Monday, December 22, 2008

BarCamp 08: LIVE

I'm at the BarCamp 08 event at the Kofi Annan ICT center and blogging LIVE.

The current speaker is advocating that during our discussions we should focus on building 'BRAND GHANA".

I will update during the day.

Oops, Forgot met David Ajao of

Barcamp has really been good so far. We just went for lunch and we are having a key note address

I have so much to blog about I will do it tonight.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Facebook Developers Garage: Accra,Ghana

I believe we are now firmly on the map. Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) and Samasource are bringing a Facebook Garage to A-C-C-R-A.

So what exactly is a Facebook Garage. According to the Facebook Wiki for developers;

Attending or hosting a Facebook Developer Garage is an
opportunity for a deep dive into Facebook Platform: it is a forum to
share ideas with local developers, look for partners on your latest
project, see and participate in Facebook App demonstrations, seek
technical support, or just network and socialize with other developers
interested in the Facebook Platform.

In general, Garages will welcome ad hoc presentations,
brainstorming sessions with other developers, and social interaction

The Accra Garage will be the first in West Africa and Sasha Rush from Facebook will give a four (4) hour workshop (That long? Must be juicy!) on;

Application development and Entrepreneurs getting their products to the market

Its really great to have a Garage because it helps developers and entrepreneurs interested in using the platform meet each other. I am looking forward to meet people just like me and probably get one person to join the Team at

Whatever happens. I will be blogging about it, so get ready.


Well after all the hype (By me) I was actually late for the Garage. How was I late? My fault a little and a stroke of bad luck. I had no power at home and It took me a lot of improvising to get ready (ever ironed by gas power?).

Anyway I did meet Sasha Rush the Facebook Engineer briefly and discussed what Facebook Connect Has to Offer.

I will blog later about Facebook Connect and its potnettial to make a many a web app viral if used properly.

Read the Techcrunch Post about Facebook Connect.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Zain: Wonderfully poised

The entry of Zain into The Ghanaian telecom market via acquistion of majority stake (75%) in Western TeleSystems (Westel) at around the same period Globacom obtained the a mobile License has created real competition and a breath of anticipation about our telecom industry.

This post seeks to explore the 'wonderful' world of Zain, who they are, what they offer and my opinion of a startegy that could help them in their quest to capture market share.

Zain operates in the Middle East and Africa, and until recently operated under different brand names (Celtel in most of Africa) now consolidated under the Zain brand. Zain is presently in 14
African countries and in Ghana, Zain will operate both a 3G mobile service and fixed services which they inherited form their acquistion of Westel.

So what will they offer? Let us answer this question by assessing Core Services, Vaued Added Services, Data Services they provide in their other operations.

Core Services

I have garnered from blogs in East Africa that Zain has good service quality. However this is not a guarantee the same will happen in Ghana. This is because on the strategy front whereas in Kenya they are engaged in a price war they have stated categorically the approach in Ghana will be different.

Phillip Sowah, Country Manager, Zain Ghana, said
......... Zain will not engage in any price war since call rates were already low in Ghana adding that the company will not oversubscribe its network.

Their 'One Network' concept also offers frequent travellers considerable cost savings by paying the same price for calls on Zain irrespective of the country you are in. I believe in countries they do not have operations a more traditional roaming agreement will exist.

Zain has stated that it will cover about 85% of the country from
North to South by following the road network. If they can deliver on call quality, they will win customers. OneTouch/Vodafone and MTN the biggest operators have serious quality issues . In area of call tariff prices I will believe they will price competitively.

Valued Added Services.

This is the area in whicn things get really interesting. Zain seem to enjoy differentiating their brand through Valued Added Services (VAS). One really notable focus of the company seems to be in micropayments/mobile payment market.

Their first attempt into this market in Kenya under partnership branded 'Sokotele' to challenege the mighty Safaricom's MPESA failed. They have decided to start another solo service called Zap, a Money Transfer service. Zap it seems will be rolled out across all their countries of operation but I do not know if they will offer it in Ghana.

The remittance and microbanking, mobile banking area is an interesting space and any Mobile Network Operator (MNO) which succeds in this area will improve their Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) signficantly. In other countries especially the Middle East, information services (Restaurant info, Hsopital Info) are also offered but they have more structured infrastructure than Ghana.

