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Tag: zain

Digital Connectivity in Northern Kenya

A couple of people have wondered how I’m able to stay connected, to put up blog posts, update Facebook and tweet pictures to Twitter while in what would seem the true bush. Well, this is the true bush, but every once in a while you come upon an island. This island is where one of the mobile phone networks has dropped in a tower and a power supply for it.

The short answer

I carry all of the data modems available from Safaricom, Orange and Zain. I also carry my data connected mobile phone (this trip it’s the Nexus One), and an unlocked multi-purpose modem. To this I add my Acer Netbook, which I’d feel a lot better about losing than I would my Mac, and that completes the setup.

The long answer

In Gatab, on Mount Kulal, you can get two signals. One is Safaricom, that reaches all the way up the mountain (if you’re standing in the right spot) from Loyangalani on the shore of Lake Turkana. The other is from Orange Telkom, with a tower on the mountain itself. Both are powered by windmills.

Where else will you find a connection?

  • South Horr
  • Logologo
  • Laisamis
  • Loyangalani
  • Gatab
  • Baragoi
  • Marsabit

These are the towns that I know of with cell phone towers. Whenever you have a voice connection up here, you also have a GPRS connection (always Edge, never 3g). The Orange connection’s are CDMA, not the normal EVDO “3g+” speeds that you get in Nairobi and Mombasa.

Sometimes all you get is the one tree within 20km that gets a signal…

Quick Hits in the African Tech Space

Indian firm Bharti buys up Zain Africa
The biggest news in the African tech space is Bharti’s $10.7 billion purchase of Zain’s African operations, which operates mobile networks in 17 countries in Africa. Apparently, some believe that Africa’s potential makes Zain deal value fair. (Zain’s African countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambiaand Morocco.)

Google continues getting Africa on the map

Google Maps was launched in 30 Sub-Saharan African countries
. That’s an amazing asset for everyone to use, and it’s also an incredible testament to the number of users using their “My Maps” feature, as this is where this data comes from.

On the growth of tech hubs in Africa
Rebecca Wanjiku wrote an article on IDG about, “Tech labs move beyond corporations in sub-Saharan Africa“. She’s a member of the Nairobi iHub advisory group, and has more insight than most in this space.

South Africa’s Design Indaba
It’s happening right now in Cape Town (Feb 24 – 26, 2010). Great design, and great speakers, but I was really intrigued by their kids program.

Location based service launches in Nigeria
StarTrack is a new location based tracking service in Nigeria, Loy Okezie has a good overview of this new service from Starcomms.

Quick Hits from Digital Africa

I’m on the road to Liberia for a couple weeks, so getting up a quick post on some items that I think are interesting around the technology space in Africa.

Hannes van Rensburg goes off on groups that give financing to European tech companies for work in Africa, rather than the local African companies who are better equipped and more knowledgeable to handle the situation. I agree.

“I really have difficulty in understanding how this mildly succesful UK company can make a difference in Africa. Not only is it unlikely that they will be able to re-use the UK functionality in Uganda (Java phones, ATM switches, etc.), but they are also late. Many Ugandan-based companies have already (or are in the process of) lanching their mobile banking services.”

Solar-powered phones are coming. How will they change the power equation in Africa?

How will solar powered mobile phones change Africa?

Matt Berg writes a good post on leveraging internet with radio:

“Eventually low cost smart phones that are able to access the Internet in an acceptable way (think < $100 Chinese iPhone), will represent a paradigm shift in the way Africans connect to the Internet. Until then, a community radio is probably the best way to make the information on the Internet accessible to rural communities."

Zain launches mobile payment service Zap in East Africa. This is their challenge to Africa’s mobile payments golden-child MPESA (by Safaricom). In the past, Zain hasn’t had a stellar record in marketing and simplification of their services. I hope this is different, as the market needs competitors.

Rural internet, not online but still connected

“Internet access might not be instantaneous, but a USB stick driven off in a cloud of motorcycle dust, or bumping along in an ox cart, can often shift more data than a telephone dial-up connection. And with delayed dial up the customer avoids the frustration of slow downloads: returning later to waiting data.”

Coby Leuschke builds a prototype 12 volt mini computer:

“I was most interested in the 12V DC requirement for use with solar systems. I finally got around to building one from a bare bones kit…”

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