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Study ranks Nigeria high in internet usage
by Ibrahim Apekhade Yusuf, THE NATION NEWSPAPER 26/12/2010

Nigeria is gradually overcoming the problem of poor digital divide, as the internet revolution in the country has not only impacted the globe, but may have raised the bar as far as deployment of strategies for digital marketing platform in sub-Saharan Africa.

Indication of this emerged with the recent collaboration between TNS Global (number one consumer market research agency in the world) and RMS Group (the leading market research agency in West and Central Africa) in a research tagged: ‘Digital Lifestyles Study’, which gave insights into the attitudes, behaviours and needs of Nigerian online population.

From a staggering penetration figure of 0.1% in 2001 grew to 3.5% in 2006 and now stands at 28.9%. The growth of the Internet in rapid growth markets like Nigeria did not follow usual trends in what we know as the developed markets. Uptake of the service was aggressive (Nigeria accounts for 39.6% of Africa’s current internet population and this, ahead of South Africa, Egypt and Kenya).

To achieve this mileage, Mobile is leading and driving Internet usage in Sub-Saharan Africa. This perspective will increase further over the next 12 months if necessary impetus is available. Entry of affordable telecom operators, mobile technology with lower cost, greater bandwidth and importantly low priced yet quality Smart Phones manufactured in China utilising intuitive user-friendly operating systems will aid internet access in the Nigerian market more.

The incisive digital market analysis according to TNS Global Director for Technology and Emerging Markets, Mr. James Fergusson; is the first of its kind to interview almost 50,000 consumers in 46 markets, including all BRIC and most N-11 economies.

He went to say it provides answers to questions like: how does the global digital landscape look like; how do I maximize opportunities with the digital consumer and how do I tailor my messages; and uncovering these offers a holistic view of the digital world. Provision of framework for strategic and tactical deployment of marketing resources across channels, platforms, geographies and targets were highlighted, as core benefits of this tool.

Unlike Nigeria, in western markets, email has been king for over a decade with more consumers still accessing their email daily than their social networks. The opposite is the case in the Nigerian markets where social networking offers many advantages over email. Such advantages include opportunity to choose additional messaging forms like IM/chat, upload multi-media and broadcast regular updates to your social network. Nigerians do not have the email legacy so their uptake of social networking is both logical and all embracing.

Findings from this global study revealed that amongst online users, digital is the primary daily media channel (61%) while television and radio come second (54%) and third (36%); respectively. It also revealed that digital is the clear leader in many mature markets and some emerging markets like China. However, a key differentiating factor is access point(s).

While speaking on initial findings from Nigeria, Fergusson said internet access is driven primarily by mobile phones and cyber cafes. However, its use (18%) lags behind television (60%) and radio (58%) among Nigerian online users; as daily media channel

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UK Business Secretary slapped down on media merger

At a time that most governments are thinking of fusing broadcasting, telecommunications and computer sectors due to developments in ICT, the UK government has decided to put this union asunder.

This week the Business Secretary will be stripped of all responsibility for competition and policy issues relating to media, broadcasting, digital and telecoms sectors.

The reason is Mr Cable’s bellicose language of a ‘declaration of war’ on News Corporation in a transcript of his conversation with the undercover reporters. In what many privately have expressed as a threat to press freedom and consumer choice, too much power in the hands of one man - Rupert Murdoch. He set up Sky and merged it with British Satellite Broadcasting in 1990 to form BSkyB in which he had a controlling stake was its chairman for many years. News Corporation’s, which he also owns and currently owns 39% of BSkyB is bidding to for take full control of BSkyB. The huge concentration of media ownership in one man was probably deemed a bridge too far for the Business Secretary who was to have the final say over whether the takeover should be allowed to go ahead.

It is widely believed that his impartiality had been fatally undermined by his comments and therefore stripped of his responsibilities to rule on Mr Murdoch's affairs, which will be handed to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

This is a serious setback not just for Mr Cable who some politicians have said should be sacked for breaching the ministerial code, but for the industry and the regulator Ofcom whose activities in these areas come under his jurisdiction but must decide by 31 December whether to refer the bid to the Competition Commission however the final decision on blocking it will now rest with Culture Secretary.

