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!