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Mobile transforming Nigeria

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Earlier this year, Nigeria’s Federal Government announced that it planned to invest $15-million in the country’s ICT sector. According to YARON ASSABI of Digital Solutions Group, this shows that Nigeria is ready for expansion in the ICT sector, as is already evident by its 99 million mobile phone users.

Smartphones and internet-enabled feature phone manufacturers have to a large extent led this growth by zoning in on Nigeria and providing a platform for innovation and creativity that is allowing for new opportunities and business growth. Let’s examine how some of these platforms have transformed the continent.

Education:

Mobile services can help narrow educational barriers. Like many other African countries, Nigeria faces technical infrastructure challenges, and lacks computer literacy. One of the ways this has been combated is the incorporation and implementation of e-reader technologies that provide school children in the country with books via mobile phone-based e-readers, which also offer the advantage of interactivity.

Banking:

Mobile banking was ‚’born’ in Africa and used for the first time in Kenya through the use of a service called M-pesa. In Nigeria, Mobile Money Transfer is picking up speed. In fact, two thirds of mobile phone users in Nigeria do not currently have access to formal financial services. As a result, by empowering the Nigerian population with access to banking services, opportunities then exist for new job creation, business development and of course the entrepreneurial spirit that often defines this country. According to industry analysts, the next three years will see almost 20 million Nigerians expected to form part of the formal banking system via mobile money which shows the services popularity.

Healthcare:

As a transformational tool, mobile technology has and continues to – assist the health sectors across Africa. As new and innovative mobile apps emerge, these can help change the way the healthcare industry operates. In fact, stakeholders at a recent mobile health (mHealth) workshop in Nigeria, voted in favour of adopting mobile healthcare systems which they believe will assist in obtaining information which will aid research, while making it easy to provide the right medical solution. This is echoed by the fact that recent research found that 20% of mobile phone users in the country use their devices for health‚Äêrelated needs: including providing access to emergency services and treatment of rapidly spreading diseases, such as HIV.

Productivity in Business:

In the enterprise environment, mobile communications have had varying effects on productivity. As an example, First City Monument Bank, one of the leading banks in Nigeria, relies mainly on fibre‚Äêoptic and VSAT satellite networks. This means that today this financial institution is equipped with more than 3 000 computers throughout the bank and via the power of mobile communication – where the PC can speak to mobile phones it is able to keep its staff connected with current and potential clients anytime and anywhere.

As the mobile phone industry in Africa continues to grow, there are numerous opportunities that could lead to growth and profit for clever investors and innovators.

It has been said that if Africa were a gun, Nigeria would be the ‚”trigger‚” and a fast actioning one at that. Analogies aside though, there is no denying that Nigeria is not only well positioned and established to take full advantage of foreign direct investment opportunities, but the country itself is well poised to shadow competing nations on the continent in a wake of dust as sectors and industries in the country especially the ICT sector at current continue to explode with opportunity.

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Africa gets broadband boost

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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.

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Nokia backs tech hubs for developing world

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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.‚”

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