Apple Enables iPhone Users To Trade Old Phones For New

Apple Inc will start a program this month to allow users to trade their older iPhones for the newest model, Bloomberg cited people familiar with the plan as saying, a first for the company as it prepares to introduce a new version of the smartphone.

It has teamed up with Brightstar Corp, a mobile phone distributor that runs similar trade-in programs for carriers like AT&T Inc and T-Mobile, to handle exchanges, Bloomberg cited the unidentified sources as saying on Thursday.

Apple and Brightstar did not immediately return calls for comment.

New iPhones with no wireless contract are priced starting at $649, depending on storage size. Demand is typically strong but investors worry that, as the U.S. market becomes increasingly saturated, smartphone purchases will slow sharply.

A trade-in program can help bolster demand for expensive new models, especially as arch-rival Samsung Electronics Co Ltd steps up an aggressive push to sell its own devices in the U.S. market.

Facebook In Talks To Buy Israel’s Waze For Up To $1Billion: Report

Facebook Inc is in advanced talks to acquire Israeli mobile satellite navigation start-up Waze for $800 million to $1 billion, business daily Calcalist reported on Thursday.

Due diligence is underway after a term sheet was signed, Calcalist said, adding that talks began six months ago.

Waze uses satellite signals from members’ smartphones to generate maps and traffic data, which it then shares with other users, offering real-time traffic info.

Officials at Waze declined to comment on the report.

Waze and Facebook partnered in October 2012 when Waze released its updated version that allows users to share their drive with their Facebook friends.

This would be Facebook’s third acquisition in Israel. It bought Snaptu in 2011 for $70 million and Face.com in 2012 for $60 million.

In the last year, Waze tripled its user base to 45 million and in March alone, 1.5 million users downloaded the free mobile navigation app, Calcalist said.

Windows 8 Hits 100 Million Sales, Tweaks For Mini-tablets In Works

Microsoft Corp has sold 100 million Windows 8 licenses in the six months since launch, roughly in line with the previous version, but wants to combat sputtering interest in its flagship software with a substantial update to make it easier to use, and compatible with smaller tablets.

Windows 8 is the first Microsoft operating system primarily designed for touch commands, but it has failed to capture consumers’ imaginations or make a dent in a tablet market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics.

“Is it perfect? No. Are there things we need to change? Absolutely. We are being very real about what needs to change and changing it as thoughtfully and quickly as we can”, said Tami Reller, co-head of Microsoft’s Windows unit at the company’s Redmond, Washington headquarters last week, where she announced the latest Windows sales figure, a number made public on Monday.

Microsoft will be rolling out an update to Windows 8, provisionally code-named ‘Windows Blue’, by the end of this year, Reller said. Details of the update will be released in the next few weeks.

Although Microsoft has sold 100 million Windows 8 licenses since launch on October 26, matching Windows 7 sales three years previously, it looks unlikely that the new system will see progressively rising demand, as Windows 7 did, hitting 240 million sales in its first year.

Microsoft’s last Windows 8 sales update was in early January, when it broke 60 million, suggesting only around 40 million license sales in the last four months, well below Windows 7’s average sales rate.

Windows 7 was helped by the fact that it replaced the generally unpopular Windows Vista, whereas Windows 8 has confused many potential customers with its new-look ’tile’-based start screen and the omission of the traditional ‘start’ button.

“The learning curve is real, and we need to address it,” said Reller. “We’re not sitting back and saying, they will get used to it.”

Reller did not say whether the ‘Blue’ update would restore the start button, but she said Microsoft would pay more attention to helping customers adapt.

“We’ve considered a lot of different scenarios to help traditional PC users move forward as well as making usability that much better on all devices,” she said.

TOUCH LAPTOPS

Consumer alienation, and the lack of affordable touch-laptops that can make full use of Windows 8, has held back computer sales, according to industry tracker IDC. PC sales had their sharpest drop on record in the first three months of this year, plummeting 14 percent.

Reller hopes that new machines from firms including Lenovo, ASUS and Hewlett-Packard will change that this year.

“We know customers like touch laptops, but they are also price sensitive,” she said. “Our partners (hardware makers) have to bet on volume, so that they get price breaks, and get that moving into the (retail) channel.”