War of prices starts 

The Nigerian telecommunication market was recently thrown into what some analysts describe as war of prices. The coming of Bharti Airtel which bought Zain Assets meant the firm introduced price reduction in its tariff plans and this has arguably set off a series of tariff reviews among operators. Subscribers who seem to enjoy the war-game have been wondering if all these where not mere Xmas ginmicks


Titi Omo-Ettu, President Association of Telecommunication Companies, himself an analyst, seems not perturbed by it all. ‘It is nothing new that a new comer does something to establish its presence and if he has a big war chest, what he does may jolt everybody into a jerk. But beyond that it is no big deal. That is why a multi-network environment supports competition but the competition we want to see, and which ATCON is working towards is in quality not in prices. Reason is that the former assures the latter while the converse is not necessarily true’. 

“Consumers are free to jubilate. It is normal for people to jubilate when goals are scored but it is not the end of the game. When operators fight war, it is expected that they should do it ‘neat’ and they must not be allowed to fight ‘dirty’. And it explains why we have the regulator. The regulator is not meant to watch and enjoy the game but to moderate it”.


Ministry of Health employs SMS in child health programmes 

A Ministry of Health partnership with UNICEF has initiated the systematic use of SMS technology to plan and coordinate the distribution of long lasting insecticide treated nets, polio vaccines, and the management of other anti-epidemic programmes in Nigeria. The use of SMS can provide specialists and focal persons with real-time information from clinics and health officers in the hinterland, allowing for better coordination of supply and resource planning.

Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Kano and Rivers States have already seen successful tryouts of the SMS Partnership for Child Survival, and has involved the monitoring of mosquito net distribution and administration of child immunization vaccines. The stated goal of the programme is to take SMS monitoring and support to facility level in health centers at 774 local government areas nationwide.


Google Docs Goes Fully Mobile 

 Thanks to continuing innovation at the ---- based web search giant, you no longer need access to a PC to edit your documents away from the office. Google has announced that Android devices (version 2.0) as well as Apples iOS devices like the iPhone and the iPad (iOS 3.0 and greater), can now edit their documents, tables and even spreadsheets through their mobile browser.

Google Docs previously permitted mobile users view-only access to their documents, but now English language users of the application will be able to make adjustments to text, and Android users even have the extra option of doing so using the software's spoken dictation feature. Non-English language support will follow subsequently.

Now business travelers using the Google app can make last minute adjustments to their presentations on the go, without having plug in or boot up their laptops, with just a smartphone and a web connection.


IT Industry unimpressed with UK government’s cap on immigration


The UK government has made good on Prime Minister David Cameron pledge during the election campaign, to cap immigration levels as the government announces a cap of 21,700 on the number of skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area allowed into the UK. The figure represents a cut of 6,300 on the equivalent figure for 2009.

But the IT industry remains unimpressed. They point to the controversial exemption of Intra Company Transfers (ICTs) as the hub of their discontent. ICT visas are used by multinational suppliers to bring thousands of IT workers particularly from India to the UK to cover their operational needs.

The government alleges that the scheme is subject to abuse and therefore  has introduced a policy that means ICTs staying more than a year will have to earn at least £40,000. This is an attempt to make offshore suppliers less willing to bring staff from overseas to the UK because it is more expensive. The IT industry the not only believe the cap will do little to prevent abuse of an immigration loophole, but also that it is based on a false premise given that the bulk of immigration is non-work related and comes through student and family visas,

The negative impact of the cap was highlighted by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), who argue that about 80% of non-EU IT workers come to the UK on intra-company transfers. It also argues the incongruence of a shortage of tier-one immigrants, who are deemed highly skilled in IT and the imposition of the cap which will see this group hardest hit  fact that However, the government's cap will see, hit hardest, with a paltry 1,000 people being able to enter next year but incidentally tier-two immigrants, low-level IT workers from offshore are entering the UK on ICT visas and who according to commentators allegedly pose a threat to the long-term future of the UK IT profession increase from 13,000 to 20,700.

