Click on this to see who are the only people speaking about the people at this strange-looking gathering. It's taking place at a local casino venue early next month in the east of Johannesburg. I think I would have to gamble (and win) to attend, since its costing almost ZAR9k to go and listen to these wondrous sources of knowledge.
Great news: Sentech announced the launch of its fixed-cost wireless broadband Internet service yesterday. Arriving in Gauteng in January next year, the service offers hope to countless frustrated dial-up users in SA. Still pretty expensive at R649 ($102) per month for MyWireless 128 (I pay less than half that amount here in the US), the Internet sector will be sure to be given a welcome boost - especially as the second national operator starts up next year.
Clay Shirky has an excellent investigation piece on the phrase: "Half the world has never made a phone call". It made me realise, once again, how we Africans have accepted the victim jacket from the rest of the world and how we thrive on being morbid and negative about our lot, choosing pity from others rather than independent action by ourselves. Shirky makes the very good point that by repeating the phrase "half the world", we are choosing a position of stasis rather than pointing out the fact that, despite decreases or stasis in landline telephone growth, mobile telephony is exploding. The people have found a way to circumvent government monopolies and make things happen. We'll see this trend continually in the coming months in Africa - where the market will dictate better government policies so that we can keep moving along the path to better communications. Because, when it comes down to it, communication is essential to human existence - and we're not going to stand by while the rest of the world enjoys the benefits of enhanced communication.
Oh, and the next instalment would be to investigate the phrase, "the rest of the world" or the "west" or the "developed countries". Living in America, I am beginning to realise how static that term is.
One and a half years late, and many frazzled nerves later, it was announced yesterday that a license for the new South African SNO (second national operator) has been awarded.
The 51% stakeholder in SNO is yet to be announced (in the next 8 weeks, according to the Minister) but at least the saga is going somewhere. ITWeb columnist, Rodney Weidemann doesn't hold much hope, though - he says that he would be surprised if we have a functional SNO after 8 months, owing to the fact that the two rival bidders will probably be urged to merge for the 51% stake. And then there's all the compromise and negotiations that will have to occur before the SNO will be able to begin rolling out services and attempting to take on the monopoly in a meaningful way.
It's all pretty maddening - especially since the development of new technologies depend so much on a healthy, competitive telecoms market. Take, for example, Telkom's handling of least-cost routing (LCR), whereby a company routes calls to a cell number from its telephone system directly onto the cellular network. Telkom claims this is an illegal circumvention of its network and is suing MTN, Nedtel Cellular, Nashua and Orion Cellular for adopting this practice. Another ITWeb columnist, Colin Anthony, thinks that, when the SNO finally does arrive, it could use this as leverage against Telkom by allowing its customers to use the LCR system provided that it contracts to its fixed line network. Apparently, LCR can save up to 40% of a company's telephone bills, so this will probably become very viable for luring customers away from Telkom.