Publishers in Africa Lose Out On Online Opportunities

By Chief K.Masimba, Global Editor-At-Large, iZiviso.com

Granted, the disruption happening inside the media industry has left some African publisher’s head spinning from left to right with no solutions in sight. As they see these disruptions unraveling in the developed world, much of what they have done is to put in place responses that are more technology-centric and less of a service to their local audiences.

Put simply, African publishers are failing to see that its not so much about the technology but rather part of the solution is in an intimate and thorough understanding of their key audiences. And that above it all, content remains kings, it in fact is the life blood of the media industry.

Content is important to the success of any publication. The content has to be strong, relevant and timely to hold the attention of any savvy audience.

According to Meqouda.com, it is hard for traditional print publishers to add an online component. Many times there won’t be budgets for new hires, so the online components are slowly developed upon the shoulders of already extremely busy editors. This half-hearted approach to online publishing which often regards the online product as a competitor of the print product is self-defeating to say the least.

As Steve Forbes succintly put it: “The Internet is a platform to reach our basic constituency.” And in ignoring this basic fact, many African based publishers have failed to harness the full potential of the medium.

To succeed online in Africa, internet publishers have to recognize that they have a significant role to play in increasing the numbers of people visiting online platforms. At the moment, numbers are simply insignificant. But building a large affinity audience is critical to any successful online publishing effort.

The problem with most traditional publishers venturing online is that they are unwilling to strip away old models and experiment significantly with new ways of reaching audiences and creating revenue.

Oftentimes, there’s a lack of understanding of how the online medium works, which is seen in a clear reluctance to invest in thinking through strategies that can help traditional media to survive in the new media universe.

Underlying both the traditional print and the online universe is the fact that the publisher with the biggest audience usually wins. If someone is going to disrupt your market, let it be you is a mantra that ought to drive African publishers.

To achieve the full potential of new media technologies will require an entrepreneurial mindset and spirit among our publishers.

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Retired General Solomon Mujuru’s Death Lights Up Social Media

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – Once again, social media and mobile telephony makes the news for breaking the news.

Early Tuesday, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, were abuzz with news of Retired General Solomon Mujuru’s death. Mujuru, who was 62, died in a fire accident at his home.

Social networks carried vital information to Zimbabweans both locally and abroad ahead of traditional news outlets.  Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, had by mid-morning updated its profile on Mujuru to indicate that he had died.

If anything, this proves that social networks and the mobile have indeed come to Zimbabwe in a big way, and will increasingly become a source of local news developments.

The news went viral as people shared news via their mobiles phones and on social media platforms.

By mid-morning, the national broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, had not yet carried news of Mujuru’s death, prompting some people to question its news-gathering approach.

With technology and news in the digital age spreading information so quickly, the broadcast network was rather slow to fill the information gap.

Regardless, the news spread like wildfire across the twittersphere and of course on to Facebook, with many Zimbabweans expressing shock, commenting and sharing the sad news.

Reporting on Mujuru’s death confirms that conventional news media in Zimbabwe have to position themselves appropriately in relation to the social networks and mobile phones to report news.

However, even though people heard the news of Mujuru’s death on social networks, they still wanted the information to be verified. Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks encourage people to speculate.

As much as they can be a source of news, social networks can be a repository for false or misleading reports.

What is required is for conventional news outlets to leverage on the power of social networks without compromising traditional journalism principles such as accuracy, brevity, objectivity and fairness.

In the face of social networks’ ubiquitous distribution of news that maybe false or true, traditional news outlets still have a key role to play in providing investigation and context into issues.

Solomon Mujuru, also known as Rex Nhongo (May 1, 1949 – August 16, 2011) was a Zimbabwean military officer and politician who led Robert Mugabe‘s guerrilla forces during the Rhodesian Bush War.

In post-independence Zimbabwe, he went on to become army chief before leaving government service in 1995. After leaving his post in the Zimbabwe National Army, he got into politics becoming Member of Parliament for Chikomba on a Zanu PF ticket. He was generally regarded as one of the most feared men in Zimbabwe. His wife, Joyce Mujuru, became Vice-President of Zimbabwe in 2004.