Data Services

My favorite area. Zain offers data access through GPRS/EDGE (where is the 3G ) in Kenya.In Ghana I do not know if only GPRS/EDGE or also 3G data access will be available.Anyway reasonable fixed monthly data plans or even a reasonable pay-as-you go option will gain them customers (Me Me Me!!!).

What Strategy to use ?

This is what I think.

a. Focus on getting new and prospective phone owners, they have less allegiance to any network. Capture existing market share by selling your message of better network quality and then actually proving it as they have done in Kenya. This should gain you the mass subscription you need to survive.

b. Improve your ARPU above the average by delivering VAS especailly in information services. Most people will pay for SMS info services which provide them with relevant timely information. Sports Updates, job opportunities, get creative.

c. The Ultimate. Look to the future. High speed access must be leveraged to build Ghana's future network. Don't make the mistake MTN made by offering your data services at premium rates. Focus on the 18-28 demomographic. This demographic is still looking for an affordable always on option to engage in the social media era of the web. Be the 'Web 2.0' telecom network by offering affordable monthly plans. Don't go the Wireless Office route go the "Youtube,Facebook,Skpe,Twitter" 24/7 route.

There are several technology start ups in Ghana who are building web apps and bsuinessess which require regularly decent access to the internet. 3G mobile access would be perfect for such start ups and they will become evangelists for your network (Hint: Full Disclosure, I am a co-founder of

I personally believe Zain can deliver on their promise and are ready for business. Why?See their brilliant pre-registration campaign. Brilliant move on two levels:

1. Build a database of your users even before they make their first call on your network. You can even assess the number of people willing to move from your competitors and which competitor's users are easier picking and focus on bringing them to your network.

2. Make people know you care about them. Gving people their preferred number without any premium services fee or 'knowing someone' is an excellent way to do this.

What to know how much impact it makes. Read David Ajao's article and the most interesting thing is not the article but the comments. 1,296 people commented at the time I checked the blog, mostly talking about getting their number and asking for help registering, 1,296!. He actually shut down comments an did a follow up post.

Since a christmas launch seems likely, especially since we all know how jammed the
existing networks get during the christmas period, I say WONDERFUL!!

Where is the Information? Part 1:Academia

I am really excited today because I just came across a great blogging website, and they are officially my number one website for technology news in Africa (2nd overall after Techcrunch).

I'm so excited that I am suddenly fired up to blog. Fortunately an article at Appfrica about "web presence" ranking of universities in the world has provided me food for thought.

My reason for this post will not be self evident so let me state it, Access to Information. Yes, access to information. Justin (my co-contributor and partner) has been asking the question, Where is the Information? I am attempting to find out why it is so difficult to find information in Ghana, by doing posts on lack of information conscious mentality in academia,business and the blogosphere.

This is why this particular ranking which seeks to measure the visibilty and substance of academic material available through the web presence of the academic institutions worldwide appeals to me.

The "Webometrics Ranking of World Universities" as it is called is conducted by Cybermetrics Lab, part of the CINDOC - CSIC, a research body in Spain, which is

".....devoted to the quantitative analysis of the Internet and Web content especially those related to the processes of generation and scholarly communication of scientific knowledge."
The rankings are intended

"... to motivate both institutions and scholars to have a web
presence that reflect accurately their activities. If the web
performance of an institution is below the expected position according
to their academic excellence, university authorities should reconsider
their web policy, promoting substantial increases of the volume and
quality of their electronic publications
Plain English, they want to encourage the academic community to put more academic publication and research material ('stuff') on the web.

I like the rankings because the methodology is based on extracting data using the citadel on which our internet existence is built, the 'search engine'.

For the purposes of the ranking four (4) search engines (Google, YahooSearch, Live (MSN) Search, Exalead) and the specialist scientific database of Google Scholar were used primarily because their API's are publicly available.

Four indicators were obtained from the quantitative results provided by the main search engines as follows:

Size (S). Number of pages recovered from four engines: Google, Yahoo, Live Search and Exalead.

Visibility (V). The total number of unique external linksreceived (inlinks) by a site can be only confidently obtained from Yahoo Search, Live Search and Exalead.

Rich Files (R). After evaluation of their relevance to academic and publication activities and considering the volume of the different file formats, the following were selected: Adobe Acrobat (.pdf), Adobe PostScript (.ps), Microsoft Word (.doc) and Microsoft Powerpoint
(.ppt). This data was extracted using Google.