The £40,000 minimum pay is set too low for the IT sector according to APSCo. "Whether the £40,000 minimum salary will reduce the number of intra-company transfers in the IT sector is debatable. The average UK wage for IT professionals is close to £40,000, and it is questionable how many workers earn less that that once they arrive," said CEO Ann Swain. "We will be seeking clarity from the government on how the £40,000 minimum will be reviewed."


MLF recommends ‘revolution’ of UK government website

The Uk’s Digital champion Martha Lane Fox has published a report calling for a centralised government internet address to replace 750 websites.

In a review entitled ‘Revolution not evolution’ of the already operation website – a single access point for all public sector information she recommended an overhaul of separate government websites to be replaced by a single internet "front door" to public services on the web which will:

·         Be the government front end for all departments' transactional online services to citizens and business, with the kudos to mandate cross-government solutions, set standards and force departments to improve citizens' experience of key transactions.

  • Change the model of government online publishing, by putting a new central team in Cabinet Office in absolute control of the overall user experience across all digital channels, commissioning all government online information from other departments.

·         Be a wholesaler as well as the retail shop front for government services and content by mandating the development and opening up of application programme interfaces (APIs) to third parties

Other key proposals include a new central commissioning team which will to take responsibility for the government's sites, which should publish content on a single government website with a new CEO for digital in the Cabinet Office with absolute authority over the user experience across all government online services (websites and APIs) and the power to direct all government online spending. It calls for Departments to stop publishing to their own websites, and instead produce only content commissioned by this central commissioning team.

Mark Flanagan, former Downing Street head of digital and strategic communications, said a single centralised site would be a more efficient system. "Everyone accepts that government news and messaging aimed at print and broadcast should be controlled from Number 10, so why not online too?"

This would save money in back-end systems and hosting and reduce government costs in public service transactions by hundreds of millions of pounds a year, he added.


Multilinks-Telkom kicks CDMA into touch 

Nigeria’s Multilinks-Telkom has decided to move away from its CDMA operations in Nigeria for reasons of challenges that call for a check. Telkom SA bought into Multilink’s Nigeria in 2007 and has since the takeover been unable to turn it around.  Mr. Jeffrey Hedberg who was in Nigeria briefly to rescue the Nigerian operations returned to SA to assume duty as acting CEO of Telkom SA in July while incumbent Vincent Raseroka replaced him in Nigeria to fix things. It is clear the problems are more than simple to resolve as Hedberg must have chosen to review the entire transaction. 

Senior industry players in Nigeria say Telkom’s withdrawal may not necessarily be an indictment of the Nigerian CDMA market as being strongly presented since Telkom itself has problems even at home in SA. Moreover, analysts say not much was seen in terms of unusual steps which were capable of turning things round for the company since the buy over.

Econet Wireless (2001) now Airtel (2010)

Nigeria’s Telephone Brand ‘Zain’ last week was re-named ‘Airtel’. In an announcement to its customers, it advised them to switch over to the new callsign by switching their cell phones ‘off and then on’. Airtel, formerly Zain; formerly Celtel; formerly VMobile; formerly Vodago; originally Econet Wireless was the first GSM deployer to commence business in Nigeria in 2001. That is six times it has changed name on the account of acquisition.  

Airtel is the trade name of Bharti Airtel of India which acquired Zain’s African assets for $10.7 billion earlier in the year. Bharti is now the world's fifth largest mobile phone company by subscribers base.

At the launch of rebranding during the week Communications Minister, in unprotected excitement, wished the new player more than it wished for itself.


UK Government backs ‘two-tier’ internet

The UK’s Communications minister Ed Vaizey is on a collision course with the two pioneers of the internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and Vint Cerf, in his implicit support for the development of a "two-tier" internet.

In a statement at a communications conference in London this week, Vaizey said the government had to continue to encourage the market to innovate and experiment with different business models and ways of providing consumers with what they want.

"This could include the evolution of a two-sided market where consumers and content providers could choose to pay for differing levels of quality of service," he said.

His comments are bound to cause consternation amongst advocates of net neutrality who assert equality of internet content and its transmission by the best mode by providers. They contravene the contention of  Berners-Lee, the UK government's internet consultant, who in a keynote address at Nokia World in September, said if the world abandoned net neutrality, "we would lose the Web as it is, and with it, the innovation that has brought us to this point. That's very important". They also breach Cerf’s assertion at a US Senate committee on commerce, science, and transportation hearing on network neutrality back in 2006 when he said, "Allowing broadband carriers to control what people see and do online would fundamentally undermine the principles that have made the internet such a success."