Mobile Internet Rises in Zimbabwe

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – The queue of people waiting to have their mobile internet activated snakes out of the mobile phone shop owned by Econet, Zimbabwe’s leading mobile operator until the customer consultant directs new arrivals to another branch.

According to the customer consultant, Chido Masunda, over 1,000 people are coming to the shop on a daily basis to get their mobile internet activated on their mobile phones.

“From the time we open the shop in the morning until we close we have so many people that come into the shop. There is definitely a lot of interest in mobile internet,” she said, adding that she is forced to turn away some people.

Many of the customers interested in mobile net are young, technologically savvy urbanites; the service is largely unheard of in the country’s rural areas where 70 percent of the population resides.

“I want to use my mobile internet to check out my Facebook, my email, download music as well as read newspapers,” said Nobukhosi Ndlovu, who activated her mobile net a month ago.

According to Masunda, subscribers can buy internet bundles ranging from 1 to 1000 megabytes to allow them to connect to the internet. Each megabyte costs 50 US cents. At such a cost, many people will struggle to afford the luxury of sending and receiving large files. But early signs are promising.

Since Econet launched its mobile broadband package in the last quarter of 2010, the uptake has been exponential. Latest statistics show that 1.8 million people, that’s more than 30% of the mobile operator’s 5,500,000 subscribers now have mobile internet, and the number is growing on a daily basis.

In fact, Zimbabwe’s mobile phone industry has been projected to reach 13,5 million subscribers in 2015 and worth a phenomenal US 1,34 billion by 2016, according to IE Market Research (IEMR) and the growth partnership company Frost & Sullivan (F&S), respectively. Projections are that Zimbabwe will have universal mobile connection by 2014, and with demand for voice services increasingly met, future growth is predicted to occur around mobile internet and broadband provision.

“With demand for voice services increasingly met, future growth is predicted to occur around mobile internet and broadband provision. Both mobile operators and internet access providers will benefit from this second wave of growth,” reads the Frost & Sullivan report.

Unlike a decade ago, today it is very easy to secure a mobile phone and a sim card – prices have drastically gone down. More lower-income Zimbabweans, in both rural and urban areas, are now using the mobile unlike in the past when it was a preserve of the elite. The arrival of cheap, Chinese-made mobile has also increased mobile usage in the country.

Unfortunately, there has been little to no innovation in the local mobile sector in terms of value added services which could be attributed to the lack of meaningful investment in the technology sector over the past decade due to the country’s political fallout. Voice and SMS-text messaging remain by far the most popular uses of the mobile phone.

There has been very little development in mobile banking, farming, health care provision, environment protection or improving  human rights among others. With exception, though, Kubatana.net, a grassroots organisation have been pioneering the use of mobile technology in civil society work. According to Kubatana, the project titled, “Freedom Fone” leverages the fastest growing tool for personal access to information 24/7 – the mobile phone – & marries it with citizen radio programming. Freedom Fone makes it easy to build interactive, two way, phone based information services using interactive audio voice menus, voice messages, SMS and polls.

“Audio files are stored by Freedom Fone in a Content Management System (CMS) which is updated through a simple to use browser interface. These audio clips populate an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menu through which callers can navigate for information. Deployment in any language is possible as key global files for menu prompts can be uploaded through the browser interface to the CMS,” states Kubatana on its website.

“Individuals can contribute questions, content and feedback by leaving voice messages via the IVR interface. Freedom Fone can be operated as a collective, with different groups managing different channels (IVR menu options) of information from the same installation.”

Apart from this, the main benefit has been increased access to cheaper voice services and mobile internet. In addition, the overall growth in mobile has significantly contributed revenue to the telecommunications sector. Currently, the mobile penetration rate is 54 percent. According to statistics, Zimbabwean mobile communications market earned a total of $372,2-million in 2009.

“Mobile operators are the largest contributors to telecommunications revenues in Zimbabwe,” said Frost & Sullivan ICT Industry Analyst, Protea Hirschel. “As 3G networks expand, mobile operators compete more directly with Internet access providers. These, in turn, have entered the voice market, adding to competition.”

