Orange Money Users to Get Visa Mobile Prepaid Accounts

Orange Money customers will have access to Visa prepaid accounts on mobile handsets as part of service.

Orange and Visa have announced that Orange Money customers will soon have access to Visa prepaid account features inside their Orange Money accounts – a significant step in bringing Visa-quality payments to consumers in developing markets.

Orange Money is the mobile phone-based payment service designed by Orange to meet the needs of customers in Africa and the Middle East. It offers Orange subscribers applications such as person to person transfers, bill payments, and agent-based cash-in and cash-out services for loading or withdrawing funds.

Launched in cooperation with local bank partners, the service was first introduced in 2008 and is presently available in eight countries across Africa and the Middle East. Orange plans to introduce Visa payment capability to Orange Money subscribers in select markets by the end of 2012.

“We already provide secure and convenient payment capability to 3.5 million unbanked or financially under-served African citizens,” said Jean- Paul Cottet, Orange’s Executive Director for Marketing and Innovation.

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“By combining the convenience of Orange Money with the reach of Visa’s global payment network, we can offer new payment capability to Orange Money customers in their home country and abroad.”

Visa Mobile Prepaid, a new Visa product introduced in October 2011, enhances the security, scale and interoperability of mobile money programs, such as Orange Money, by enabling account holders to make person-to-person payments, retail and e-commerce purchases at merchants where Visa is accepted, or withdraw funds at Visa ATMs.

“Mobile technology has become one of the most important enablers of financial inclusion and its ubiquity is allowing mobile network operators, financial institutions, and Visa to connect financially under-served consumers to each other and the global economy,” said John Partridge, President, Visa Inc.

“The convergence of mobile and financial services networks helps to remove service barriers, accelerates the pace of change and is transforming the lives of consumers in developing countries.”

The E-reader – 2012’s Must-have Gadget

Why it’s time to shelve your books and instead put one of these in your pocket.

There is no shortage of products on the market to help us complete tasks easier, faster and lighter. With each advance in technology, traditional methods and practices are being displaced by modern alternatives – where we once would have picked up the phone we now send an email, rather than logging onto a computer to browse the internet we surf on smartphones. Pocket-size MP3 players can hold thousands of songs as opposed to having to buy a CD for a single album.

So why should reading be any different? Just as analysts have predicted that digital music downloads will at some point render CDs obsolete; books have also suffered a hit in sales as the popularity of e-readers has sky rocketed. Figures released last year from online retail giant Amazon stated that it sold 105 books for its Kindle e-reader for every 100 hardcover and paperback books.

The benefits of owning an e-reader are obvious. Instead of carrying bulky books around, or finding somewhere to store them, one single device can hold your entire collection to take with you wherever you go.

But with so many on the market, which is the best to go for?

Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G

Price: Around R2,199

Amazon’s own Kindle models are arguably the most well known in the market. The Kindle Keyboard 3G is the only e-reader with text-to-speech, audiobooks and MP3 support and its 3G wireless internet works globally.

At only 8.5 ounces and 1/3 of an inch thin, Kindle Keyboard can be taken almost anywhere and holds 3,500 books. Kindle e-readers also use the latest generation of Electronic Ink (E Ink) technology – E Ink Pearl – to power its screen. This allows for clearer, sharper text on an anti-glare matte screen that makes it similar to a page of actual book.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of this Kindle is the supreme battery life. After a full four hour charge, it claims to last two months (based on the device being used half an hour per day with Wi-Fi off).

The Kindle also uses Whispersync technology, meaning books downloaded to it can be read on your iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac, Android device, and BlackBerry as well as syncing your place across devices, so you can pick up exactly where you left off.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Screen size: 6 inches

Resolution: 600 x 800 pixels

Display: E Ink Pearl

Connectivity: Free 3G + Wi-Fi

Battery life (Wi-Fi off): 2 months

Storage: Approx. 3,500 e-books

Weight: 247 grams

Sony PRS-T1

Price: Around R1,600

This sleek and classy effort from Sony is the lightest e-reader on the market and looks the part, too. However, its desirable weight and width specifications (it is 9.5mm thick) aren’t quite backed up by its usability. A stylus pen comes with each reader to use on its touch screen, although there is actually no place for it to be stored which is less than ideal.