Scholar (Sc). Google Scholar provides the number of papers and
citations for each academic domain. These results from the Scholar database represent papers, reports and other academic items. "

Another assumption in the process is that internet access exists and is available to the institutions and therefore financial constraints were not factored into the ranking, a point which may or may not significantly affect the ranking (what do you think?)

My focus is on the ranking of African universities and it is immediately noticeable that plenty of South African universities are in the upper tier of the rankings and although I was not
surprised, I wished my alma-matter was in the first 20 institutions.

Now comes the interesting part. Where are the Ghanaian universities?

And the winners in Ghana are.............

1. University of Ghana - Africa 46, World 6657

2. KNUST - Africa 50, World 6758

3. Asheshi - Africa 95, World 8860

Now I must say I was really surprised that UG beat KNUST. It seems their recent revamp of the website and a creation of a Management Information Systems (MIS) directorate was in the right direction. I will do a thorough comparision in a later post.

What does this mean:

I beleive that if this was a straight comparision of availability of information and functionality of academic websites, Ghanaian institutions may have placed higher in the ranking. However, in terms of the websites being a repository of academic publications and research, we will mostly definately not gain a whole lot of points.I think ultimately this was the undoing of the Ghanaian websites.

This means although the major universities have started on the right track in order to avoid the 'Business Card Syndrome' and become a repository of knowledge and information, it is time to dust off all the wonderful research sitting on shelves and start making an electronic archive. This will benefit both students and increase international presence of the institutions. Although this may require some investment, I do not think PDF and other rich document media formats require a server farm akin to that of facebook and it can be done.

Ultimately for me the whole process is excellent because it seeks to say that merely having a .edu domain name whether in Ghana, the US or India is not enough. the domain must support all activities of the institutions, creating awareness, boosting the presence of the institution worldwide and YES, dissemination of INFORMATION.

Since the rankings are done half yearly, I am preparing a PDF document yo give to the three Ghanaian institutions so they can work their way up.

So, where is the information? On the shelves of academic institutions where with a little effort they can move from and become worldwide knowledge!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

CHANGE NOW; Ministry of Communication website.

The title of this post should make it fairly obvious what it is about. I was researching on Nokia's presence in Ghana to see if I could offer a new perspective and one of the articles I found happened to be from the official website of The Ministry of Communication, Ghana. To my utter dismay the website has not changed!

I will not mince words, the website has an ugly design, poor usability and says 'we are cheap and unwilling to pay for a better website". In fact I think even if the MOC decided to use a template website in lieu of a custom development, there must be better templates out there.

I know for a fact that the communication industry in Ghana is one of the most vibrant ones, with major players in both Africa and the world present here. In this 'search-centric' era, anyone interested in the telecommunications industry in Ghana is likely to start finding information through a search engine query. It is also very likely the official website may be returned as part of the results, although I am hoping the SEO is so poor it may be further down the result list.

The MOC website must be completely overhauled and by this I do not mean just an interface redesign but a version that also does not fall victim of the "Business Card Syndrome". The BCS is my own coined phrase for websites that merely present facts and figures about a business entity, instead of leveraging the interactive power of the internet and using the website as part of the entire business process, from Supply Chain Management to Customer Relationship Management.

I am using this post and other means ( a facebook group) to advocate for a redesign of the Ministry of Communications website.

Please Add a Comment to Support this Cause, unless you think I am wrong.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Branding versus Service Provision

This post is my first after a long absence from blogging on either of my co-authored blogs. This means it must be an issue which has really left a big impression on me. It is based on a personal experience, which is what most of my new blogs will center on; Personal everyday experiences put into a business or technology context.

This blog is about my observation (or perception, I stand corrected) that Ghanaian companies are spending a disproportionate amount of money on branding compared to service provision, when it should be the reverse., the first product of the fledgling start up Justin and I have began, is almost ready and last Tuesday (November 4) due to the unavailability of both the regular paid access and the free wireless internet service at Justin's hostel (Yes people, he's still in school) we decided to get our own ‘internet’ connection .

