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The East African : November 10th 2013
38 The EastAfrican OUTLOOK NOVEMBER 2-8,2013 e -AF R ICAN Innovators develop apps for Africa Some of the apps we≥e on display at the second annual DEMO Af≥ica confe≥ence in Nai≥obi By STEVE MBOGO Special Correspondent Y oung techpreneurs in Africa are developing information technology and mobile-enabled solutions, at a rapid rate. Some of these innovations were on display at the second annual DEMO Africa conference, where startups pitched for funding and technical support. Already, startups have raised $8 million from investors since October last year. CityMark, a web-based applica- tion that helps gather real estate sector information, is one of the 40 innovations presented at the event. It was developed in South Africa by Affordable Land and Housing Data Centre, an initiative that targets the lower segment of South Africa’s property market. CityMark targets government, investors and developers, enabling them to find affordable property, especially in areas where traditional market data has been overlooked. “It gives investors more informa- tion to enable them to understand the sector, ask the right questions and make the right decisions,” said Miriam Muthoni Maina of Affordable Land and Housing Data Centre. Investment groups Many Kenyans are members of investment or welfare group known as chamas. Chamasoft, presented at DEMO Africa, will help the groups automate their records for efficiency and transparency. The application helps chamas monitor collection and investment diseases. The technology, known as ViViFi, makes it possible to use any surface as a touchpad as long as the sticker is pasted on it. “The sticker technology is ca- pable of transforming all non conductive surfaces with limited thickness like wood, glass and fibre into touch sensors or screens,” said Ahmad Darwish, the business planning manager for Vivifi. From Nigeria, OTGPlaya creates a platform to help content provide r s stream digital content without using the Internet as a pipeline. This means providers can stream content even in areas that do not have THREE OF THE BEST CityMark targets government, investors and developers, enabling them to find affordable property, Chamasoft helps investment groups monitor collection and investment of funds besides tracking group income and expenditure. Duma, a social job matching service for emerging markets, provides job seekers and employers a network to connect based on social contacts, location, job skills and hiring criteria. of funds besides tracking group income and expenditure. “Chamasoft is an online office that chama member can visit virtually and monitor group financial activities,” said application developer Martin Njuguna, founder of Digital Vision EA. From Egypt, a new innovation combines touch screen technology with the human sensory ability to access to bandwidth. The application also secures content against illegal copying, by restricting the use to licensed users only. Content that has not been paid for is not licensed and does not open. Duma, a social job matching service for emerging markets was another innovation. Co-founder Arielle Sandor said the web-based application provides job seekers and employers a network to connect based on social contacts, location, job skills and hiring criteria. “When an employer has a job develop a system that will, for instance, help control the lighting system in a building just by touching a sticker. Since the sticker can sense hu- man body movement even without touching, the application is ideal in places like hospitals where touching of surfaces is discouraged because of the potential to spread opportunity, he can call Duma, send an SMS, or post online. Duma’s software then automatically runs a database search for job seekers who best fit the position based on their skills and work experience, reviews by other employers, geographic proximity, and social network connections. The top matches are notified via SMS about the job opportunity,” said Sandor. To date, the application has matched about 1,600 people to job opportunities in Nakuru, Kisumu, Kisii, Mombasa, Nairobi, and Eldoret. New gene≥ic non-Latin Inte≥net domains app≥oved By MICHAEL OUMA Special Correspondent THE INTERNET Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) — the US-based body in charge of global Internet — has given the green light for delegation or approval of four new Internet domains. The domains – delegated or approved un- der ICANN’s new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD) programme – are in Arabic script (.network), to be managed by International Domain Registry Ltd in Russian (Cyrillic) script, to be managed by Core Association, Cyrillic for .website, also to be administered by Core Association; and in Chinese script (game), to be managed by Spring Fields. The approval of the new domains follows the conclusion of the initial evaluation (IE) phase of the new gTLD programme in August. Among the applications that passed through the IE process was South Africa-based UniForum’s application for dot Africa (“.africa”). Others are “.agakhan” to be managed by the Aga Khan Foundation; “.city” by Sno Sky; “.email” by Spring Madison; “.durban” by UniForum; “.bbc” by UK’s British Broadcasting Corporation; “.mnet” by South Africa’s Electronic Media Network Ltd (M-Net) and “.akdn” — which stands for “Aga Khan Development Network — also to be managed by the Aga Khan Foundation. Microsoft could also have the opportunity to have its own domain — “.microsoft” — while Germany’s Berlin city could join South Africa’s Durban by having its own Internet identity when its own domain, “.berlin” is finally approved by ICANN. 1,930 new gTLD applications, 1,745 of which passed the initial evaluation The four new domains (or “strings” in inter- net domain industry parlance) represent Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs), which come in different scripts and enable Internet users to access domain names in their own specific languages. IDNs are currently available as second-level domains and country code top-level domains. The newly delegated gTLDs are in Arabic, Chinese and Cyrillic scripts and are the first batch of many gTLDs in various non-Latin scripts such as Arabic, Chinese, Greek and Hindi that will be introduced in future. The delegation means that the new domains can now be introduced into the Internet’s root zone, which is the central database for the domains. Consequently, the domain name registries – or the organisations approved to operate these and other soon-to-be-delegated domains – can now execute the final processes required to make the delegated domain names available to Internet users. “In the weeks and months ahead, we will see new domain names coming online from all corners of the world, bringing people, communities and businesses together in ways we never imagined,” said Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s generic domains division. Previously, domains only had Latin charac- ters – for instance “.ke”; “.com” or “.net.” This will be the first time non-Latin characters are used in a generic TLD. BRIEFS Airtel reviews call rates to East Africa by 25pc Kenya’s Airtel mobile has reviewed its call rates to East Africa by 25 per cent, less than a month after Safaricom adjusted its tariffs. Its subscribers will now pay Ksh25 ($0.29) a minute for calls to Uganda and Tanzania, up from Ksh20 ($0.23) in a reaction to new taxes. However, Airtel subscribers will still receive calls for free while roaming — made possible by its One Network technology. Safaricom charges its subscribers Ksh25 ($0.29) for receiving call while roaming in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi or Tanzania, up from Ksh18 ($0.21). CCK in sellers awareness programme CCK aims to help buyers verify the identity of e-sellers . Pic: File The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has started a month-long public consultation on the licensing of Electronic Certification Service Providers (ECSP) in the country to help buyers verify the identity of suppliers when buying goods online. The providers match signatures provided by traders on their letterheads to those existing on a database run by vendors who have to be authorised by the regulator. DCA writes to the AU over ‘.africa’ domain The DotConnectAfrica (DCA) Trust — one of the organisations competing for the “.africa” internet domain — has written to the African Union to protest the manner in which endorsement process of Uniform ZA Central Registry was handled. In the letter, DCA has asked the AU to “review and investigate the role that the AU has played in directly supporting one particular bid and campaigning against another, in the ‘.africa’ Internet domain.” Kenya postpones digital migration to June 2014 Kenya has postponed the deadline for digital migration to June next year. However, Information Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i agreed to push the migration deadli left open how the new schedule would be implemented. Media chiefs are expected to meet Dr Matiangi on his invitation for discussions on how the new deadline should be handled. Kenya had previously set a switch-over date for December 2012.
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