Discontent with Vaizeys comments however is not universal. ISPs have welcomed it saying that a lightly regulated, market-based approach should be taken towards internet traffic management but advocates of net neutrality are scathing. Jim Killock, spokesman for Open Rights Group – a Campaigning organisation that aims to raise awareness of digital rights and civil liberties issues - in statement said, "Money and commercial interest can easily over-ride public interest if we do not assert it. In this case, unlike the USA, there is a degree of collusion going on which may lead our governments down a dangerous path

Taking a sideswipe at the UK regulator Ofcom - accused of lobbying against net neutrality at the European Parliament, Killock said, "It seems that regulators like Ofcom and ministers of our governments do not see the future of the internet as being best served through (open) competition, but wish to encourage 'walled gardens' of ISP-provided services."

Ofcom is yet to respond to this accusation.


India's 3G mobile goes under the hammer ……


Like many other countries of the world, who have adopted a gradual approach to telecom sector reform through selective privatization and managed competition in different segments of the telecom market, India’s effort is bearing fruit as its auction of third generation (3G) bandwidth for mobile phone services has ended with the government reaping $15bn, twice the sum expected.

It was reported that nine telecoms firms, including market leaders Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications, took part in more than 180 rounds of bidding over 34 days with no firm wining the 3G mobile spectrum in all 22 geographic areas up for grabs outright, but unsurprisingly Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar, and Reliance Communications all won phone spectrum in the lucrative Delhi and Mumbai areas.

Large private operators in India, the world's fastest growing mobile market with nearly half a billion mobile phone subscribers, had been restricted in their ability to deliver voice and data services until now. The new 3G networks will give people faster access to the web from their handsets as well as downloading music, video and other content.

Arun Kejriwal, strategist at Kris Research in Mumbai said. "For the operators it's a large sum of money that has to be paid out. We have to see how these services are priced and received by the subscribers and how it will impact their profitability."

The total number of mobile phones sold in India has jumped nearly 300% over the past few years, from 35 million in 2005 to 130 million in 2009, according to the Indian Cellular Association

….meanwhile the date is set for 4G auction in the UK

Chief Executive of Ofcom - the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, Ed Richards has laid out the timetable for 4G Mobile Broadband - the next-generation technology considered to be the next complete advancement in communication on a wireless basis allowing for much faster data transfer and far greater area of coverage. 

Mr Richards, speaking at the FT World Telecoms Conference, said the airwaves that will enable 4G networks will be auctioned off in the first half of 2012 indicating that the spectrum will become available from 2013.

The auction was originally earmarked for 2009 had been put back because of legal wrangling with mobile operators over the distribution of spectrum.

Mr Richards urged them to try and resolve their differences with the government warning that "further litigation against the government or regulator will jeopardise this timetable".

The auction will see two chunks of the spectrum - the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands  sold off - both of which are of immense value to operators as it bridges the digital divide. The 800MHz slice - which has been freed up as a result of the switchover to digital TV - allows mobile signals to travel over greater distances thus increasing the reach of broadband to rural areas, while the higher capacity 2.6GHz band will be more useful in urban centres where lots of users require a plethora of services.

The impending auction puts the UK behind other European countries like Germany whose 4G auction began in April 2010. Despite the demand for new networks, and like Germany,
the amount raised by this auction is expected to be well below its 3G equivalent which raised £22bn for the UK Treasury (£44bn in Germany) when it was sold in the respective countries back in 2000.

Early recognition for MainOne

 A Best Telecom Project honour in the form of a publicly announced award by IT & Telecom Digest magazine has been bestowed on MainOne Cable Company. 

MainOne is an upstart broadband cable company based in Nigeria and it opened its submarine cable to business recently. 

Its Chief Executive, Ms Funke Opeke was also awarded the Telecom Personality of the year in recognition of her vision to improve telecoms infrastructure on the continent. 

The company offers open access, wholesale broadband capacity in West Africa.


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