Despite the fact that mobile operators are raking in a lot of profit, network quality of mobile networks in Zimbabwe is generally considered to be poor by subscribers. To make matters worse, erratic power supply remains a significant challenge for all telecommunications operators.

Nonetheless, F & S reports that the mobile market in the country will experience a compound annual growth rate of 20,1%, considerably lower than the 40,6% revenue growth experienced from 2008 to 2009. The company’s forecast report released in May 2011 titled “An Overview of Zimbabwe’s Vibrant Telecommunications Market” says that subscriber numbers in Zimbabwe trebled from early 2009 to mid-2010, whereas fixed-line subscriptions remained stagnant. Mobile subscriber numbers jumped from less than two million at the end of 2008 to 6.9-million in mid-2010.

According to IEMR’s five-year Mobile Operator Forecast on Zimbabwe issued in April, Zimbabwe’s largest mobile operator, Econet Wireless is expected to take 70 percent of the market share.

“I think the company that will emerge the winner is the one pouring money into infrastructure right now, Econet Wireless. New entrants will obviously have a hard time penetrating as they will face some resistance from the incumbents,” said Limbikani Soul Makani, founder of TechZim, a blogging platform on technology in Zimbabwe. “Interconnection, for example, hasn’t been a walk in the park for Internet Access Providers wanting to introduce voice services. Small entrants are therefore facing delays while the incumbents grow their networks even bigger.”

The country’s decade-long political and economic fallout coupled with international isolation clearly resulted in little to no investment in the technological sector. The Global Information Technology Report 2007-08 ranked Zimbabwe in 125th position on the Networked Readiness Index (NRI), out of 127 countries surveyed by the World Economic Forum.

With the political system still in somewhat of a limbo, there are fears that the projected growth in the mobile telephone sector will be inhibited.

The impact of politics on mobile telephony in Zimbabwe is without a doubt. Take for example, the country’s mobile penetration rate rose from 9 to 56 percent since the inception of the inclusive government in September 2008.

When incumbent President Robert Mugabe signed a power sharing agreement with arch-rival Morgan Tsvangirai, and Arthur Mutambara two years ago, hyperinflation was estimated at 6,5 quindecillion novemdecillion percent, or 6,5 followed by 107 zeros. Violent elections in which President Mugabe was declared the winner result in Zimbabwe being ostracized at international level, stemming the transfer of technology into the country among other things.

According to Information, Communications and Technology Minister, Nelson Chamisa the country is making strides in the technology sector and is looking at actively taking information technology to rural communities. Further, ICT products can now be imported into the country free of duty.

Recently the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) completed the installations of the optic fibre cable that now links the state owned fixed operator to the East African Submarine System (EASSy) undersea cable through Mozambique. This is expected to significantly increase Internet and other communication connectivity speeds. The fibre, covering a distance of about 280km, is the first phase of the planned national backbone rollout.

A combination of growth in mobile telephony, installation of the fibre optic projects and increased use of data services are likely to result in a boom in the technology sector.

Mobile telephony is likely to stimulate a host to innovations in the country. In effect, experts say that an increase of 10 mobile phones per 100 people typically boosts gross domestic product (GDP) by 0,6 percent per annum in developing nations.

There is no doubt that technology will play a vital role in Zimbabwe’s political, social and economic recovery, and the mobile phone will feature prominently in that trajectory.

Are Social Network Followers A Mere Fallacy?

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Because social networks are largely fickle, it’s very difficult to tell how much influence you have on people that like or follow your postings.

Having loads of followers on Twitter or Facebook or any other social network does not automatically translate to high levels of influence, according to a new research titled, “Measuring User In?uence in Twitter: The Million Follower Fallacy.”

Just like individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations across the world have jumped onto the social media bandwagon all with the aim of influencing in an already information overloaded universe. According to the study, influence is not gained spontaneously or accidentally, but through concerted effort such as limiting tweets to a single topic.

This is poignant: what this means is that rapid updating of content on social networks does not always translate to influence. Often times such postings go unnoticed and make little to no impact. Posting links after links is as spammy as sending emails after emails for link exchange. Social media is about engagement, just like we do in real life.

Another thought is that social media ought to be fun, and thereby evolve organically. However when you wan to add value or when your intention is to seek to influence than you have to be aware of the challenges associated with using social media.