Microsoft is also tweaking Windows 8 to make it compatible with smaller seven and eight inch tablets, which would allow hardware makers to compete in the fastest-growing segment of the tablet market against Apple’s iPad mini, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, Google Inc’s Nexus 7 and Amazon.com Inc’s Kindle Fire.

Reller declined to comment on whether Microsoft would make a smaller version of its own Surface tablet.

Microsoft has not made much of an impression in the tablet market so far, notching only 900,000 Surface sales in the first quarter, according to IDC, compared with 19.5 million iPad sales and 8.8 million Samsung tablet sales.

Overall, Reller hopes the ‘Blue’ update and a slew of attractive touch-laptops will fire up interest in Windows machines in all forms.

“I believe that touch will be mainstream in consumer laptops,” said Reller. “I think we’ll be pleased with the progress we’ve made by ‘back to school’ and by holiday (year end), we’ll be at this tipping point where we will say, ‘Now I see it’.”

Microsoft shares closed at $33.75 on the Nasdaq, after hitting their highest level since January 2008 earlier in the session, as the S&P 500 reached an all-time high.

Apps Convert Smartphones Into Home Monitoring System

Worried about what your dog is chewing on when you’re at work, or whether your home is secure while on vacation? New apps can transform old smartphones into remote security cameras for home monitoring systems.

Presence, which was launched late last month, converts a spare Internet-connected iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch into a free video camera with real-time video and audio streaming, and motion detection and notifications.

“Essentially we give you an inexpensive security system that you can use to monitor your house, or help you watch your kids, cats, elderly relatives or act as a baby or nanny cam,” said Gene Wang, chief executive of the Palo Alto, California-based company People Power.

Unlike traditional monitoring systems that can be expensive and need technical knowledge to install and use, Wang said Presence is a free do-it-yourself system that can be set up simply by downloading and configuring the app.

To use it consumers install and login to their account on two devices – for example two iPhones. Then they can start the camera within the app on one of the devices and it can be viewed from the app on the other.

Triggers can also be set to record when motion is detected and to send alerts. The app can help to avoid false alarms, according to Wang, because it sends a video clip in an email to the user showing the motion that triggered the alert.

“With these high-end security systems, you have a lot of false positives and then the security company and police come out and it turns out it was your cat knocking over a broom or something like that,” Wang explained.

He added that many people have replaced their old smartphones with new ones and a monitoring system would be a good way to make use of the old devices.

Another app created by a company called People Power 1.0 for iPhone and Android reads electricity meters in real time to show consumers how much they’re spending and whether they are going over budget.

“The center of computing has switched to these smart computers that we all carry in our pockets,” Wang explained.

“What people are going to want to be able to do is control their personal Internet of Things from their hands,” he added, referring to Internet-connected devices in the home.

The company also plans to work with underfunded public schools to help them set up security systems using old devices donated by the community.

Other apps have similar functions. AirBeam is a home monitoring app for iOS that allows users to access video feeds from a Web portal.

Izon is an app that streams real-time audio and video from iZon cameras to iPhone and Android devices, and Ivideon, for iOS and Android, also lets people build their own surveillance system.

BlackBerry To Ask Regulators To Probe Report On Returns

BlackBerry plans to ask securities regulators in Canada and the United States to probe what it said is a “false and misleading” report that consumer return rates for BlackBerry’s new Z10 smartphone have been especially high.

The Canadian company, which has pinned its turnaround hopes on its new BlackBerry 10 line of smartphones, went on the offensive on Friday after the report from Boston-based research and investment firm Detwiler Fenton sent its stock tumbling on Thursday.

BlackBerry said return rates for its flagship Z10 devices have been at, or below, its forecasts and in line with industry norms.

“To suggest otherwise is either a gross misreading of the data or a willful manipulation,” Chief Executive Thorsten Heins said in a statement. “Such a conclusion is absolutely without basis and BlackBerry will not leave it unchallenged.”

BlackBerry said Detwiler Fenton had so far refused to share its report or its methods. It said it would present a formal request for an investigation to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and to the Ontario Securities Commission, which is Canada’s major securities regulator, over the next few days.

