were among the top 50 listed.

Additionally, Multilinks, Comium (Sierra Leone), Accelon, GS Telecom, Motorola, LG Electronics, Xerox, DOPC and Starcomms equally made the list.

A press statement endorsed by Mr. Oruame who also is the head, intelligence unit IT Edge, revealed that the main objective behind this annual ranking is to give the broadest information possible on the state of the ICT market in the sub-region using each country’s key players’ performance as basis for assessment of the overall technology business sector’s welfare.

These basic assessments were measured with such tools as data collection, local sources including newspapers and magazines, news websites, and international news publications including IT weekly of Dubai, Wall Street journal and Reuters.

Recognized as a top 50, Linkserve Limited has tremendously made her mark in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry having remained the first and one of the best broadband internet solutions providers in the past decade.

Equally, Linkserve since last two years opened office in the West Africa region including Ghana, showcasing its offerings include data services, VPN, MPN, voice and video conferencing cum streaming.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Imasuen applauds Celtel’s customer-centric practice

The Edo State Deputy Governor, Mr. Lucky Imasuen, has applauded Celtel Nigeria over its customer-centric approach to service delivery.

He said that the company has demonstrated a strong commitment to satisfying its customers in the state by making concerted effort towards bringing its services closer to the people.

Mr. Imasuen who spoke at the commissioning of Celtel’s new consumer contact point in Benin, Edo State capital, said Celtel is the first mobile network operator in the country to establish and commission additional customer contact point in the state.

He noted that telecom as a vital service is very crucial to the new administration in the state in its quest to communicate the rich potentials of the state to the world.

The event, attended by government functionaries, traditional rulers, Celtel business partners and the media, saw Mr. Imasuen represented by the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Calus Enona.

He enjoined Celtel to broaden its presence in the state by expanding its services in order to connect new customers, describing the network as “one of the best in the country”.

He appealed to Celtel to employ more indigenes of the state as part of the company’s corporate social responsibility programme, adding “the State government will create an enabling environment for Celtel to operate without hindrance.”

Earlier in his speech, Celtel’s General Manager, South South Region, Saeta Ukpemo, said the telco has created jobs for many people across the country through its operations.

He explained that the newly commissioned Celtel Shop would assist the mobile operator attend to the needs of mobile phone users in the state.

Ukpemo who was represented by the company’s Head of Business Support, Division, South South Region, Ime Uko, said the entry of the Pan African mobile operator, Celtel International, into the Nigeria telecom market a little over a year ago has brought a lot of positives to the country.

“Our presence has led to the downward review of the tariffs, greater competition, and strategic redirection of priorities and marketing tactics by several operators”, he said.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Stakeholders commend NCC on six years of GSM

Features of the week:

Month of August means many things to several people, but for Nigerians the licensing of Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) operators, who adventently opened shops in August 2001, heralded showers of blessings for the economy, regulator and country at large, reports REMMY NWEKE.

In the beginning:

Ogbuefi Soporuchukwu, is a retired civil servant who has gone to his hometown, Awba-Ofemili in Awka North local government area of Anambra State in the Eastern Nigeria to settle.

For him life has not been too bad as he was able to take up on another activity of offering call services to his community. Thank God for the likes of Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and probably for immediate former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for being steadfast in continuing with the probably only good legacy from the then Sanni Abacha regime.

According to Ogbuefi Soporuchukwu, telecom has contributed in making life in retirement a little easier apart from offering his contribution via operating a call center in a remote village, where telecommunications services are yet to take root. Basically, he said, there is no base station in the town, just about 200 kilometres from Awka, the Anambra State capital.

Hence, he was able to put up the call center based on special equipment called Yagi antenna, a receiver booster antenna introduced to him by a reverend gentleman who was serving in the community three years ago; through which he now offer telecentre services for his community, enabling the residents to be in touch with their loved ones outside the community and world at large.

All these would not have been possible without the likes of Dr. Ndukwe who guarded the deregulation of the nation’s telecommunications jealously and support of Chief Obasanjo in creating an enabling environment, politically for the non-interference of the government in the globally accepted transparent auction in year 2001 of the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), thus paving the way for investors to thrive.

