by Joseph Appiah-Dolphyne and Kent Mensah, AfricaNews
Google literally brought Accra – the capital of Ghana in West Africa – to a standstill with the public launch of its new product Google Trader. It is a free online classifieds service that allows Ghanaians to buy and sell products and services, as well as search for jobs or just about anything else.
The service seems to be catching on fast with traders in the capital in particular as some have already listed items from livestock to stationery. “I’m actually surprised this is for free and I can just do it with a touch of the button on my cell phone,” Kofi Baah, a secondhand clothing seller at the Makola Market – the largest shopping centre in Ghana – told AfricaNews.
“This is incredible. You mean I can really advertise my coconut selling business on the net?” Stephen Agyapong, a coconut seller at Osu queried after he was handed a handout explaining how the service works.
“I’ll give it a try definitely,” he promised. According to Google, Trader can be used by anyone in Ghana, but is expected to have the biggest uptake in major towns and cities across the country. “Individuals can post short ads to buy and sell items and services, whilst businesses of any size can also use the site to reach more customers and increase their sales,” a statement read.
The Ghana launch took the crew through Makola, Kwame Nkrumah Circle lorry park, the Oxford street of Osu where the public was spellbound with a professionally crafted chorographic antics that would eventually be transformed into a video clip for the online community.
The Country Lead for Google Ghana Estelle Akofio-Sowah could not hide her excitement as she watched the large crowd that took a brief break from their daily activities to take a glimpse of the flashmob.
She said: “We are excited about Trader because its free, easy to use, and locally relevant. Having a web version, a mobile web version and an SMS option means that Trader is accessible to everyone, no matter where you are.”
To make sure that Trader is easily accessible to users across Ghana, Google has partnered with AIRTEL and TIGO to offer a FREE SMS option. Users can subscribe by texting START to 6007 on any Airtel or Tigo phone and can start posting and selling straight away.
At a press conference today, Zain announced the launch of its award-winning, enhanced payment service ZAP in Ghana. The service is set to compete for the custom of the Ghanaian “unbanked” with MTN’s Mobile Money.
The development of mobile payment mechanisms in the Ghanaian market for value-added mobile services, alongside with the evolution of the local market information platform Esoko, makes mobile commerce in Ghana an increasingly realistic prospect.
The mobile phone has become one of the most important pieces of equipment that has revolutionaised processes in the society, making people transact business and communicate in a friendly and more convenient way.
Not only have authorities predicted the continuous revolution in the sector, but they believe Africa, which was written off as one that could not realise the full benefit of the technology, will now be at the centre of the mobile phone revolution, using the device to facilitate trade and the settlement of values beyond its traditional use as a communication tool to which the device is put in many parts of the world.
Leading the mobile revolution in Africa and the Middle East is Zain Telecommunications which continues to use veritable market survey to design products and services on its platform to the benefit of the ordinary person and businesses.
The telecom service provider has introduced onto the Ghanaian market its award-winning mobile commerce (m-commerce) product, the Zap service, which is set to make business transactions on all platforms easier by enabling users to access funds from their bank accounts and pay utility bills using their mobile phones.
ZAP has been extensively reviewed and approved by industry experts across the world as an efficient way of doing transactions. The product is the reigning winner of the coveted award for Best Mobile Money for the Unbanked Service at the GSMA Global Mobile World Awards 2010.
The Country Manager of Zain, Mr Philip Sowah, explained that the service went beyond money transfer into enabling users of the service to effect payment of any kind be it a bill at a grocery, utility bills, pay-TV bills, school fees, or even to honour pledges and tithes at church.
“This service will enable people to transact business and make payments without resorting to cash,” Mr Sowah explained, adding that although the service would initially be available to Zain customers, it would later rope in other platforms.
Currently, Zain is working in partnership with three banks, namely Ecobank, Standard Chartered Bank and UBA to deploy the service with the hope that after the launch other banks would be roped in.
With its authentic ability to capture people in the informal sector, who would load cash on the service for transactions, the product would help in banking a lot more people in that sector, thus help in mopping up excess money in circulation, a condition necessary for checking inflation. Currently, only 80 per cent of the Ghanaian working population is unbanked. This means a teaming number of people in the informal economy remain unbanked.
“The unbanked will become banked under Zap and enable banks to have access to more customers,” Mr Sowah added, adding that the general economic and business benefits of ZAP were astounding and would further revolutionarise commerce in Ghana.
How it operates
Customers of the network will first have to register with the mobile provider before being able to access their Zap service. The customers can send money from their bank account to ZAP account or go to the nearest Zain dealer or Zap centre to deposit cash onto their Zap service to enable them to send money from ZAP to a bank account, send virtual money to friends and family, receive virtual money or withdraw cash.
Mr Sowah said “money can be redeemed from any ZAP outlet or Zain accredited shops all over the country.”
On another level, merchants and service providers who would be signed on would also have their Zap account which would facilitate a unique settlements system that would facilitate the exchange of goods and services to take place.
For instance, at the Accra Mall, all the big and small vendors would have the service which would allow customers to buy from say game supermarket and pay through the Zap service.
It can also work in informal economies such as at traditional markets in Ghana such as the Makola market in Accra, the Asafo market in Kumasi or the Techiman market in the Brong Ahafo Region.
For money transfer, the upper limit is GH¢600 a day, while transactions with merchants could go beyond that to bigger amounts, in an attempt to check fraudulent deals with the system, such as money laundering.
Besides the multi-faceted services it offers, Zap also promises convenient and a cost efficient way of transferring money; or for the payment of goods and services in the Ghanaian market.
Zain officials said there would be no need for any special subscriber identity module (SIM) card or customers to begin to enjoy the ZAP service. In addition, however, customers who would use ZAP would be allowed to keep their phone numbers confidential with the use of ‘nicknames’ to transfer money.