Our immediate choice was to get a fixed wireless phone from GT/Vodafone since there was an ongoing promotion (GHC 40 price) and we had been consistently bombarded with radio and TV ad campaigns about its features and flexibility. ‘Internet’ connection (actually GPRS) is an additional GHC 40 per month, so we got GHC 80 from an ATM (sorry not E-zwich, still VISA) and walked into the GT customer care center in Adum. I was excited since the entrance had Vodafone posters just to remind you of the new face of GT.

Alas (see how they’ve forced me to use such an OLD word!), upon inquiring we were informed there were no units available, we should come back on Thursday. Actually the response was either “we have run out of stock and would receive some units from Accra soon” or “we have some in stock but they are not yet properly configured” I was so disappointed I don’t remember . The funny thing is although my mind screamed,” WHAT, come on!”, I felt deep down that I had expected it that, Walk in, Walk out, might just have been too good. I must however praise the person I spoke with, she did scribble a contact number for me on a piece of paper to call two days later to check if the units have arrived. Carefully inspection of the paper revaled the reverse had all the personal contact details (phone,post address, home adress,place of work of a customer!) but thats another post.

We walked out and immediately started complaining (EH! TOO KNOWN BOYS) about how companies spend millions building brands and advertising and then pour it down the drain through poor service provision. Guess what flashed into view as we walked on, KASAPA’s office! In we went, to get a similar phone (called the Home Work phone).

Two things happened in the KASAPA office;

  1. Their service was inappropriate since the ‘internet’ (CDMA data service) was pay-as-you-go at 0.04Gp per minute which computes to about GHC 2.4 per hour.
  2. It was proved beyond doubt that I am ‘TOO Known’! Actually what happened was, when we met the person in charge my first question was, what are the different options for your‘data plan’ (EH ALASKA!). He goes like ‘huh?’, Oh no, you see KASAPA uses CDMA technology and we have several great features………, I stopped him in the middle and said actually all we need is the data options to assess if we can afford their service. Still staring at me (thinking who is the CRaZy guy), Justin said ‘Internet’, and Voila! He says yes, it can connect to the internet……back to our main story.

Having been disappointed by GT, priced out by KASAPA (I’m not saying the price is outrageous, just inappropriate for a net freak like me!), we decided to try TIGO,Express Yourself ( I love their ads) , just down the street.

We get to Tigo and I step up to a lovely young lady and ask about their Data SIM Cards (This “DATA” again?), she responded by stating the price, ¢900,000 (GHC 90.00). Her response made it sound as if the SIM Card alone was GHC 90.00, so I asked for clarification. Her facial expression changed (not so lovely now) and just as she was staring at me with a ‘Get a Life’ look, an elderly man seated in a queue (Bless Him!) explained: GHC 20.00 for registration,GHC 70.00 as credit against a customer account.

That sounded more reasonable than GHC 90.00 for a SIM card albeit a DATA SIM card. I thanked the man, turned and smiled at the girl (flirting with the enemy or sarcasm,choose one) and walked out where Justin was waiting.


1. Ghana Telecom/Vodafone :

Spend big Cedis on Ad campaigns and then consequently waste it by not observing simple inventory management rules: Stock Re-order Levels, which would have led to better service provision . CONSEQUENCE: They lost a customer who walked straight to a competitor.


Not much they did wrong but;

a. The personnel should know more about the industry than 'TOO KNOWN' customers like me. Data plan, data options, et cetera should equate to 'internet' in the mind of th person in charge of the primary device for delivering internet access on your network.

b. How do you the ‘Underdog’ compete against your bigger competitors? Better services all round including Data services. GT has fixed monthly payment plans, why not Kasapa?

3. TIGO:

A bad day for the primary contact between a potential customer and your services can be disastrous especially when they withhold relevant information about a service from the customer. Fix it so they have less bad days, or you monitor them and take out the ones who always have a bad day (Some people are just always angry)

To conclude, the telecommunications industry is a service based industry and the perceptions of the customer although influenced by branding, is ultimately won through the best service provision and service fulfillment, almost always. I love the GT and TIGO ads but ultimately I need services delivered as promised.

GLO or ZAIN to the rescue or better yet the Juggernaut that GT/VODAFONE represents on paper must become reality soon.

Please Comment on the following?

  1. Am I wrong, does Branding influence you more than Service provision?
  2. Am I being too critical about companies building brands in neglect of actual service provision and fulfillment?
  3. Is Alaska TOO KNOWN? Vote Y for ‘Yes’ and N for ‘No’