Today, Ogbuefi said, the outcome is that Nigeria has over 40 million subscribers and is still counting out of the estimated 140 million according to the National Population Commission at the last census exercise.

This, he noted, left about 100 million Nigerians still gasping for telephone lines, adding that the coming of the GSM, has given him and others who were wondering what to do on retirement a live-line.

Pass mark for NCC:

Assessing the industry and NCC particularly, key stakeholders in the industry, the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), gave the regulator an applauding pass-mark.

President, ATCON, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem in peeping into the history of GSM in the last six years, commended NCC for what he called “carrying itself well against all odds.”

According to him, the regulator has not allowed itself to be used either by the operators or through undue influence by the government, noting that NCC was able to provide the enabling environment and encourage investment into the ICT sector, especially in telecom.

He implored the operators to embrace the capital market and become more intimate with Nigerians.

“The operators, especially GSM operators should be more Nigerianised by going to the stock market to allow for more Nigerians to have stake in their operations,” he said.

Equally, Chairman, ALTON, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, also commended the industry regulator, the NCC, pointing out that the commission led by Dr. Ndukwe has so far done well, just as he traced the rapid growth in the industry to the right regulatory environment.

“If regulatory was a problem, the world players will not be so interested in Nigeria, but today, the world of telecoms, from vendors to operators are looking towards Nigeria,” he said.

He also said that the journey is still far as there is relatively large addressable market, and the government and public must do a lot more to protect telecom infrastructure and support the operators.

A Lagos-based telecom lawyer, Mr. Ihuefo Udeh, said the industry, has fared well but there is still plenty to be done, noting that within the last six years, Nigeria has recorded the highest penetration in teledensity of telecommunications services on the continent.

“We became like the bride to investors and that is why the South Africans have not let us rest since then,” he said, adding that doing business also became easier, and there has been great improvement in the way Nigerians live.

Beyond this, Mr. Udeh said there are still a lot to be done by the government and the operators in order to bring the nation to the euphoria it deserved as a primary telecom consumer nation.

“The government must continue to create the enabling environment for telecoms operations such as security, power, quicker approvals of rights of way, the operators on their side should also be anticipatory as they grow in order to take care of capacity issues,” he advised, stressing that this way, issues like the one we have at the moment (congestion) in Nigeria would not happen.

Mr. Udeh observed that NCC has done a good job by way of taking the industry to this enviable position in the comity of telecoms nations in the world.

“But like everything that is good, there comes a time when re-strategisation is needed in order to meet the present challenges posed by the dynamics which is unfolding in the industry,” he declared, pointing out that NCC has the requisite personnel that are above board, and they must realign their positions to the restrategisaton of the commission, for it to continue to be relevant not only in name, but indeed and powers as well as respect.

Future of telecoms in Nigeria:

The future of telecommunications evolution in Nigeria is on the Value Added Services (VAS), declared Mr. Adebayo, noting that Nigeria has taken a place of pride in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) development across the continent and a mark in the world.

In addition, he said that the next step of development is to optimise the Value Added Service (VAS) in order to bring more offering to the subscribers.

“We are now going to a future of value added service, where telecommunications will provide platform for social services,” he asserted, adding that some of the VAS expected soon in the market place include eBanking, eLearning, eSecurity, eMotoring, eRoad Traffic, eCommerce, all riding on the infrastructure of telecoms.

He underscored that with VAS enthroned, the economy and social life of the country will benefit from these in the next level of development, just as he do not expect much rural penetration due to lack of adequate incentive to drive such investment by the government.

“I do not foresee much of rural penetration because not much has been done by government to provide incentives in making those areas attractive to commercial network operators,” ALTON chairman said.

He further advised the government to quickly readdress the rural telephony project by providing the right incentives for operators to go into those areas, instead of trying to execute the project by itself, which he noted is against the spirit of deregulation.

Equally, Mr. Udeh said that the future, is good as he looks forward to new entrants coming into the market to make it more competitive in winning the loyalty of consumers.

“At that stage, prices will come down as technologies would continue to improve. I hope we will soon get to that stage where we don’t need to carry four different phones for four different networks at the same time,” he enthused.