Detwiler has had run-ins with regulators in the past, documents reviewed by Reuters show. But none of the cases involved questions about the accuracy of Detwiler’s research or were linked to BlackBerry.

The OSC said it would review the matter once it receives a formal complaint.

“After the first 14 days, quality performance of the Z10 has been in line with similar devices we’ve launched,” said Debra Lewis, a spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless.

A spokeswoman for Detwiler did not respond to a phone call and an email from Reuters seeking comment. The director of research also did not respond to a call seeking comment.

“We believe key retail partners have seen a significant increase in Z10 returns to the point where, in several cases, returns are now exceeding sales, a phenomenon we have never seen before,” its report said. Detwiler Fenton gave no details on how it had gleaned this information.

While a number of brokerage firms have in recent weeks published reports saying Z10 sales in the U.S. market are slow, none of them have flagged any major concerns about returns.

Since 2007, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the industry body that oversees broker-dealers, has fined Detwiler over $250,000 and has cited it for several compliance violations over the past decade.

In December 2011, FINRA sanctioned Detwiler for failing to properly supervise its employees and for allowing its brokers to make more trades than necessary in clients’ accounts to boost commissions during a period between 2006 and 2009.

In 2007, the firm, which was then called Detwiler Mitchell Fenton & Graves, settled administrative proceedings that the SEC brought against it for failing to supervise Bradford Bleidt, a former employee who had been simultaneously running a $30 million Ponzi scheme.

TURNAROUND PLAN

BlackBerry is attempting to claw back market share lost to rivals such as Apple Inc’s iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co’s Galaxy line of smartphones with its new line of devices, powered by the revamped BlackBerry 10 operating system.

The new Z10 touchscreen smartphone, the first of its new devices, hit store shelves earlier this year. And the Q10, with BlackBerry’s famed physical keyboard, will go on sale in Canada and the United Kingdom before the end of April.

BlackBerry, which has changed its name from Research In Motion, has yet to prove to the market that its new devices can trigger a turnaround. The company expects to report break-even results in the current quarter, but a true picture will not emerge until later this year.

BlackBerry stock has remained highly volatile as analysts are split on whether the turnaround plan will succeed. Research reports often bring major swings in the company’s share price.

Shares of Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry, which fell 7.7 percent on Thursday, closed up less than a percent on Friday at $13.64 on Nasdaq.

Apple Gets Respect In China After Tabloid Trial

With its rare apology, Apple Inc went from pariah to praiseworthy in the eyes of China’s state-controlled media, a lesson for other foreign firms not to underestimate the speed and power of the government press.

After coming under near-daily media assault for the past two weeks and facing the threat of penalties from two Chinese government bureaus, Apple apologized to Chinese consumers on Monday for poor communication over its warranty policy and said it will change the terms for some of its iPhones sold in China.

Greater China is Apple’s second-biggest and fastest-growing market, with sales up almost 40 percent to $6.8 billion in the final quarter of 2012.

The Chinese newspapers that threw brickbats at Apple a few days ago have since changed their tune.

“The company’s apology letter has eased the situation, softening the tense relationship between Apple and the Chinese market … Its reaction is worth respect compared with other American companies,” wrote popular tabloid the Global Times, published by Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily.

The Foreign Ministry praised Apple for “conscientiously” responding to consumers’ demands.

“We approve of what Apple said,” spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing on Tuesday.

Only last week, the People’s Daily issued a scathing editorial on Apple’s return policy saying the popular smartphone maker was filled with “unparalleled arrogance”.

Apple was first targeted in mid-March by state broadcaster CCTV during its annual consumer day segment. Volkswagen AG, which was also criticized on the same show, plans to recall vehicles to fix a gearbox problem.

“That Timothy Cook had to step up and respond from the CEO’s chair shows the importance of China and how critical it is as a market not just for Apple but for every multinational company here,” said Kent Kedl, Shanghai-based head of Greater China and North Asia for risk consultancy firm Control Risks.

Foreign companies who are adept at managing media crises at home find it much tougher to navigate China where state media outlets, pandering to different audiences, often have opaque agendas and intentions. Analysts also said that foreign companies need to remember that the bigger the brand, the bigger a target it will be, especially in China.

