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roundup: The year in review
L.S.M Kabweza, Technology Zimbabwe
December 31, 2012
The year kicked
off with one of the largest ISPs in Zimbabwe ZOL, announcing that
it had been acquired by Liquid Telecom, a move which resulted in
the Econet Wireless Group cementing its position as Zimbabwe's
largest telecoms firm.
a new managing director for the company, John Swaim as former MD
Aimable Mpore made the exit. Swaim, a stop gap MD, only stayed for
6 months after which he was replaced by Francis Mawindi.
in early January the launch of "Search plus Your World"
and we thought it was a selfish move and ultimately not a positive
development for the wider internet.
Later in the
month, the Internet went black as various internet companies protested
also announced in the same month that they had emerged the victors
in the court battles with Bharti Airtel over a stake in Airtel's
One of the first
things new Telecel MD, John Swaim did was to rebrand the company.
Meanwhile, as other operators dropped broadband prices Africom did
we reported that someone had stolen the H Metro's identity
on Facebook. H-Metro is a local tabloid owned by government media
house, Zimpapers. After failing to claim it back for a while, Zimpapers
basically gave up a month later.
deals website Dhiri, announced they were taking a break to "regroup".
The website is not back.
Dhiri was not
the only one to go away in February, Econet announced its mobile
based life insurance product, EcoLife, had been axed.
by a Zambian startup that they had closed a US $4 million series
A round dominated the news in March, and gave hope to many an African
boardroom problems, Africom announced in March that executives Farai
Rwodzi and Simba Mangwende were not Africom Directors. This announcement
was followed later in the year by not announcing that actually Kwanayi
Kashangura was back at the helm of the group.
One of the few
developer challenges to happen in 2012, the ForgetMeNot eTXT Apps
Challenge, was launched in March.
in the month that its EcoCash mobile money service had reached 1
million registered users. The service had been launched just 7 months
A local startup
YoTime introduced a solution to the change problem in Zimbabwe by
offering mobile subscribers means to recover their change by getting
mobile phone airtime.
Local NGO, Kubatana,
won an award for their Freedom Fone project.
In April, we
published the ranking of Zimbabwe's news websites according
to Google's services. In the same month, it's revealed
that Econet's EcoCash service is adding 200,000 users each
in the month that they are not a threat to mobile operators. Yeah
right, we thought.
One of the many
high profile website hacks to happen in the year took place. The
ZITF website was hacked.
On the startup
side of things, a new service called Lendme Airtime, which lends
mobile subscribers from all networks airtime, was announced. We
also wrote about local event listing and business directory website,
Google launched Google Drive, a service to compete with Dropbox,
Microsoft's Skydrive and others.
about the national broadcaster, not having some internet radio.
The government's newspaper company however is first to launch
an SMS news service in March.
TelOne, in may
announced that their ADSL service, which they have a monopoly on,
was now available in more cities; Marondera, Gweru and Mutare.
As Econet sees
no meaningful uptake of its MMS service, the company announces a
50% slash in prices. We don't think this will significantly
improve the uptake. The savings from messaging services like WhatsApp,
Mxit and biNu make it pointless to use WhatsApp for those with capable
why Zimbabweans love BlackBerry so much.
revenue collector, ZIMRA starts engaging Zimbabweans on social media
websites, Facebook and Twitter.
new financial services company launches a new payments platform
based on a "smart card" to spread financial services
to the unbanked. We have our reservations about the model.
the completion of a $307m funding round. Word in the market however
is that only a bit of this is new money for the company.
as the month closed, whatever happened to one of Zimbabwe's
inventions, a pap cooking machine called the Gwattamatic.
One of the first
Software as a Service implementations is announced; a partnership
between Utande (Internet Service Provider) and Chips, a SAGE partner
in Zimbabwe. LinkedIn one of the largest professional/social network
services on the internet loses user passwords reminding us that
completely secure services are all but a myth.
and months of waiting, one of the largest banks locally, FBC, launches
it mobile money service, called Mobile Moola, and announces its
new MasterCard acquirer status.
of the Gwattamatic, takes us through his pap cooking machine's
awaited launch takes place; Utande launches its WiMax service after
months and months of "we're about to".
The month opens
with another hacking. This time it's one of the 3 popular
daily newspapers in Zimbabwe, the Daily News.
some good news for lovers of fast reliable fibre internet; ZOL makes
deliberate move to offer more affordable Fibre to the Home internet
announces hitting the 2 million subscriber milestone and government
owned Internet Access Provider, PowerTel expands service to Mutare,
Rusape and Marondera. Africom is also on a network expansion drive.
On the devices
front, one of the few device launch events happens in Zim, Samsung
executives fly from South Africa to launch the Galaxy S3.
later that month that TelOne and NetOne, government owned telcos;
owe Econet Wireless $85 million in interconnection fees. NetOne
and Econet are to have very public fight over the issue later.
A local football
news startup launches, it's called Footballzone. It's
traction since launch makes it a startup to watch.
We also had
an interview with Altfin Health General Manager, Thembi Moyo, where
we discussed their new mobile based medical aid service, MedAccess.
the government's National ICT Policy review and also received
opinion posts from people that attended.