And for the chief executive, Telecom Answers Associates, Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, in the last six years, the telecom sector has won some and lost some but on the whole “we fared better,” even as he did not loose sight that call tariffs presently is still high and service providers appeared to pay more attention to marketing than to engineering which often ends in turbulent weather.

He predicted that the nation is going into the rural telephony and if that is so, “it should be a positive movement especially as it has taken the whole lot of post-liberalisation life of the industry to get here,” noting that technology is shaping the future and Nigeria should not loose sight of that but take advantage of it.

Brief on GSM in Nigeria:

For the benefit of history, the journey of current mobile telephony began in 2001 by finding of favour with the GSM technology followed by the auction. This auction was globally applauded for its transparency, more so coming from Nigeria of all countries, having suffered greatly because of escapades of notorious fraudulent activities of some Nigerians known as 419ners.

And between August 5 and 6 the likes of now Celtel Nigeria, then Econet and MTN began commercial roll out of their services, alongside the crawling Mobile Telecommunications Limited (MTel) owned by the Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) now acquired in the name of privatization by the Transnational Corporation (Transcorp).

Two years later, the call for the Second National Operator (SNO) operator was made and Globacom came on stream and hit the market in August 2003.

Today, the rest is history as Nigeria prides herself as one of the fastest growing telecom market in the world, especially on mobile communications with over 40 million subscribers.

Progress and distraction:

In addition, the latest stage of the telecom sector, which is the convergence, commenced with the news that the leading telco, MTN Nigeria bought over VGC Communications for $75 million, about N9.6 billion, whereas 75 per cent of Multilinks, a private telecom operator (PTO) was acquired by Telkom South Africa for $280 million, about N35.84 billion, while CellCom was purchased by Zenith International Bank Plc for over N4 billion.

Till date, approximated nine telcos have been elevated to the next stage of licensing which is embodied in the Unified Access, with the likes of MTN, Intercellular, Boaudex, Starcomms, VGC currently owned by MTN, Dan Jay, Prestel and Multilinks with the latest entrant being ReltelWireless.

In the last eight months, for instance, NCC began the year with the news that it has offered a Unified Access Service Licence to the Mubadala Development Company, a Kuwaiti telco, followed by the pronouncement on the licensing of spectrum in the two Gega Hertz of Third Generation (3G) and 450 Mega Hertz in February which was concluded by March.

Preceding this was the proclamation on the need to stop the use of stolen handsets on GSM networks in the country, just as it donated some industrial books to four higher institutions as part of its corporate social responsibility, before the deteriorating quality of service heightened. Of course, NCC raised concern over this, urging the operators to take cogent actions including stoppage of promos to enable them focus on improving the quality of service.

However, it would be pointed out that the effort to bulldoze its way into getting 3G license by NigComSat Limited, was observed as distraction by majority of the stakeholders especially the industry watchers.

Timely intervention:

Thanks to the Federal Government led by Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’du for the wisdom and timely intervention, resulting in sticking to the initial committee report that NigComSat could only be licensed after privatisation exercise conducted under due process.

Above all the rule of law should be allowed to prevail if this sector would continue to make progress.

And like Dr. Ekuwem would say, “government have no business in business,” and in line with this was a declaration by the chief telecoms consultant at research and consultancy, BMI-Techknowledge, Rivonia of South Africa, Mr. Andre Wills, about six years ago; “Nigeria’s huge market should be an attraction to many operators who intend to penetrate the continent,” therefore both the government through NCC and stakeholders should endeavour to work towards sustaining the excitement in spite of any distraction whatsoever.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Success in capital market depends on technology – Udoh

Managing Director, Progenics Corp Limited, Mr. Tony Udoh, has said that nowadays, success in capital market operations depend largely on technology deployment.

Speaking recently in Lagos, Mr. Udoh noted that as technology improves, its dependency increases, especially in automation of capital markets globally.

He expressed delight that the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) has embraced the opportunities provided by computer technology towards achieving higher levels of trading effectiveness.

“It is gradually becoming one of the leading African capital markets in terms of information technology with the installed Automated Trading System. (ATS),” he said.

