I said I would, and now I am. Here’s a round up of the stuff in tech that got me clicking, this week.
1. Number portability – You asked for it. You waited years for it. And it finally came. Mobile number portability launched on Monday, and is by still by far the most dominant topic in Nigerian technology conversation this week.
Of course, whether you could be bothered with the whole porting business or not, you at least had a good guffaw at how MTN managed to get Saka to do the unthinkable — port from Etisalat to them. At least that’s the message the whole of Nigeria got. How did MTN manage this brilliant advertising coup and spark what eventually became a full-fledged meme that Nigerian students of advertising will be studying for the next decade? By waving lots of money in Saka’s face? Or did Etisalat drop the ball on their endorsement contracts? Of all the theories and speculation, this explanation by one Kenny Brandmuse, a Nigerian advertising professional who seems close enough to the real story is the most plausible.
Editi’s money is on Etisalat. Victor thinks you probably shouldn’t be too gung-ho about the whole MNP competition thing in the first place. Saka or no Saka though, a crappy network is a crappy network, and porters gonna port. So it’s probably just as well that MTN is borrowing $3 billion for network infrastructure upgrades.
Glo, with their $750 million expansion pact with Huawei is also trying to not be left behind.
2. Jason Njoku’s had a busy week. Since last week actually. Right after dissing a frenemy here, he goes off and becomes buddies with the Nigerian Stock Exchange, scores a Quartz feature, and then he announces that Kuluya has scored an undisclosed sum in funding from an angel who pleads anonymity, at a 2 million dollar valuation.
Part of me wants some of what he’s smoking. The other’s trying to figure out which half of it is the bullshit distortion field.
3. You really should batten down those cyber-hatches, because the hackers are coming. My December 2012 article on the rise and rise of Linda Ikeji had a list of Nigeria’s top five top blogging properties. That list, it would seem, has become a hitlist.
Events of the past week have given me reason to believe that high traffic Nigerian websites are coming into hackers’ crosshairs. First, the NET’s domain got swiped. Then Ladun Liadi’s blogspot got hacked. Both via Gmail exploits. Both incidents could have been prevented, had two step verification been enabled…but the feature, which requires a phone to work, isn’t available for Nigerian lines.
I know it’s a stretch, but if their positions on that graph in my post are any sort of indicator, the hackers are working their way up the food chain, and that’d make YNaija the next target. Please batten down those cyber-hatches. That goes for you too, Linda.
4. If you enjoy kicking government lackeys on Twitter, then you won’t like this one. Premium Times is speculating that Aso Rock has acquired big brother internet surveillance things worth $40 million dollars from an Isreali IT firm.
The company’s press release doesn’t disclose any information about its client beyond the fact that they are an African country. Premium Times claims that their sources have informed them that the country is indeed Nigeria, and that Elbit’s Wise Intelligence Technology (WiT) System for Intelligence Analysis and Cyber Defense will be used to “spy on citizens’ computers and Internet communications under the guise of intelligence gathering and national security”.
5. In other news, a more benign conspiracy is brewing in mobile. Nokia has ganged up with Whatsapp to further befuddle telcos. They’ve put a dedicated Whatsapp hard button on their newly released Asha 210 Qwerty device. Ahead of them, Airtel already launched WhatsApp plans in Nigeria , but I don’t imagine that the other Skype-o-phobe telcos are delighted with this development.
6. Ventureburn had an interesting conversation with Malik Fal, Omidyar’s director for Africa on development, innovation, and entrepreneurship in Africa. The most interesting part, to me at least, was when he was asked which country will emerge as Africa’s tech hub in the next five years. He thinks it’s a race between Nairobi and Cape Town. When asked why not Nigeria, he said —
I don’t think Nigeria has the depth of IT talent that Kenya and Cape Town have. The ecosystem is still a little bit too chaotic in my view. The country is so big, its people work still too much in isolation. We just invested in a group called the Co-Creation Hub, which is similar to iHub in Nairobi, but I think Nigeria is still a long way away from Kenya and Cape Town.
Burn. Except that every word is true.
Of course he said much more that isn’t Nigeria specific, read the whole interview here.
7. In a related development, Malik’s interview sorta coincides with an Omidyar report on entreneurship in Africa. It’s summary — capital is lacking, but the would be financiers argue that there aren’t that many fundable ideas in the first place. Surprise, surprise.
8. And now, it’s time for another commercial break from M-Pesa, our favourite story of innovation made in Africa. This time, it’s a video short by Bloomberg.
9. The Co-Creation Hub gets a 75,000 pound grant from Indigo trust for three years. Indigo makes grants for ICT4D, focusing on transparency governance & innovation in Africa.
11. Seedstars are in town, again at the Co-Creation Hub today to listen to fourteen very anxious startups. They already did actually, and the winner has been announced — a startup called Simple Pay. They just won themselves…a ticket to Switzerland for yet another pitch. In February, 2014.
12. Affordable and green homes for Africa? A Nigerian startup called Ecobuild wants to build them. They were recently featured on VC4Africa.
13. A special shoutout to all the ladies in technology — yesterday, the 25th of April, was Girls in ICT day across the world. In commemoration, Minister of communications technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson bonded with some young ladies in Abuja, and some went home with tablet computers.
Thanks for reading, and of course please leave your thoughts in the comments. What time of the day would you like to receive the weekly brief?