5 Apr 2012

Cloud in East Africa: ionacloud Founder gives an interview to East Africa Com organisers

Cloud interview with… Kageni Wilson - Founder & CEO, ionacloud

Cloud is not just a buzz-word anymore, it's a need-to-know business model, and it potentially holds the key to Africa's ICT future - so the Com World Series (organisers of East Africa Com and Cloud Africa) caught up with Cloud Service creator Kageni Wilson, to get his thoughts on the matter...

CWS: How would you describe existing ''cloud services'' in Africa?

KW: Existing cloud services in Africa are in their infancy (most if not all have sprouted sometime in the past 2 years) but their popularity is rapidly increasing. For enterprise cloud, the services are progressing at a healthy rate driven by the awareness and business needs of companies with data handling operations. As for public cloud, with the exception of services like ionacloud where we are doing research and development specific to public cloud, not much else is being done as far as I know.

CWS: What would you say is the level of awareness about cloud in your country/region's ICT market?

KW: The level of Cloud awareness in my country (Kenya) and region (East Africa’s) ICT market is quite high. Kenya being an ICT hub on the entire continent has turned attention in the region more and more towards new developments and the latest trends in the tech industry. In this regard, the entrance of telcom companies into the cloud computing business and the resultant marketing of cloud services has definitely helped raise awareness about cloud technology and its benefits.

CWS: Which 'type' of cloud would be your choice - public or private?

KW: Neither. I believe the best suited solution lies in a hybrid cloud that incorporates both public and private cloud. At ionacloud for instance, we are building public cloud infrastructure that is open to anyone at a personal level but allowing for the creation and plug-in of multiple private clouds within the public cloud service. Companies will never embrace public cloud’s standardized services because needs differ with companies meaning that for cloud to work properly at an enterprise level it has to be tailored and customized to suit each clients needs. I believe the future will see private cloud being the choice for most companies and public cloud being the choice for individuals. However as the focus on cloud begins to shift from safe data storage to optimized data accessibility, the lines between the two will be forced to blur (after all even a company precipitates its data to individuals) resulting in a balance. The hybrid cloud.

CWS: How rapidly do you think the adoption of cloud will reduce capital and operational expenditure for enterprises in Africa?

KW: I think it will take quite some time. The effect of cloud technology adoption on the bottom line of enterprises in Africa is clear in theory but is yet to show empirical validity with actual figures from actual companies that have undergone the process of cloud integration mostly because its simply too soon to tell. Secondly, cloud integration costs money and this is part of capital. At the moment the market favors large corporations over smaller operational business. As time progresses and cloud adoption goes into hyperdrive, economics of scale will kick in for service providers and this combined with competition will serve to bring both the implementation cost (affecting capital) and recurrent cost (affecting operational expenditure) of cloud services much lower for enterprises. Only then can we study the big picture and hope to give an accurate, average period for effect of cloud on capital and operational costs. Till we have enough data, any period given would simply be an estimate that may vary from case to case.

CWS: What do you think is needed to drive improved and cheaper bandwidth in Africa for cloud?

KW: More investment in ICT infrastructure especially internet connectivity technology such as fiber-optics as well as set up of in-house data centers on the continent (exporting our data to centers in other continents for storage is needlessly cumbersome and expensive). The latter will give rise to more cloud hosting services driving competition (always good for the consumer – in this case cloud users) and the former will increase available bandwidth at a reasonable cost meaning precipitation of data from the cloud will be smooth and effective.

CWS: Have you seen an increase in IT spend (in your business/country/region), and if yes, has it included investment in cloud?

KW: Yes. I have witnessed increased spending on IT at all levels of business. Everything from hardware purchase and IT staff hiring for computerization of paper records in old organizations to the migration of already tech-savvy companies into the cloud serves to indicate this. Service providers in the region have invested tens of millions of dollars in cloud technology in the past year alone.

CWS: What do you think is preventing enterprises in Africa from implementing cloud?

KW: 1. Under-information and/or misinformation about cloud, 2. Cloud’s currently steep implementation costs and 3. Change phobia (fear of pioneering change also known as the ‘wait and see’ phenomenon)

CWS: What do you think are the 3 key advantages gained by companies using cloud as part of their IT services?

KW: 1. Safer, better data storage and management (assuming a good cloud choice) 2. Savings caused by the operational efficiency of cloud compared to traditional IT practices 3. They have more resources to direct towards other IT developments

CWS: What key message would you give to cloud enthusiasts in Africa?

KW: Live, breathe, eat and sleep cloudlife.

