MTN renews Ericsson’s management services contract for Ghana operations

Swedish-based Ericsson says January 30, 2012 that telecoms operator MTN has extended its management services agreement for Ghana.

“Under the extension, MTN will retain full ownership of the network and responsibility for its strategic direction, while Ericsson will manage the network operations, optimization and field maintenance for MTN’s 3G sites,” said Ericsson in a statement.

This announcement, according to Ericsson, marks the extension of the first managed services contract between Ericsson and MTN, originally signed in 2009 in connection to the rollout of MTN’s 3G network in Ghana.

“Our first two years together achieved the results we were hoping for: we could focus on subscriber growth, and Ericsson delivered network reliability and efficiencies,” Jon Hoffmann, Chief Technical officer at MTN Ghana is quoted as saying.

The contract extension is expected to strengthen MTN’s competitive edge through improved network availability and capacity as it increases the market growth for mobile services.

By Ekow Quandzie

Web economy in G20 set to double by 2016, Google says

By Tim Weber BBC

The value of the web economy in G20 countries will nearly double by 2016, according to Boston Consulting Group.

Driving the spurt from $2.3tn (£1.5tn) to $4.2tn (£2.7tn) will be the rapid rise of mobile internet access.

The study, supported by web giant Google, assumes that in four years 3bn people will be using the internet, or nearly 50% of the world’s population.

The research suggests that the UK is one of the most advanced e-commerce economies.

Right now, every year about 200 million people are going online for the very first time.

However, traditional internet access via a copper wire and a desktop PC will fade into the background.

The rapid fall in the cost of smartphones – with cheap versions now costing about $100 – means that by 2016 about 80% of all internet users will access the web using a mobile phone.

The research does not even account for web access using so-called feature phones.

The ‘new’ internet

These numbers look impressive, but they are still just a fraction of the global economy.

In 2010, the internet economy in the G20 group of leading nations was worth $2.3tn – larger than the economies of Italy or Brazil, but a mere 4.1% of the total size of all G20 economies.

The Boston Consulting Group researchers speak of the emergence of a “new internet” where:

  • web access will not be a luxury any more
  • the majority of web users will live in emerging markets (within four years, China is expected to be home to 800 million people using the internet; that is more than the United States, India, France, Germany and the UK taken together)
  • about 80% of all internet users will access the web from a mobile
  • the internet will go social, and allow customers and companies to engage with each other

This trend will be coupled with another huge technology shift that will fundamentally change the nature of how to run a business – the rise of the so-called “internet of things”, where all kinds of devices from sensors to cars to radiators will be connected to the web.

Technology giant IBM estimates that by 2015, one trillion devices will be internet-connected.

Online is also reaching into the offline world. The BCG researchers say that every household already researches about $3,000 worth of goods online before buying them in traditional stores.

Digital, the researchers say, cannot be an add-on. Businesses have to adapt their people, processes and structures for the digital economy.

Paul Zwillenberg of BCG says that entrepreneurs building a digital business are outperforming rivals who do not embrace the web economy.

However, what the research fails to capture is the balance of employment between new, more efficient digital companies and old-style businesses.

The winners

Google, who supported the research, is obviously one of the companies set to gain most from the rapid growth of the internet.

“Understanding the economic potential of the web should be an urgent priority for leaders… [with] a powerful case for countries and companies to get online and reap the rewards of an age of data,” Patrick Pichette, Google’s chief financial officer, says.

However, the report suggests that Google will not be the only winner.

The researchers identify several “internet ecosystems” that will try to tie users in to their customised part of the internet, among them Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Baidu and Tencent in China and Yandex in Russia.

What is digital?

A problem with BCG’s research is obviously that it is difficult to define what is actually part of the digital economy.

“During the research we discovered very quickly that there is no approved way of measuring the internet economy,” says David Dean, a managing director at BCG.

Official statistics simply do not capture the sideways move of old technologies into the digital world, for example when a widget maker starts upgrading its devices so that they can be hooked up to the internet.

But if the report’s predictions are correct, then speaking of a “web economy” will soon sound about as comical as speaking of an “electricity economy”.

David Dean believes that the G20 countries could reach this moment as early as 2020.