The Sony Reader software runs as a desktop application on a Mac or PC (not available on Linux), and the app is only downloadable on the Android, not the iPhone or iPad, and there is no web version either.

Pages are turned through swiping the screen which enables a pinch to zoom feature for articles and web pages. Supporting 12 different languages, another good addition is an in-built dictionary that looks up any word you hold on. Sony also offers around two million books in its e-store.

The PRS-T1’s design sets it apart from competitors, particularly because it hosts five buttons at the bottom as well as a touch screen, making web browsing easier with home, page back and page forward buttons. Available in white, black or an eye-catching red, if stylish and sleek is your bag this could be the e-reader for you.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Screen size: 6 inches

Resolution: 600 x 800 pixels

Display: E Ink Pearl

Connectivity: Wi-Fi

Battery life: 1 month (wireless off), approx. up to 3 weeks (wireless on)

Storage: Approx. 1,200 e-books

Weight: 168 grams

Elonex 500EB

Price: Around R995

The 500EB model is the smallest of Elonex’s three offerings in the e-reader market and is perfectly suited to those wanting a portable, multimedia device. Its sharp colour TFT screen makes it ideal for not only reading books but also watching movies and scrolling through photographs.

With six buttons (menu, back, adjust font size, page turn, and music) as well as a d-pad for navigation under the screen, its ergonomic design is complimented by a rubber-finished back to make one handed reading easy. The only drawback of its design is a 1.6cm thickness which is considerably more than the competitors.

The main selling point of the 500EB is the screen – yet while other e-readers promote the non-backlight E Ink displays, the advantages of a full colour screen include being able to change text colour. Although Elonex have fitted an anti-glare film the screen still gets affected by sunlight and is not designed for hours of non-stop reading (as the battery life attests).

The device comes pre-loaded with out of copyright books to get you started and thousands of eBooks can be downloaded from e-book stores.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Screen size: 5 inches

Resolution: 800 x 480 pixels

Display: TFT LED Backlit LCD Widescreen – 16:9

Connectivity: Wi-Fi

Battery life: (Book reading) 6 hours

Storage: Approx. 6,000 e-books (SD card slot for expandable memory options up to 16GB)

Weight: 190 grams

Kenya’s Produce Purchasing Agents Ride Innovation Wave

Award-winning AgriManagr app assists more than 300,000 farmers

WRITTEN BY RICHARD CHOWNING

In 2010 John Waibochi, the founder, CEO, and chief innovator at of Kenya’s Virtual City Group, won the Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge. The award brought his company a US$1 million cash prize. Yet the recognition is not a laurel on which he wants his company to rest.

Waibochi says that Virtual City Group has been on the forefront of helping Africans, particularly Kenyans, understand that mobile phones are not just for communication and entertainment, but they are business tools that can help people make and save money. He has not only helped Kenyans understand that, but Virtual City Group has presented the population with many useful applications.

One successful app put out by Virtual City Group is AgriManagr, an application that assists more that 300,000 farmers. The app has been recognised internationally with The World Summit Award (WSA) on Mobile Content in 2010.

The AgriManagr system assists farmers and produce middlemen in automating produce purchasing transactions. It facilitates the management of weighing, grading and receipting of produce gathered from farmers at a rural or urban collection centres throughout the country. The app goes beyond mere record keeping by allowing purchasing agents to pay the farmers using cashless transactions on their phones. It also comes with the ability to automatically reward frequent and favoured suppliers.