The conversational or content-driven strategies in Twitter, Facebook and other social networks are not enough in creating influence. According to the research, there are three interpersonal ways that Twitter can be used to influence, and these include: a) users interact by following updates of people who post interesting; b) users can pass along interesting pieces of information to their followers, an action known as retweeting; and c) users can respond to (or comment on) other people’s
tweets.

The research states that in order to gain and maintain influence, users need to keep great personal involvement. As social media guru, Brian Solis notes, the path to engagement is strenuous, uncharted, and anything but easy.

“Everything begins with understanding the magnitude of the gap and what it is that people want, are missing or could benefit from in order to bring both ends toward the middle. No matter how hard we try, we just can’t build a customer-centric organization if we do not know what it is people value,” says Solis.

” Social media are your keys to unlocking the 5I’s of engagement to develop more informed and meaningful programs: 1. Intelligence – Learn about needs, wants, values, challenges; 2. Insight – Find the “aha’s” to identify gaps; 3. Ideation – Inspire new ideas for engagement, communication, new products/services, change; 4. Interaction – Engage…don’t just publish, bring your mission to life; 5. Influence – Influence behavior and in the process, become an influencer,” he adds.

According to Solis, social media doesn’t have to be void of “fun”; it must offer value and usefulness to be successful.

Quote of the Day

We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.

 Richard Feynman (1918 – 1988)

How to Shine Up the Career Ladder

In a corporate world that is increasingly over-crowded, highly competitive and ever-changing, getting a promotion can indeed be a hassle.  But, through deliberate, well planned steps, and a willingness to take initiative, you can put yourself at the front of the line for a promotion.  

 

First things first: If you keep yourself sheltered away from the attention of your bosses, you will always miss the opportunity to climb up the corporate ladder.  A promotion typically means having more responsibility.

 

So you have to position yourself as a person that has the aptitude, value and capability to meet the requirements of a potential promotion.  

 

Develop career goals. You must be absolutely sure about where you want to go. Start maintaining a career journal where you write down your career goals. It’s important to make sure that the promotion is in alignment with both your credentials and personal goals. Develop long-term, medium-term and short-term goals that will keep you grounded towards a career upgrade. If you find it difficult to envision, consult a career coach to help you develop a clear perspective of what you want to do. A coach will help to expand your vision and push you to function at your peak.   

 

Do your current job well and more. If you want to make it to the top of the corporate ladder, do your current job well. Demonstrate honesty, empathy, trustworthiness and an ability to be a team player. See every challenge and responsibility as an opportunity to shine, and to sell yourself to your organization. Always review what you are currently doing and identify gaps that can allow you to do more. The surest way to get promoted is to do more and better than is expected of you. Show the value in yourself and create a demand for your abilities.   

 

Make a contribution. Start right away to contribute ideas and suggestions to improve processes, practices and profits of your company. To grant you a promotion, your company has to be satisfied with your value. Get all the facts about your ideas. Having more information will increase chances of your ideas and suggestions being accepted, and put you in favor to get promoted.

 

Keep a portfolio of your work. You must maintain a portfolio of work contributions that are directly connected to the position that you seek. Never make an assumption that your bosses know what you’re doing. Without being big-headed about it, let your organization know of your accomplishments. Gain visibility with your current job successes.  

 

Review job descriptions. Be clear about the additional responsibilities involved in the promotion as well as the salary level. In your career journal, keep job advertisements that underline the major duties or responsibilities of the job you want to promote in. Make a note of the qualities, attitudes and outputs required for that upward career opportunity. After you have identified these attributes, the next step is to put them into practice to prepare yourself for a promotion.  

 

Update your resume. Take time to review your current skills and accomplishments, including what you’ve learned in your current position. Update your resume so that it reveals your talents and hidden skills. Make sure your resume is specific to the potential career upgrade. Remember: Highlight unique qualifications and background. A well-written resume can significantly improve your chances to landing a promotion.  

 

Develop your skills. Identify areas that need improvement: don’t just focus on your strengths. In your career journal, make a note of areas of weakness and strive to improve in those areas that are critical to your promotion. In an ever-changing business environment, you must constantly update your skills to enhance your chances to get promoted.  Consult and learn from experts in your field. Find out what they did to succeed, what they would do different, and steps that you can take to improve your chances of a promotion.  