Herman, Africa’s ‘father of technology’ on sparking a tech revolution

The birth of the ‘Bills Gates of Africa’

From: CNN

Known by many as Africa’s “father of technology,” software pioneer Herman Chinery-Hesse has been spawning innovations for two decades, helping to break down tech barriers between the continent and the rest of the world.

The Ghanaian innovator and visionary founded SOFTtribe in 1991, one of the largest and most successful software companies in West Africa that has been creating computer solutions for businesses in the continent.

More recently, Chinery-Hesse who is often described as ‘”Africa’s Bill Gates,” embarked on a mission to spark an entrepreneurial revolution in Africa by bringing e-commerce to the most remote corners of the continent. His latest creations range from virtual shopping malls and electronic ticketing to digital insurance and security.

Here, CNN highlights some of the best innovations Chinery-Hesse and his teams have created over the years.

Shop Africa 53: A subsidiary of Black Star Line, the company Chinery-Hesse create in 2007, Shop Africa 53 is a virtual shopping mall for African products and services that enables merchants to sell their goods on the internet and accept payments on a mobile phone.

The website, which Chinery-Hesse describes as an African Amazon/PayPal type of service, allows shoppers anywhere in the world to look for African products and buy directly from local merchants — from art, clothes and jewelry to food products, cookware and appliances.

Chinery-Hesse says enthusiastically that the marketplace can give poor African craftspeople access to global markets.

“What’s going to happen next is that we’re going to augment it with the fact of the poor people in the villages being able to do international trade,” he says. “Some of which might grow into multi-billion dollar companies and so on within the next 20 years — watch this space, Africa is it!”

Keba-Ekong!: This re-usable plastic card, whose name translates to “bring it again,” is similar to the Oyster card, a form of electronic ticketing widely used in London, England for public transport.

But more than just a travel card, Keba-Ekong! is an all-purpose, pay-as-you-go system that is also used for several other purchases, including concert and cinema tickets, inside and outside Ghana.

“If you’re going to watch a concert today in Ghana you’ll probably receive one of those cards as your ticket — when you get to the gate there’s a scanner, peep it goes, wait, checking, you can go in,” says Chinery-Hesse.

“We have orders for concerts outside Ghana and the same thing happens — we just deliver the cards to them and on the day of the event we go onto our server and we setup the whole concert, number of seats … and they can start selling tickets six months in advance and they make their money, their counting is transparent for everybody.”

Quickie: For “Quickie,” Black Star Line collaborated with an insurance company to launch instant, on-demand cover through the use of scratch cards and mobile phone networks.

Just like Keba-Ekong!, Quickie uses the potential of the cloud to offer smart solutions tailored for the Ghanaian market. The product is designed to accommodate the needs of those who are not keen to pay large sums for insurance once a year, says Chinery-Hesse.

“Quickie” users can activate their cover by sending an SMS with the unique code that appears on the card that they’ve purchased from vendors of telecom products.

“You scratch the card, you look at your registration number, you stick it in to our server, you’re insured and the rest is history,” says Chinery-Hesse.

Akatua: Akatua was one of the first software to be developed by SOFTTribe some two decades ago.

Today, the cloud-based product, which has been taken on by many major companies operating in Ghana, claims to be the most efficient, payroll solution in the country.

It is designed to simplify a series of complex payroll issues such as staff salaries, and maintenance of taxes as well as managing deductions and back pay.

Hagelo: Chinery-Hesse’s latest technological solution aims to use the potential of the cloud to offer what is claimed to be superior protection against armed robberies.

Dubbed “Hagelo,” which translates to “Hey, you thief” in Ga, the service incorporates scratch cards and crowd sourcing through an internet and mobile phone based application.

A monthly $10 scratch card allows users to indicate to BSL’s server that their house is under attack. Then, a protection system mechanism is deployed to make sure the thief is caught.

“Within 2 minutes the whole neighbourhood will be awake, the police are on their way, a security company is on their way, the radio stations are announcing [this house is under attack],” says Chinery-Hesse.

“The security people we’re working with predict — this big sign board that’s in the starter pack says: ‘This crib is protected by Hagelo alert systems, don’t even bother, you will run like a wet rat’ — and they say that sign board will put the fear of God into most thieves.”