“What foreign companies need to pay attention to, is that nobody operates in a vacuum, nobody operates only on the good graces of a brand name … Five to ten years ago a report on CCTV would have rippled a little bit, now it goes viral and has a life of its own,” Kedl said.

NOT APPLE’S FIGHT TO WIN

Apple’s acquiescence in this setting, where the world’s largest technology company by market value was ironically the David going up against China’s Goliath state media machinations, shows its wisdom in not challenging a more powerful enemy.

Although popular opinion on the Internet swayed in Apple’s favor, against state media and the reported threats of penalties from China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce as well as its quality and inspection bureau, it was not Apple’s fight to win, experts said.

Other foreign companies targeted by CCTV, such as fast food chain operator Yum Brands Inc, have also apologized and faced scrutiny from government agencies. Last December CCTV reported that two of Yum’s suppliers purchased chickens from farmers who used excessive levels of antibiotics in their animals. The report and subsequent investigations hurt sales at Yum’s KFC chain.

But Apple’s situation is somewhat different because CCTV’s claim was not completely new. Last July, a Chinese consumer rights group also slammed Apple for its after-sales policies. That time, however, Apple held its ground.

With the apology and warranty change, Apple’s mea culpa is significant not just because it comes from a tech firm that rarely apologizes, but also because Apple may be realizing that in China, it needs to be proactive.

“They’re out of the woods and into the weeds. Things will rarely be smooth for Apple in China – even if consumers love it there will always be factions in and out of government that are trying to take it down,” said Michael Clendenin, managing director of technology consultancy RedTech Advisors.

“Apple made it easy this time, but they have learned to be more proactive. The next time they stumble, it will be easier to recover,” he said.

Youth Flock To Mobile Messaging Apps, May Be Threat To Facebook

Create personal profiles. Build networks of friends. Share photos, videos and music.

That might sound precisely like Facebook, but hundreds of millions of tech-savvy young people have instead turned to a wave of smartphone-based messaging apps that are now sweeping across North America, Asia and Europe.

The hot apps include Kik and Whatsapp, both products of North American startups, as well as Kakao Inc’s KakaoTalk, NHN Corp’s LINE and Tencent Holdings Ltd’s WeChat, which have blossomed in Asian markets.

Combining elements of text messaging and social networking, the apps provide a quick-fire way for smartphone users to trade everything from brief texts to flirtatious pictures to YouTube clips — bypassing both the SMS plans offered by wireless carriers and established social networks originally designed as websites.

Facebook Inc, with 1 billion users, remains by far the world’s most popular website, and its stepped-up focus on mobile has made it the most-used smartphone app as well. Still, across Silicon Valley, investors and industry insiders say there is a possibility that the messaging apps could threaten Facebook’s dominance over the next few years. The larger ones are even starting to emerge as full-blown “platforms” that can support third-party applications such as games.

To be sure, many of those who are using the new messaging apps remain on Facebook, indicating there is little immediate sign of the giant social media company losing its lock on the market. And at a press event this week, the company will unveil news relating to Android, the world’s most popular smartphone operating system, which could include a new version of Android with deeper integration of Facebook messaging tools – or possibly even a Facebook-branded phone.

But the firms that can take over the messaging world should be able to make some big inroads, investors say.

“True interactions are conversational in nature,” says Rich Miner, a partner at Google Ventures who invested in San Francisco-based MessageMe, a new entrant in the messaging market. “More people text and make phone calls than get on to social networks. If one company dominates the replacement of that traffic, then by definition that’s very big.”

Facebook spokespeople declined to comment for this article, citing this Thursday’s planned announcement.

Facebook’s big challenge is reeling back users like Jacob Robinson, a 15-year old high school student in Newcastle upon Tyne in the U.K., who said the Kik messaging app “blew up” among his friends about six months ago. It has remained the most-used app on his Android phone because it is the easiest way for him to send different kinds of multimedia for free, which he estimated he does about 200 times a day.

Robinson said he trades snapshots of his homework with friends while they stay up late studying for their exams — or not.

“We also stay up in bed with our phone all night, just on YouTube searching for funny videos, then you quickly share it with your friends,” he added. “It’s easy. You can flip in and out of Kik.”