He added that Progenics has over the years been involved in the building of the solutions that have fired up values and brought new orientations in the stock market, which includes the ability of stockbrokers to do remote trading.

“This means that stockbrokers can buy and sell stocks from their homes or offices. This is achieved with the use of the communication server that is situated at the trading floor; connected to the data base server, which contains the application solutions of the stock exchange,” he said, stressing that it avails the Real-Time-On Line application.

As said by Mr. Udoh, whose company still serves as the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) consultant to the NSE, a whole lot of activities is making life easier at the capital and stocks market currently anchored on deployment of technologies.

“Apart from our effort at achieving seamless management of the floor by the NSE using the ATS platform, we’re also improving activities from the traders’ side with our Symbols Investment management software,” he informed.

Mr. Udoh pointed out that with the introduction of the ATS, bids and offers are now matched by stockbrokers on the trading floor of exchange through a network of computers, thereby reducing delay and minimizing wastage of resources as stockbrokers could buy and sell immediately with the incidence of short selling becoming a thing of the past.

“It will also affords the market the ability to handle increasing order of volume with the same number of people with greater speed,” Mr. Udoh said.

Even as with the automation, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been connected to the stock exchange to facilitate live monitoring on the floor of the stock exchange in the trading floors in Abuja, Onitsha, Benin, Ibadan, Yola, Kaduna, Kano and Uyo.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Redenomination: Telecom service charge may rise – ALTON

The Federal Government (FG) and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have been warned over the last Tuesday proposal by the CBN governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, to redenominate the Naira, by the Association of License Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), saying it could lead to a rise in cost of delivering telecommunications services across the networks.

Sounding this note of warning, was the Chairman, ALTON, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, while reacting to the proposal of CBN governor on redenomination of Naira by August 2008.

According to him, it may not be interesting times for the growing telecommunications industry, stressing that it could impact negatively on the cost of service delivery.

“At the end of the day, if care is not taken, it might impact on the cost of service delivery,” he warned.

This, on the other hand, would be translated to the end users of telecom services, the subscribers.

He recalled that telecom infrastructure in the country of date depends largely on foreign importation.

“We are not yet a manufacturing country, and if the value of our currency goes down in the international market, it will have its impact on the cost of service provision,” he observed.

The ALTON chairman also advised the government and the CBN to ensure they tread carefully to avoid retrogressive actions.

“We suggest that the government should tread softly on this matter. The economy have been relatively stable, and you ‘don’t rock a smooth sailing boat,” he said.

Equally commenting on the development, Chief executive, Telecom Answers Associates, Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, said that he is excited on the proposal but would like to study it extensively before coming up with a position, wondering however, how Prof. Soludo intends to achieve that, more so when he seems not to have the backing of the federal government, hence the coming of the economic panel to review the plan.

FG, he pointed out, ought to have been consulted before making such a plan public.

Telecom lawyer, Mr. Damian Udeh, also demanded for more time to re-assess the proposal, but was quick to add that the bottom line is that what will change, will be the size of the money. “The zeros you put behind the figures,” he said.

While the Managing Director of Beta Computers Limited, Mr. Will Anyaegbunam, said the redenomination is commendable, he added that all Nigerians need to do is to remove the two decimal in every of the current denominations.

“The Naira exchanging for N1.25 to a Dollar with the rate adjustment by two decimal places leftwards is about the same rate presently at N125 to a dollar,” he declared.

He quoted the CBN governor, Prof. Soludo as assuring that the change is not expected to change the value.

Mr. Anyaegbunam said that for the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry specifically, this policy would hopefully encourage the movement to a cashless economy.

“As I will rather pay with plastic money than carry a sack of coins,” he declared, underscoring that with the expected emergence of the Naira as the de facto common currency in West Africa, at least, Nigerians should see increased demand for their products from neighbouring countries.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Featured post @ITREALMS

Call for Papers & Participation – 2024 Nigeria DigitalSENSE Forum on Internet Governance for Development (IG4D)

ITREALMS ... making leadership SENSE with digital news! The Nigeria DigitalSENSE Forum series is organised by  ITREALMS   Media and hosted ...