 

Take Courses in Your Field. Many companies require a potential candidate for promotion to have an advanced degree. Like it or not, having an advanced degree exponentially increases your chances to move to the front of the promotion line. Target unique qualifications. Read books, join a professional association, attend seminars and do courses that will build your knowledge, skills and abilities.  

 

Market yourself. Make full use of every opportunity to sell yourself. If you’ve got it, flaunt it and don’t wait quietly for someone to acknowledge you. Make sure that you demonstrate your ability to hold a higher position with flair and confidence. Also, show how your past achievements have contributed to the growth of the organization. When it comes down to the selection process, make sure to put your best foot forward, just like you did when you were first hired.    

 

Get networking right. If you want to fly like an eagle, then you have to stop taking lessons from chickens. Avoid co-workers and people that will pull you down through negative talk, and fill you with frustration over your desire to get a promotion. Associating with winners will fill you with a positive outlook on life and your career opportunities. Surround yourself with people that are success-oriented, and will encourage you to take the big leap forward towards a promotion.   

 

Make yourself outstanding. There’s no doubt that polish and presence are critical ingredients for a promotion. Be open to new inputs and ideas. Become an expert in your field. Write articles or a book. Develop a dress sense that shows you are headed for the top.  

 

Positioning yourself for a promotion at its most fundamental is an inside job. It’s a matter of finding what you want, and expressing that essence and character in everything you do.  

 

With hard work and an effective strategy, you can raise your stakes to get a promotion. 

 

So don’t let anything stop you.

The Top Ten Trends of the Extreme Future

The following ten trends identify the strategic challenges that every person, organization and nation will be dealing with in the future.

The Extreme Future, based on Dr. Canton’s new book, is an emerging era of complex new changes and challenges; many we have never had to deal with before. Also, the combination of trends, from energy to innovation and population, will challenge leaders in new ways.

Best to prepare today to meet the challenges of this Extreme Future.

1. Fueling the Future – The energy crisis, the costs, the post-oil future, and the future of energy alternatives like hydrogen, hybrids, and biofuels will be an essential factor into every business decision. The critical role that energy will play in every aspect of our lives in the 21st century will shape business and society.

2. The Innovation Economy – The central driver of future commerce will be innovation industries. Investing today in fast moving patents, innovations, ideas, like the Four Power Tools of the future: nano-bio-neuro-info, and products will shape competitive advantage.

3. Talent War – Talented people are the key to business success. There will be more jobs than skilled people to fill them. Companies will compete for the growing shortage of skilled people. More incentives to keep and recruit the best people will emerge.

4. Longevity Medicine – Health care is being transformed by biotech and genomics. People will be living longer, healthier and more productive lives. The human enhancement marketplace, offering new organs, new memories, new limbs, new skin and new lives, will translate into the largest market of the future—even immortality, for some, will be possible.

5. Weird Science – Always-On wireless Internet, teleportation, smart materials, space tourism—Weird new science will change every aspect of our lives, culture and economy, leading to new jobs, new products and new options. Nations and businesses that invest in future science will profit in economic growth.

6. Securing the Future – A new risk landscape is emerging from war, to hackers, to terrorists, to mind control, which will pose new challenges for individuals, governments and business. The personal security market will be lucrative.

7. The Future of Globalization – The new realities of more open global trade will offer both risk and opportunity in the near future. The rise of China and India; the clash of different cultures and ideas. Free trade, open markets and improved quality of life will define the 21st century.

8. The Future of Climate Change – The environment is changing and we need to prepare for increased global warming, pollution, and threats to biodiversity that will present new business opportunities. At the same time, the Clean Tech market will offer business a large financial opportunity to clean up the planet.

9. The Future of the Individual – The near future will provide opportunities for personal wealth creation that will underlie all other trends. Individual invention and innovation will accelerate business success. We will also see a struggle to balance individual freedom, privacy and security.

10. The Future of America and China – How the destiny of these two great nations – from capitalism to democracy, to innovation and security – will shape the future.