Facebook “has really started to lose its edge over here,” said Robinson, who found his interactions on Facebook less interesting than his real-time chats.

Waterloo, Ontario-based Kik has racked up 40 million users since launching in 2010. Silicon Valley entrants in the race include Whatsapp, funded by Sequoia Capital, and MessageMe, launched earlier this month by a group of viral game makers. MessageMe has received seed-stage funding from True Ventures and First Round Capital, among others, and claimed 1 million downloads in its first week.

Meanwhile, Asian companies are producing some of the fastest-growing apps in history. Tencent’s WeChat boasts 400 million users – far more than Twitter, by way of comparison – while LINE and KakaoTalk claim 120 million and 80 million users, respectively. Both have laid the groundwork to expand into the U.S. market.

MOBILE WAVE

The growth in the messaging apps reflect the dramatic shift in Internet usage in recent years, as Web visits via desktop computers have stagnated while smartphone ownership and app downloads have skyrocketed.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has publicly called Facebook a “mobile company” to emphasize the company’s priorities. Last year, he splashed $1 billion for photo-sharing app Instagram, which has remained red hot, while Facebook also launched its own Messenger app, offering a suite of smartphone communication tools.

Still, Facebook has also been forced to play defense. Earlier this year, the company cut off its data integration with a young startup called Snapchat and then mimicked its feature with a new messaging tool called Poke, which sends messages that self-destruct. It has also shut off its integration with messaging apps like MessageMe and Voxer.

At the same time, Facebook has also hired graphic artists to draw emoticons and graphics for Messenger that emulate features of the wildly popular Asian apps like LINE, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Dave Morin, an early Facebook employee who left to found the “private” social network Path in 2010, said he recognized last summer the critical role of messaging functions in smartphone apps, and quickly began working to incorporate them.

Since Path released a new version of its app earlier this month, the number of Path’s daily users has risen 15 percent, which Morin attributed to the new messaging features.

“What’s the number one reason why people have this thing?” said Morin, holding up his iPhone. “It’s to call, to text, to communicate.”

Messaging, Morin added, is “the basis for the mobile social network.”

PLATFORM THREAT

While established social networks move to incorporate messaging features, the new-wave messaging apps are looking to grow into social networking platforms that support a variety of features and enable innovations from outside developers.

“The tried and true approach for a social network is first you build a network, then you build apps on your own, then you open it up to third party developers,” said Charles Hudson, a partner at early stage venture capital firm SoftTech VC.

The moves mirror Facebook’s younger days, when its user growth and revenues were boosted by game publishers like Zynga Inc, which made popular games like FarmVille for the Facebook platform.

In the South Korean market, for instance, eight of the top ten highest grossing Android apps are games built on top of KakaoTalk. Tencent announced in November that it would introduce a mobile wallet feature enabling payment for goods with WeChat. And Tencent also makes money in China by using the app’s location data to displaying nearby merchants’ deals to potential customers.

If the messaging apps reach a certain scale, they could form networks that rival Facebook’s “social graph,” the network of user connections and activities that enable highly targeted delivery of content and advertising.

“The folks on your address book are very different from your Facebook friends and your LinkedIn contacts, and that’s a natural place for a very powerful graph to be created,” said Jim Goetz, a partner at Sequoia Capital.

Ted Livingston, the 25-year old chief executive of Kik, said he developed the capability for his service to support external features in November, and he plans to open the platform to outside developers in the near future.

Livingston said Kik and Whatsapp were “in a race to see who’s the first to build a platform.”

Whatsapp, which has been the most widely downloaded communication app for both iOS and Android in recent months, according to analysis firm App Annie, has been profitable by selling subscriptions to its service for $1 a year. Although it has remained mum about its platform plans, the company has been rumored to be in talks with Asian game publishers about hosting games, according to news reports in South Korea.

Goetz declined to address the reports, saying only that because it relied on a subscription business model, Whatsapp did not need to sell games or ads to make money.

Still, he said, the Whatsapp team “spends a lot of time thinking about the developer community.”

DEAL POTENTIAL

Established social networking giants could also swoop in for the upstarts – and Facebook has demonstrated its appetite for acquisitions.

