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Science

Africa/ICTBack
[Published: Monday December 23 2013]

By Vincent Matinde

London, 23 Dec. -(ANA) - This year has seen major achievements in the tech world in Africa. This has included increased internet penetration in many countries, which in turn has opened up serious opportunities for future products and services.

In my opinion, ongoing technology developments will mean a great shift in the way we do business, engage with government and access information and entertainment through 2014. Here are my predictions for the next big three advancements for next year.

1. A new way of watching television
When Able Wireless presented its TV streaming service at DEMO Africa in Nairobi Kenya, many wondered how feasible this product was in Africa. This was technology that we only heard thriving in developed nations such as the US.

The technology will enable users in Kenya to stream their favorite movies and films through a black box. This means they will be able to access high speed internet for a very low price and in theory this should help curb the thriving pirate DVD market in Nairobi. The service was scheduled to be launched in November but ran into licensing woes with the government.

However, another internet service provider is currently testing a similar service in Zimbabwe and Kenya. Ipidi a television streaming service providing video-on-demand was silently launched in Nairobi and in Harare by Liquid Telecom. The company hopes that by the first quarter of next year it will officially launch the service across the two nations after concluding their pilot phase.

Safaricom has also shown interest in the streaming service. The company, which has for a while, been shifting its revenue stream to other services such as mobile money and data is looking to latch on to content streaming.

“We will provide aggregation of content and delivery of content,” Bob Collymore the company’s CEO, said in an interview captured by Bloomberg. “Certainly within the year, we could be playing relatively prominently in that space.”

Its service will be accessible through tablets, computers, mobile phone and television sets. This will in turn change the way we watch television in Kenya.

This is all an inevitable outcome as internet penetration increases. The prices are also set to go down as more ISPs come up with competing products, giving consumers great advantages in price. This will lay the ground for the video-on-demand.

2. Mobile banking on steroids

When the mobile money craze swept across the continent, many pundits wondered what opportunities there were with this new payment system. In the beginning, Kenyan banks were apprehensive of this money exchange system to the extent of fighting it with the Central Bank of Kenya.

Once the mobile money was given a clean bill of health, banks in the country started to think about how to thrive in the mobile money era rather than to fight it. And the fruits have been beneficial to all.

With the success of MShwari, a mobile banking product that allows mobile money users to open virtual accounts to save and borrow money, more banks are starting to lean towards this new mode of money transfer.

The service that was launched by Safaricom’s MPesa mobile money service and Commercial Bank of Africa, has since seen over Ksh38.8 billion ($445.9 million) worth of transactions done by July this year. This jolted the market with most banks rushing back to the drawing board to come up with similar services.

Since then, two more banks have adopted the mobile banking mode. Kenya Commercial Bank and Family Bank are the two latest entrants to offer this service to their customers. It is a matter of time, months even, until the whole banking fraternity understands and embraces mobile as the new banking hall.

In Zimbabwe, things are also changing. Econet Wireless through its brand Eco Cash, has unveiled a service that will allow users to open virtual accounts and borrow money. The service already has a lot of traction in the country, garnering more accounts than all the other banks put together. Eco Cash Save Account has around 900,000 users compared to 850,000 with other banks.

The Fin Access National Survey this year showed that 11.5 million adults use mobile financial services compared to 5.4 million who use banks. This represents double the amount of people using mobile money compared to banks.

Countries such as Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda have adopted the use of mobile money in the banking industry. In 2014, Kenya, one of the early adopters, is set to double mobile banking in terms of users of the service. And it is just a matter of time before other services such as insurance get on this bandwagon and make the mobile, Africa’s true ‘credit card’.

3. Greater government services online

With a growing population and an escalating middle class, the ways to collect taxes and access other government services has to be overhauled across Africa. In fact the mode of queuing up to pay fees at a certain office is being phased out, albeit slowly by some governments.

While opening the IBM research center in November in Nairobi, Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta said that by April 2014 all government services will be online under a new directive.

Currently, the Kenyan government is digitizing its land registry, one of the offices most notorious for corruption. Such corruption has seen Kenyans deprived of correct information when they buy land. But with the digitization of such services, corruption will be severely curtailed.

The lands cabinet secretary, Charity Ngilu said that information of land registration and availability will be as accessible as an SMS message. This will make land services closer to the people.

Another service that is inching towards digitization is the Kenya Revenue Authority. This government body has for years been trying to figure out how to automate its services – 2014 could be the year it gets it right.

It would have a ripple effect if government services become efficient and accessible. Rwanda has made great strides to use ICT to its advantage. Prospective business people in the country can now register their business in a matter of hours.

The Rwandan government has made major plans to have all its services online. It has even gone a further mile to have government services monitored online. The system called Government Command Centre will be implemented in the coming year.

“This system will facilitate decision makers in knowing how to spend and where to spend as well as ensuring that taxpayers’ money is spent effectively. Since information from Government Command Centre will be instant and timely; it will bridge the gap of information sharing in several agencies,” Didier Nkurikiyimfura, the director-general of ICT in the Ministry of Youth and ICT told a local daily, New Times in mid November.

This trend is expected to be replicated all over Africa in the next year as mobile penetration in the continent continues to take root. -(ANA)

Vincent Matinde is an international IT Journalist highlighting African innovations in the technology scene.

AB/ANA/ 23 December 2013  - - -

 


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