Produce purchasing agents who combine AgriManagr with an electronic weighing scale can send the weight information directly to the AgriManagr app through Bluetooth technology. A complete report of the transaction including quality of the produce, quantity, farmer’s details, collection point, and the payment due are sent to the purchasing agent’s headquarters which can then make payment.

Having real-time information about purchases in the field gives the headquarters an accurate understanding of how much total produce, by type, they will have available to supply to their retailers in the next day or two.

The farmer can be given a receipt at the collection centre detailing the transaction including his dealings with the purchaser over the past several deliveries. This quick, real-time delivery of information creates trust and builds loyal relationships between the farmers, purchasing agents and the produce distributing corporations they represent.

Waibochi is striving to keep Virtual City Group of the crest of the innovation wave by planning to introduce between 30 and 50 new, prototype apps each month. It used to be said that Africa needs a lot from the developed world – but Waibochi and Virtual City Group are setting standards that the rest of the world will do well to emulate.

Richard Chowning is director of Africa Mentor which provides coaching and resources for entrepreneurs and non-profits working in Africa.

ForgetMeNot Africa launches Zimbabwean app competition

Developers encouraged to create new apps for Zimbabwean market

Budding Zimbabwean app developers will see their unique ideas for SMS-based mobile applications launched to more than three quarters of the country’s 7.7 million mobile subscribers.

A new app competition launching next week at a JumpStart Community meeting at the Harare Club will enable winning developers to earn revenue from their apps, which will be launched across Econet Wireless Zimbabwe’s network of 6 million subscribers.

The ForgetMeNot Africa eTXT Apps Challenge – in partnership with developer community Jumpstart, leading Zimbabwean weblog TechZim and mobile operator Econet – encourages developers to create new apps and games that are particularly attractive to Zimbabwean mobile users.

Using ForgetMeNot Africa’s unique Optimiser Platform – which currently supports internet-free Facebook, email and online chat via Econet’s eTXT service – entrants can develop apps that reach user1s of all handsets via two-way SMS, from first generation mobile phones to the latest smartphone. Developers can use any programming language for their entry.

Winning entrants will win up to three iPads along with $2,000 seed capital to develop their ideas and, if successful, their apps will be launched to Econet’s 6 million mobile subscribers, from which they will receive an ongoing revenue share.

To submit their ideas developers must first become members of the Jumpstart community, then register on the ForgetMeNot Africa Developers’ Platform. Once developers have created their app they can submit it onto the Econet eTXT Platform.

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After an initial development period, the best app ideas will be shortlisted and developers will attend a Test Drive Final in May, where they will receive mentoring from ForgetMeNot Africa experts to fine tune their ideas. They will then present a business plan and code for their app to a panel of judges, who will choose the winners.

The launch of the competition follows the success of ForgetMeNot Africa’s Kipokezi Apps Challenge in Kenya. This inspired developers to submit unique app ideas for Kenyan mobile users, including a traffic information app, a treasure hunt game and an app that provided football fans the latest information on the Kenyan Premier League.

Jeremy George, Chief Operating Officer at ForgetMeNot Africa, said: “Our recent Apps Challenge in Kenya was a huge success with some truly unique and innovative ideas submitted. Zimbabwe also has a wealth of developer talent and we want to give them the same opportunity to earn revenue from their ideas. We are giving developers the chance to bring their ideas for unique apps or games that are useful, fun and highly relevant to Zimbabwean mobile users.”

ForgetMeNot Africa’s technology is already available to Econet’s entire subscriber base through its eTXT service, which launched in April 2011. This launch more than doubled access to internet messaging in Zimbabwe. Previously only one in eight

Zimbabweans (1.4 million people) had access to the internet, but the launch of eTXT provided all Econet subscribers with access to Facebook, email and online chat on even the most basic mobile handsets.

The competition will be launched at the JumpStart Community event at the Harare Club on Tuesday, March 27. ForgetMeNot Africa founder John Carroll will speak at the event, and will be running workshops to assist developers the next day.