The service could also be used to top up airtime for the customer or for someone else.
The company stressed that since Zap operated in a ‘virtual’ world of transacting business without carrying cash, theft cases and armed robbery would be drastically reduced, citing building contractors as an example of a category that could “Zap” workers’ wages directly to their handsets without carrying sack loads of money.
The workers could later redeem the cash at the ZAP outlets doted all across the country, Mr Sowah explained.
The ZAP service is currently in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Niger and Sierra Leone.
Here is today’s announcement about a Nokia Life Tools launch in Indonesia. I would be very keen to know what exactly is the technology behind Nokia Life Tools. Would anyone be able to clarify?
By Mike on 04 November 2009
JAKARTA, Indonesia – It’s almost a year to the day that we first reported on an intriguing new service called Nokia Life Tools. Piloted and then officially debuting in India, Life Tools was designed to help improve the livelihood and lives of farmers, students and many people in more remote and rural areas in emerging market countries. It does this by offering easily accessible and up-to-date crop prices, education tools and entertainment packages, delivering this valuable information on a simple SMS backbone. Hence we’re excited to see Nokia Life Tools announced for Indonesia, where it has been keenly tailored towards its people’s needs.
Read on to find out more, see photos of folk using the service, and as always, share your comments below.
Nokia Life Tools has been tailored for Indonesian farmers
Nokia-Life-Tools-IndonesiaWhereas in India much of the focus for the agriculture service was aimed at delivering timely crop prices to help ensure farmers were able to get better value for their produce, Life Tools for Indonesia has been tailored to provide precious up-to-date info on livestock, fisheries and horticulture, as well as crops.
In terms of what this actually means, farmers will be able to access market prices (consumer price, wholesale price, mill price and farmer price), and are also able to tap into tips and advice on farming techniques (such as animal health care and alerts on new government schemes), as well as receive all-important weather forecasts.
We’re stoked to see how Life Tools has been tweaked to target the unique needs of the people in this territory – could this approach be suited to other services too? Let us know what you think.
The agriculture service will initially launch in Java and Sumatera, prior to rolling out across the rest of Indonesia.
Help with education through Nokia Life Tools
When you access the education part of Life Tools there are three strands you can pursue – learning English, preparing for school and higher education exams, and improving your general knowledge.
Learning English is broken into beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, making it easy for anyone to jump in at the stage they’re most comfortable with. In terms of an outcome, the information and lessons that are delivered through Life Tools have been designed to help students come out the other side with the ability to read, write and understand simple English pieces of text.
The test preparation part of the education tool provides students with valuable access to material in keeping with the national curriculum at junior and high school levels. As for the general knowledge stuff, much of that information is again tailored to the region, supplemented with more info related to global general knowledge.
Nokia Life Tools injects entertainment
The entertainment tool adds a lighter touch to proceedings, enabling folk pluck news, astrology, jokes, movie news and reviews via subscription or on-demand. Whereas downloads such as wallpapers, animations, themes, music and comics are solely available via on-demand.
Nokia Life Tools will launch in Indonesia in early December 2009, and will debut on the Nokia 2323 classic, Nokia 2330 classic and Nokia 2700 classic. It’ll later become available on the five new devices announced today for Indonesia, including the Nokia 1280 (Nokia’s cheapest ever phone), Nokia 1616, Nokia 1800, Nokia 2220 slide and Nokia 2690.
Wageningen, 2 November 2009. During the CTA ICT Observatory 2009 we interviewed Mike Davies from Esoko, in Ghana. Esoko is a software platform licensed to facilitate the flow of market information between farmers, governments, researchers and other stakeholders involved in agriculture and rural development. It is used to share information on prices, offers, price of fertilizers etc. It is managed by the web, but delivered via mobile phones. Mark underlines the potential positive effects that Market Information Services such as Esoko can bring about, both in agriculture as well as in for other sectors. He then concludes talking about the difficulties he has encountered in this initiative, such as the lack of content available and the lack of right capacities to build and develop such software.
So recently I’ve been travelling for a bit after taking some time off in August. But after a short spell of flu I am back online and looking to point out interesting developments in the areas of ICT4D, mobile technology and technology enabled markets.
Below I am bringing to your attention a program from the Telecom TV series “The Bottom Line” and Ethan Zuckerman’s presentation from the Ars Electronica 2009 in Linz, Austria. I thought that the two video pieces fit together because they highlight the changing concept of infrastructure in the context of pervasive information and telecommunication technologies, and its complexity.
“The Bottom Line ” stresses the point that previously infrastructure used to be understood by most as buildings, roads, railways, shipping and airline routes, pipelines, financial services; and by some as communication networks, landline and wireless networks, data centres, computing power, software, routers, bandwidth, the Internet and so on. Currently, all these concepts of infratructure are converging. Mobile systems are connecting roads, the vehicles travelling on them and the stocks they are transporting. Mobile money is facilitating the flow of these stocks. The world is changing by the infrastructure getting smarter. The transformation provides a promise of a much more integrated world but also it introduces challenges to network operators and service providers.
The presentation by Ethan Zuckerman from the Ars Electronica 2009 held in Linz, Austria also sets off with infrastructure as its starting point. Mr Zuckerman considers early attempts to map the Internet as the “electronic super highway”. He points out that currently the idea of mapping the Internet by means of tracing the whereabouts of physical infrastructure is outdated. Instead, he considers the concept of the Cloud and presents the idea of mapping the Internet by means of mapping the flows of technology use, as well as the lack thereof. Mr Zuckerman points out that the perceived level of globalization diverges from the actual level of out-of-context, non-local information we tend to seek. He suggests that there are areas of the world e.g. Nigeria, receiving far inadequate attention by information users and providers.