In other words, don’t stop thinking about it, talking about it, marketing it, discussing problems and solutions at every possible chance and most importantly, never ever stop developing it. It is the future and its potential is an iceberg 90% of which we haven’t even seen yet. We are slowly succeeding in turning cloud tech from a luxury into a necessity but our goal should be to make it the new IT standard of choice. What we have on our hands here is something as potentially revolutionary as the invention of the computer itself and it has the ability to change human life just as much if we turn it into a way of life as early on as possible. Working on this puts you at the cutting edge of IT research. We are the pioneers and it is our responsibility to head the revolution. To stop at nothing until the mark of African cloud has been made around the world.

Kageni Wilson is an innovator, writer and tech entrepreneur. He is the Founder & CEO of personal cloud computing service provider, ionacloud.

About East Africa Com:

Taking place in Nairobi on the 17-18 April, and endorsed by those at the top of regional telecoms, East Africa Com delivers the most heavy-weight speaker-line up that features established giants, new, smaller entrants and everything in between.

You’ll gain a comprehensive overview of all the latest “need to know” topics in the multi-streamed conference while meeting potential new suppliers and partners in the 25 stand networking exhibition which is packed with some of the world’s foremost technology and solution providers.

If you do telecoms business in East Africa, this is an event you cannot afford to miss! Click here to download the brochure

Inovar and Qualcomm join North Africa Com - Tunis, 15-16 May

Two new sponsors confirmed their participation to North Africa Com, the regional event for the telecoms, media and ICT industry.

As the world leader in next generation mobile technologies, Qualcomm ideas and inventions are driving wireless growth and helping to connect people to information, entertainment and one another. Qualcomm’s breakthrough technologies enable the convergence of mobile communications and consumer electronics, making wireless devices and services more personal, affordable and accessible to people everywhere.

Inovar is a telecom solutions company with an innovative and attractive solutions portfolio and an extensive customer base around the globe. Founded in 1996 (as Integrated Telecom Solutions), Inovar offers an unparalleled suite of value-priced IN and IMS based voice and data solutions for the global wireless marketplace—solutions that increase revenue, boost network traffic, enhance customer loyalty, and capture and retain high-value customers.

They join key companies to showcase their innovative products and dynamism in the region's market: Tunisie Telecom as Technology Partner of the event, fibre optic provider Corning, carrier BICS, and more companies speaking and exhibiting at the event.

For more information on how to participate in the event as sponsor or exhibitor, please contact:
Corrie Thompson, corrie.thompson@informa.com, tel: +44 20 7017 5249

4 Apr 2012

Mobile Money & Cashless Societies in Africa: An interview with Orange's Chief Mobile Money Officer in Kenya

Snehar Shah, Chief Money Officer at Orange Telkom Kenya

Snehar Shah is Chief Orange Money Officer at Orange Telkom Kenya and will be representing OTK at the East Africa Com conference, taking place at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi on the 17-18 April. East Africa Com’s organisers, the Com World Series, had a chat with Snehar to find out a bit more about his perspective on the market, and his message for delegates next month.
CWS: In brief, please describe your organisation and the work it is doing in East Africa.
SS: Telkom Kenya is the incumbent integrated telecoms operator in Kenya. France Telecom – Orange acquired a 51% stake in the business four years ago and just over year ago we launch Orange Money in Kenya
CWS: How would you sum up the characteristic of the East African telecoms, media and ICT industry this year?
SS: The launch of agency banking one year ago and financial institutions adopting the mobile channel to serve their customers has provided an opportunity to expand the eco system of mobile money
CWS: What would you say is your organisations priority for 2012?
SS: Orange Money has been launched on a robust platform involving a bank account which provides significant opportunities to expand products including bulk payments for corporates, loan and insurance products, international money transfer, partnerships with card associations etc
CWS: Which type of services do you think consumers are going to be calling for in 2012?
SS: Consumers want convenience and cost effective and comprehensive products which cannot be provided by a single player. Therefore our approach is to partner with the Eco system for the benfit of the consumer
CWS: What do you think are the 3 key attributes needed to succeed in East Africa’s telecoms, media and ICT industry going forward?
SS: Innovation, open partnerships with the eco system players and profitable models
CWS: Which key message do you want to highlight to the audience during your participation at East Africa Com in Nairobi this April?
SS: Since, apart from a couple of anomalies, mobile money has not really delivered the desired results, Orange Money would like to show that by adopting a different approach of open partnerships with the Eco system players, there can be a win-win-win situation to benefit us, our partners and the customers.
Snehar Shah is Chief Orange Money Officer at Orange Telkom Kenya. He has had fifteen years experience in the Telecoms and Banking Industry. Snehar was made Deputy Chief Financial Officer in Kenya three years ago, and last year, since being appointed as Head of Orange Money, successfully launched Orange Money in Kenya with a rich and differentiated product offering for this market. The product will soon be expanded to other markets in East Africa.
About East Africa Com
This year's event is the 7th annual - and the conference and exhibition have been the premier meeting place for senior executives from telecoms, media and ICT in the region. It delivers the most heavy-weight speaker-line up featuring influential thought leaders, as well as new, smaller entrants - and everything in between.
You’ll gain a comprehensive overview of all the latest “need to know” topics in the multi-streamed conference while meeting potential new suppliers and partners in the 25 stand networking exhibition which is packed with some of the world’s foremost technology and solution providers.
If you do telecoms business in East Africa, this is an event you cannot afford to miss! Click here to download the brochure