Ory Okolloh gave a talk in Harare where she talked about innovation,
thinking big & placing big bets.
mobile operator NetOne, came out pointing fingers at none other
than the government for causing losses at the company because of
unpaid phone bills.
Early in the
month, it was revealed that Econet was switching the platform powering
its mobile money system EcoCash from Pattern Matched to Comviva.
that telecoms operators will be forced to share infrastructure.
As biNu raises
money, we noticed that the popular Smartphone in the cloud service
for emerging markets is morphing into a social network.
revelation last month that NetOne and TelOne owe Econet $85 in unpaid
interconnection fees, Econet terminates interconnection with NetOne
making it impossible for subscribers on either network to call the
other network. The reason: NetOne had told Econet "We don't
owe you anything!" The public fight lasts a couple of days,
NetOne is reconnected and the matter goes to the courts. POTRAZ's
silence is deafening.
an update of their new ZimSwitch Shared Services platform which
will allow payments to be switched between bank accounts via various
devices, including mobile and the web.
ZOL Jumpstart Challenge month. The startup competition which is
organized as part of a local tech community initiative, Jumpstart,
is held on 6 September. Over 4 applications are received, and of
them, 3 are selected the winners.
also the month that the most valuable tech company in the world
launches the latest device in its revolutionary iPhone line, the
iPhone 5. Reviewers think it's a rather lukewarm launch but
devices sales tell a different story. Latter in the year we post
as Zimbabwean perspective review of the device.
developments; Viber announces that it's come to Nokia s40,
Symbian and Bada devices. Good news for emerging markets. Bad news
for SMS and MMS in general.
the launch of SHDL, basically a DSL variant that supports same data
rates up and down, thereby being ideal for business applications
like video conferencing.
As Econet reveals
impressive stats for its mobile money service, Telecel CEO reveals
in an operations update that they killed off their mobile money
service, Skwama. An unrelated development sees Telecel accused later
in the month of stealing a VAS concept by a VAS entrepreneur and
the matter escalates to courts.
POTRAZ the telecoms
regulator provides stats confirming that Zimbabwe's teledensity
is now at 90%.
We find this
video of Zimbabweans unboxing Mac laptops quite amusing.
The ZAMPS survey
results suggest that newspaper readership in general is on the decline
and we post out thoughts on this.
off with an announcement by Facebook that they have hit the 1 billion
a new partnership with MTN, which we find hard to understand. An
explanation only comes close to the end of the year.
the introduction of EcoCash payment means in Kombis (public mini
buses). The company also announces the increase of transaction limits
and later hires MPESA talent, one Japhet Aritho. Another big EcoCash
talent move is Darlington Mandivenga, former Econet Burundi CEO,
who has been brought to Zim to run Econet Services under which EcoCash
falls. We interview him.
As startup challenges
become common on the continent, we post our thoughts on issues with
grant and challenge funded entrepreneurship.
makes available, passport application forms online for download,
but the initiative meets more than its fair share of problems.
We post the
most liked Facebook pages in Zimbabwe.
On the startups
front, we post our thoughts on developing products that are relevant
to the local market.
The month starts
with the introduction by Utande, of smaller bundles and cheaper
internet for its WiMax service.
Still on internet
services, TelOne, the provider of the lowest priced internet, switches
its billing to "unofficially unlimited data" to limited
prepaid packages. The apparently poorly planned and very unsmooth
changeover results in very irate subscribers.
Staying on internet,
PowerTel introduces weekly & biweekly mobile broadband packages.
virtually ignoring web payments with its EcoCash service, a university
student chooses to not sit and complain but do something about it,
he develops a proof of concept, which we get to test and love.
A new yellow
pages site is launched and it comes with lovely smartphone apps.
hold our first ePayments Forum in Zimbabwe.
We post an Everything
you need to know about Zimswitch's Vpayments gateway guide
document in a bid to answer some common questions about the platform.
A guest author
discusses why most Zimbabwean web and mobile startups fail. Another
guest post a week later: Why most Zimbabwean start-ups AREN'T
failing. That is the question.
All the discussion
about startups failing (or Not failing enough), feeds into a Jumpstart
event held at the start of December; a discussion panel where Jumpstart
invites some established entrepreneurs and in December.
A new local
food blog, ZimboKitchen.com, launches. There's pleasing attention
to producing quality unique local content which has us chaffed.
on the EcoCash front: Econet partners banks directly, first it's
CBZ, then TN Bank with promises of more to follow.
Like all lovers
of the freedom to participate that the Internet brings, we too view
the ITU meeting to discuss internet regulation suspiciously, as
we do a Zimbabwean minister's suggestions for the need to
regulate the internet and social media in Zimbabwe.
driven Annual ICT Achiever's awards are held. Like similar
awards in past years, there's discontentment about the winners.
As talk about
eCommerce and ecommerce platforms increases, Zimbabwe's largest
online classifieds company, Webdev, prepares to launch Vpayments
integrated hosted shopping cart.
are not done yet, before the year closes, More than 30 YoAfrica
hosted websites are hit at same time. Later, popular entertainment
blog and a prominent website discussing Zimbabwean women's
issues are hit too. A Moroccan hacker also hits 3 South African
government websites in the month. The largest building society in
Zimbabwe, CABS, also has it's website hacked.
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