Orange has signed a partnership with Baidu, a Chinese Internet company, to develop a co-branded Internet browser for smartphone customers in Africa, the Middle East and Asia (AMEA).
The partnership marks the first time Baidu has signed such an agreement with a global operator, and supports Orange and Baidu’s aim to make the mobile web available for all in emerging markets.
Mobile Internet usage in Africa is increasing rapidly as Orange continues to deploy 3G networks and make more low-cost smartphones available, customers have been steadily moving from basic feature phones towards more low-cost Android smartphones. Orange, which has a mobile customer base in AMEA of nearly 80 million customers, has continued to see its smartphone user base in AMEA increasing, for example the demand for Android devices in Egypt has doubled in H2 2012.
The new Orange and Baidu browser offers a highly customisable but simple interface for customers in AMEA, enabling them to access web-based apps and internet services unique to Baidu and Orange, as well as services like Wikipedia, Facebook or Twitter, amongst others. Customers benefit from a new, feature rich user interface that provides one-click access to all of their preferred local and global services but also benefit from a browser that is much faster and more data efficient compared to other browsers, reducing the amount of data consumed by 30-90% depending on the types of services and files accessed.
Orange and Baidu have already developed an Arabic and English browser is launching for Mobinil customers today, and both companies are now working to launch French versions of the browser for countries across Orange’s African & Middle East footprint.
Marc Rennard, senior executive vice president for Orange activities across Africa and the Middle East, commented: ‚”The appetite for mobile internet services is very strong in Africa, for example demand for Android devices in Egypt has doubled in the second half of this year. Price and access have been a barrier to entry, but partnering with innovative companies like Baidu provide unique solutions that give our customers affordable access to all the services they desire without compromising on features or ease-of-use. Building on the partnerships we’ve signed with major brands such as Wikipedia and Facebook in AMEA, we continue to innovate in Africa and honour our commitment to make the internet accessible to all customers across our footprint.‚”
Hu Yong, general manager of Baidu’s International Business Unit, said: ‚”Baidu’s success has been built on developing technologies, products and services appropriate for China, the world’s largest emerging market. We’re now bringing that experience to bear in other markets now enjoying rapid growth. Working with Orange in the Middle East and Africa, Baidu hopes to contribute meaningfully to the region’s growth by making the mobile internet easier than ever to use.‚”
Africa gets broadband boost
ITU and Nexpedience, a supplier of proprietary point-to-multipoint broadband infrastructure, are partnering to bring broadband access to Africa.
Under the terms of the deal, Nexpedience will provide 180 new Expedience base stations worth USD 1 million, to be deployed in six nations across the continent. The first nation to benefit from the new infrastructure is Burundi, with deployments also planned for Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Mali, Rwanda and Swaziland.
Designed to withstand extreme meteorological conditions and capable of providing up to 32 kilometres of sector coverage, Nexpedience’s base stations have been specifically designed for rural deployment.
ITU’s Wireless Broadband Network in Africa project aims to develop and implement wireless broadband connectivity and applications that will provide free or low-cost digital access for schools, hospitals, and under-served populations in rural and remote areas Africa-wide.
At the signing of the agreement in Geneva, Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) emphasized the need to make developing countries part of the global broadband revolution: ‚”This partnership represents another important element in ITU’s efforts to bring broadband technology to the world even in the poorest nations. I am confident that this new partnership will accelerate broadband uptake right across the African continent, bringing the power of high-speed connectivity to users everywhere, from big cities to small villages.‚”
Kiriako Vergos, CEO of Nexpedience said: ‚”Giving access to broadband technology to underserved populations in Africa is of great importance to us. There are enormous benefits to be derived from a ‚’broadband-seed’ deployment strategy, and we decided to partner with ITU because we know that the organization has the team in place to get it done.‚”
ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Tour√© said the new agreement is a ‚”major step forward in getting Africa connected‚”. Dr Tour√© led the establishment of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010, which has the aim of putting broadband at the heart of the global development agenda.
Nokia backs tech hubs for developing world
Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev are collaborating with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America to act as scouts for local talent.
Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev, a global innovation program of the World Bank, have announced a collaboration with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America – a move that will empower these hubs to act as scouts and agents for local talent, fast-tracking their access to AppCampus funding.
AppCampus was established in 2012 as a mobile application accelerator program managed by Aalto University in Finland. With an 18 million euro joint investment between Microsoft and Nokia, the aim is to foster mobile application development on Windows Phone and any other Nokia platform.
The announcement earmarks part of that investment fund for twenty six awards per annum for the best mobile innovation ideas to be made via the mobile innovation hub network, starting with infoDev’s mobile application labs in South Africa, Kenya, Armenia and Vietnam, as well as mobile application laboratories in Egypt (TIEC), Nigeria (CC Hub) and Mexico. The value of each award ranges from 20,000 Euro (US$ 26,000) to 70,000 Euro (US$ 90,000) depending on the complexity of the solution or business model behind the idea.
‚”By working jointly with the mobile innovation hubs, we are able to connect more effectively with local developers in emerging markets and provide support in terms of funding, especially for locally relevant innovations,‚” says Pekka Sivonen, Head of AppCampus. ‚”Although the criteria to access the AppCampus funding remains the same, with ideas needing to be original, competitive and scalable, the advantage is faster processing and the mentorship provided by these innovation hubs.‚”
The hubs and mLabs will be responsible for scouting talent and vetting ideas to be submitted to the global pool. infoDev’s mLabs foster regional entrepreneurship, employment and competitiveness by providing open spaces where developers can find training, mentoring, technical expertise and access to financing. In a short time, mLab-supported startups have brought over 120 commercial apps to market The best new entries from this network will compete against each other each quarter for the available awards.
‚”Nokia, working closely with infoDev, has supported the establishment and operation of a number of mLabs across emerging markets in support of local developers,‚” says Jussi Hinkkanen, vice president corporate relations for Nokia Middle East and Africa. ‚”The AppCampus collaboration showcases our commitment to strengthening the growing mLab network around the world and infoDev’s vision of supporting emerging market entrepreneurs in conquering local, regional and global markets‚”.
The official launch of the program took place during the mobile stream at the Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship in East London, South Africa, organized by infoDev and the South African Department of Science & Technology. A key theme of the Forum is how innovation can lead to high-growth entrepreneurship which creates sustainable jobs. Valerie D’Costa, infoDev’s Program Manager says, ‚”The AppCampus initiative fits with the philosophy of infoDev of supporting innovative entrepreneurs from developing countries. We want to support those who can excel with some level of mentorship, skills training and seed financing. We provide potential job-creators better access to markets, which is what we are all about.‚”