3 Apr 2012

Michel Elame to talk on Warid Congo's turnaround at West & Central Africa Com

Warid Congo CEO Michel Elame has confirmed his participation as speaker to West & Central Africa Com, the region's annual event for the telecoms, media and ICT industry. He will give a presentation on how he successfully turned around Warid's position in Congo's highly competitive telecoms market.
WARID, an affiliate of Dhabi Group, launched in Congo in early 2008, becoming the country’s third telecommunications operator with now almost 500.000 active subscribers. The company has an EDGE network that offers a range of innovative services, including Ezetop, Warid Musik, Ezee chat, Warid Messenger, Warid World, to name a few.
Michel joined Warid Congo in January 2010 as CEO with a clear roadmap to turnaround the operation by creating the leanest organization capable to compete favourably with two of the largest African telecom players - Airtel and MTN. His presentation at West & Central Africa Com will cover how he achieved results through cost cutting, workforce restructuring, outsourcing, improving efficiencies, and ensuring the measures were sustainable for long-term success.
Prior to joining Warid Congo, he was one of the pioneers of GSM in Cameroon occupying various positions at MTN in the early 2000, notably as the first Head of Sales & Distribution. He subsequently joined Celtel/Zain as Sales & Distribution Director before rising to the top position and successfully lead as CEO the operations in both the Congos (DRC & Republic of Congo) conducting notably 2 major rebranding initiatives, grooming & nurturing several Young African Executives and significantly improving the bottom line and subscriber numbers.
Michel's vast experience of the region will definitely add value to the debates at West & Central Africa Com.

2 Apr 2012

"Mobile social networking is the future of media consumption " says Ramzi Halaby of The Online Project

Ramzi Halaby is Co-Founder and Director of Business Development of The Online Project, the Middle East's leading social media agency.
Ramzi will share his experience on how to use social media to connect with consumers at North Africa Com in Tunis in May. He answers some questions ahead of his presentation.

CWS: What is your company’s position in North Africa’s telecoms, media and ICT market?
RH: The Online Project (TOP) is the region’s leading social media agency working with Fortune 500 companies by developing and executing strategies that help their organizations become more social.
Among our clients are leading GSM operators in the region such as Zain Jordan, Zain Iraq, Zain Sudan, MTC Touch, Zain Group and Nawras Telecom. Our experience with social media and telecom specifically has allowed us to demonstrate great value and ROI for our telecom clients such as reduced customer care expenses, enhance customer experience, reduced costs in generating market insights, long term marketing efficiencies and more

CWS: What is the importance of social media in the region in terms of usage and opportunities for business?
RH: Social media is playing a major impact in the region specially when it comes to utilization. A big portion of our population is young and we all know that telecoms in our region have it as a set priority to target the youth, build loyalty and market share. Youth are increasingly spending most of their time online and specifically on social networks. They mostly consume digital media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn) with much less traditional media consumption. The opportunity for telecoms in the region is to be early movers and adopters of the new ways of communication and engagement. It is no longer a push communication relationship but a two way relationship that needs to be fully integrated within the organization from top bottom.

CWS: Which companies are making the most innovative use of social media for the region?
RH: A good source to check out would be socialwatchlist.com, some of the key telecom leaders when it comes to social are Vodafone Egypt, Etisalat Misr, Zain, Jawwal, Mobily, STC...

CWS: Which trends or services do you think will shape the market in the coming year(s)?
RH: A huge area that will shape up the future of new media is social networking and mobile. This is the future of media consumption and operators need to morph their strategies to be able to monetize and take advantage of the next wave of consumers social journeys.

CWS: How important is the North Africa Com event in promoting the telecoms, media & ICT market in the region and what do you expect from your participation?
RH: I believe this is a very interesting time for telecoms in our part of the world. It is a time to integrate new ways of communication and engagement with our customers and stakeholders. The telcos have always taken a lead in our markets when it comes to adopting new schemes. I feel my participation will allow me to share knowledge and experience from working with the leading telcos through certain case studies but also to learn from the telecoms about their concerns and priorities in the coming few years.

North Africa Com will take place at the Sheraton Tunis on 15-16 May. Other companies represented on the programme include Tunisie Telecom (the event's Technology Partner), Orange, Mobinil, Tunisiana, Vodafone Egypt, Mauritel Mobiles, Etisalat Misr and more.