2012 has been an active year for the industry, with continuous technology releases and several game-changing announcements made by various companies. Many stories sparked debate and deliberation, and we have compiled a list of the most popular and most read stories of what has emerged as a bumper year for news.
The story that caused the most debate among users and generated the most traffic for 2012 was (unsurprisingly) the ranking of the fastest average download speeds across the continent. Africa has always been viewed as a continent that is limited in terms of Internet speeds and the number of users – compared to other parts of the world. At the time of writing the article, Net Index ranked Ghana at 77th on their list, earning it top position for an African country with the average download speed being 4.78 Mbps. Somewhat surprisingly, Zimbabwe ranked 80th on the global scale, securing second spot for the African continent with a download speed of 4.65 Mbps. Africa is still well below the average rolling mean throughput of 10.26 Mbps (Megabits per second) around the globe.
Telecommunications is one of the fastest growing industries on the continent, with many companies looking to either enter the market or expand their presence. IT News Africa compiled a list of the ten biggest telecommunications companies based on turnover at the end of 2011, and found that three of the companies profiled are based in South Africa. MTN South Africa ranked first on our list, making R38-billion in the South African and Nigerian markets alone, while having 23.5-million subscribers. The company posted revenue for 2011 at $9.4-billion. Vodacom, whose parent company is UK-based Vodafone, was the second largest company trading in Africa, with 2010 revenue of over R9-billion. On a continent-wide scale across all the industries, Vodacom ranked 9th in terms of revenue, with Vodacom South Africa taking 14th position.
In June, South African mobile operator Vodacom announced the implementation of new measures to prevent users from abusing BlackBerry’s fixed-fee unlimited Internet browsing. It was revealed last year that 5% of BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) users were circumventing preventative measures and using the service for excessive downloading, which slowed down the network for legitimate surfers. With the new Vodacom system in place, priority traffic is provided to users who comply with regulations during peak hours. It is essentially a throttling mechanism that limits the speed of high-volume downloaders.
Also in June, a Dana Airlines Boeing MD83 plane crashed into a residential area in Lagos, Nigeria, killing 153 passengers and several crew-members onboard. The names of the deceased and the plane’s manifest were reportedly leaked through links on social microblogging site Twitter before the families were officially notified, and photos from the crash scene were also uploaded. Other blogs quickly picked up on the Twitter link and started to post their own passenger lists well before the official list was made available by the relevant authorities. It was revealed that among the deceased was Levi Ajuonuma, Group General Manager for Public Affairs of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation; Ehime Aikhomu, son of late General Augustus Aikhomu and two army major generals, Major General Tahir Umar and Major Gen IG Muhammad.
In the beginning of the year, Forbes released its annual list of the top 500 companies in the U.S. ranked by revenue, including a number of technology manufacturers or providers. General Electric was the first tech company to be ranked, but the list reflected differently when compared to a roundup of the top tech companies from around the globe – most of whom have a presence in Africa. Samsung took the top spot after stealing the crown away from Apple as the manufacturer that sold the most mobile units. By the end of 2011, Samsung’s annual revenue was sitting pretty at $142-billion. Hewlett-Packard made it into the second position by the end of 2011 with annual revenues of $127-billion – only $6-billion less than Samsung.
It is an established fact that readers of IT News Africa are interested in articles that focus on Android and Samsung. This helped to thrust this article into 6th position. In September electronic giant Samsung announced the deployment of Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) with the Galaxy S III smartphone in Europe, with other continents to follow. Poland was the first country to receive the update to the new Android operating system, and South Africa (together with other countries in Africa) received the update last month. Android 4.1 update introduces a number of improvements and new features to the S III, including real-time reminders and recommendations from Google Now. It also offers a boost to speed and responsiveness thanks to OS additions including triple buffering in the graphics pipeline, as well as enforced consistent frame-rate for all drawing and animations.
Social Networking and social media are growing in significance and have become an integral part of the digital lifestyle. When the terms ‘social networks’ and ‘social websites’ are used, the likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all come to mind. IT News Africa reviewed some of the biggest social networking sites in Africa, revealing an increase in the number of social networks being developed and introduced in Africa. AfricanZone, a portal that offers free online services to Africans, including a social networking facility to meet people, emerged as the number one site, while popular sites such as MXit and Yookos also made the cut.
In June it was revealed that Hong Kong-based mobile manufacturer Tecno Mobile’s Ethiopian counterpart was set to release its first smartphone completely assembled in Ethiopia. The smartphone hit the shelves in mid-July, and ranged between $339 and $400. The smartphone, called the Tecno T3, runs on Google’s Android 2.3 operating system and features the Amharic language, which was developed in Ethiopia, as well as a GPS. It also supports SMS, email and other information transferring systems.
Given Facebook’s turbulent entry onto the stock market when it filed for IPO status earlier this year, there were lessons to be learnt about dabbling in technology and establishing a business. Online editor Chris Tredger took a closer look at why so many start-ups, and in particular tech companies, struggle to survive in Africa. Business analysts would agree that there are risks to any venture, of any size and focus, and approach certainly matters – the question of where African tech start-ups fit into the bigger picture warranted closer inspection. What does it really take to establish a credible, sustainable technology-focused start-up business in Africa? And, once established, can these businesses seriously compete for market share?
IT News Africa readers simply love articles about the latest technology, and when it was announced in August that Nokia would be launching its affordable Asha Touch 311 into the Kenyan market, traffic to the site increased significantly. The Nokia Asha 311 is a colourful, compact touch screen device that comes with all the features one would expect for a fun and easy mobile experience. The re-designed Asha Touch interface allows users to make use of a host of mobile entertainment options, including the exclusive-to-Nokia offer of 40 free to download games from Electronic Arts (EA). Pre-loaded with a social client that made accessing Facebook and Twitter easier, the phone was made available at retailers across Kenya at a price of KES 9,990.
Editor’s Pick of the Year
When South African-born entrepreneur, innovator and inventor Elon Musk became the first private individual to successfully send a rocket to the International Space Station, the continent immediately sought out any news surrounding the man who also pioneered Tesla Motors. Consumer Tech editor Charlie Fripp took an in-depth look at Musk – from his small-town upbringing, inspirations for Tony Stark in the Iron Man films, and how he managed to achieve his success. It is actually no surprise that Musk ended up where he did. From a young age his inquisitive mind took him to far-away places and he often dreamed of space travel. In his later years, the Pretoria Boys High School scholar identified areas that were “important problems that would most affect the future of humanity”. Apart from SpaceX, Tesla and PayPal, he created the Musk Foundation, which aims to promote science education, paediatric health and clean energy, is a trustee of the X Prize Foundation, sits on the boards of The Space Foundation, The National Academies Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, The Planetary Society, Stanford Engineering Advisory Board, and is also a member of the board of trustees of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor