Saturday, September 19, 2009

Nearly 400 million Africans have mobile phones - Report

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Africa’s mobile phone industry is seeing phenomenal growth despite the ripples of the global economic crisis.

The continent’s mobile phone market has grown up to 25% in 2008, a study conducted by Blycroft Publishing, a UK-based telecommunications publisher with a focus on mobile markets has found.

The report published Thursday September 17, 2009 in London says the mobile phone sector on the continent has seen the activation of 74 million new subscribers.

The report noted that at the end of March 2008 the African mobile market stood at 296 million subscribers.

“During 2008 the market grew by more than 74 million subscribers reaching 370 million mobile subscribers as of the fourth quarter of 2008, representing a remarkable 25% increase in the size of the market,” it said.

Some of the factors that contributed to this growth, the study found, included the launch of 11 new networks in Ghana, Benin, Botswana, Congo Brazzaville, Guinea-Conakry, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Uganda.

In Ghana the newest network, Zain was launched in December 2008 and Orange launched both in Niger and Uganda.

Other factors attributed to the growth are most likely economic growth and proliferation of networks within Africa.

The report also indicated that as of May there were 163 mobile networks live across Africa spanning both GSM and CDMA technologies.

Meanwhile, in Ghana, there is a debate over the exact percentage of the country’s population actually using mobile phones.

While the National Communications Authority (NCA) says it is 55%, which accounts for some 12.1 million of Ghana’s about 22 million population, the figure was recently disputed by an official of Tigo. A GNA report quoted Ms. Lucy Quist, Tigo’s Head of Operations for Africa as saying the current wireless penetration in Ghana is 47%, which puts the figure at 10.34 million of the population.

In an interview however, CEO of Kasapa Telecom, Mr. Bob Palitz told that it is difficult to tell the exact number of mobile phone users in Ghana. He said there is a difference between the number of chips that people have bought and the actual number of people who are actively using their mobile phones.

He argues that there are people who have more than one mobile phone chip from different networks and might not necessarily be using all of them.

He told that the methodology of counting is problematic. He said, the counting is done every three months and within that three months, it is possible that a customer of one network could leave and connect to another network, and all the networks would count this subscriber. “This leads to duplication,” he said.

In spite of the conflicting figures, there is certainly growth in the mobile phone industry in Africa and for that matter Ghana, and there is evidence that it is driving economies and leading to growth.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ghana's Information Minister shows up on Facebook

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Believe it or not, Ghana’s Minister of Information is now on Facebook, the most successful social networking site so far.

Facebook was started about five years ago by a young man, Mark Zuckerberg with college students in mind. But in the five years since it started, the site has gained over 250 million users, and cuts across all groups. Someone had said elsewhere that if it was a country, Facebook would have been the third most populated country in the world!

While it does not release its earnings, a recent stock buy-out option valued the site around $6.5 billion.

The Ministry announced her presence in a press statement released in Accra Tuesday September 1, 2009.

According to the release the Minister, Zita Okaikoi announced that she will be available for two hours every week to interact and answer questions on her Facebook page.

It added that the two deputies at the Ministry, James Agyenim-Boateng and Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa would also at different times be online to interact.

The news is immediately heartwarming and encouraging. It is encouraging in the sense that government machinery is waking up, albeit a bit late to the realities of the times. Despite an ambitious and forward looking ICT development agenda, government has consistently paid lip service to the actual implementation of ICT led programmes to bring about real transformation.

It is instructive to say however, that the ICT revolution taking place in Ghana currently is increasingly led by the private sector and individual initiatives.

A professor of computer science Prof. Clement Dzidonu had warned that Ghana as a country cannot make much progress by merely promoting Information Communication Technology (ICT).

He said, “ICT per se will not solve our problems, you need other resources like power and so on to make use of ICT. Buying electronics gadget without using them to solve your problems is a double loss.”

Prof. Dzidonu, who is also the President of Accra Institute of Technology, argues that while there is growing awareness of ICT in Ghana, the country is still at what he calls “the preliminary stages” of ICT. He said the country has not got to the stage where it could use ICT to transform the society and economy. That is the challenge the country is facing.

While the move by the Information Ministry is in the right direction, it is hard to see how the Ministry which has persistently performed one of its primary duties of media accreditation at below any standards elsewhere, could successfully use new media to effectively and efficiently engage the public.

Again it is curious to see how the Ministry which has an entrenched image as propaganda wing of government, would succeed in the virtual world of the World Wide Web.