Indeed, investors are eyeing a round of potentially lucrative buyouts resembling the series of deals involving group messaging applications in 2011.

Facebook acquired group messaging app Beluga in March of that year, enlisting its founders to help build its own stand alone app, Messenger, which launched six months later.

In late 2010, First Round Capital, an early stage venture capital firm, invested in GroupMe, a group messaging startup that was sold to Skype just fifteen months after it launched.

Kent Goldman, a First Round partner who has backed MessageMe, said it was unlikely that the market in the long term could support numerous independent messaging startups, which by their nature become more powerful as they grow larger.

“You don’t want to be the smallest one when the music stops,” he said.

Yahoo To Shut Down Seven Products, Including Blackberry App

Yahoo Inc is shutting down seven products, including its mobile app for Blackberry smartphones, as new Chief Executive Marissa Mayer takes a page from Google Inc’s Playbook by eliminating unsuccessful products en masse.

The product shutdowns, which Yahoo announced on its official company blog on Friday, are part of what the company said are regular efforts to evaluate and review its product lineup.

“The most critical question we ask is whether the experience is truly a daily habit that still resonates for all of you today,” wrote Jay Rossiter, Yahoo’s executive vice president of Platforms.

The announcement represents Yahoo’s second group shutdown of products since Mayer, a former Google executive, became CEO of the struggling Web portal in July. So-called “spring cleaning” announcements, in which multiple products are shut down, have become a regular feature at Google in recent years.

Mayer signaled the company would prune its line-up of mobile apps at an investor conference last month, noting that Yahoo would reduce the 60 to 75 disparate mobile apps it currently has to a more manageable 12 to 15 apps.

Yahoo said its app for Blackberry smartphones would no longer be available for download, or supported by Yahoo, as of April 1.

Yahoo also said that on April 1 it will stop supporting Yahoo Avatars – the cartoon-like digital characters that consumers create to depict them on Web services such as Yahoo instant messenger and Facebook. Consumers who want to continue using their avatar on Yahoo’s online services must download the avatar and then re-upload the information to their personalized Yahoo profile.

The other Yahoo products set to be terminated include Yahoo App Search, Yahoo Sports IQ, Yahoo Clues, the Yahoo Message Boards website and the Yahoo Updates API.

Kenya To Build $14.5bn Konza Technology City

President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya has launched a $14.5bn (£9.1bn) project to build an IT business hub named Konza Technology City.

The new city dubbed “Africa’s Silicon Savannah,” located 37 miles from the capital; Nairobi will take 20 years to build.

Despite Kenya’s usually divisive politics, the project which has the backing of all political parties is expected to create more than 20,000 IT jobs by 2015, and more than 200,000 jobs by 2030.

Konza, a part of the government’s ambitious Vision 2030 will take advantage of the growing number of software developers in the East African nation.

“It is expected to spur massive trade and investment as well as create thousands of employment opportunities for young Kenyans in the information communications technology (ICT) sector,” President Mwai Kibaki said at the ceremony to launch the construction, adding it would be a “game-changer” for the country’s development.

He called on domestic and foreign investors to take advantage of Konza’s “tremendous opportunities”.

According to the Konza information website, the city wants to attract business process outsourcing, software development, data centres, disaster recovery centres, call centres and light assembly manufacturing industries.

A university campus focused on research and technology as well as hotels, residential areas, schools and hospitals will also be built.

Konza Technopolis Development Authority has been charged with the responsibility to oversee the building of the IT hub, which will be built in four phases.

Jonathan constitutes presidential committee on broadband

President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday decried a situation where Nigeria has not participated in any industrial revolution in the world pledging to reverse the trend using Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

The president was speaking in his office while inaugurating a 14-man Presidential Committee on Broadband Technology.

He urged the team to use ICT to give Nigeria the headway needed to play a key role in the technology revolution and bring the country at par with other industrialised nations of the world.

The committee has a former managing director of the National Communications Commission (NCC), Ernest Ndukwe as Chairman, and the chairman of Zenith Bank and Visafone, Jim Ovia as co-chairman.

Their terms of reference include to evaluate and analyse the current position of broadband infrastructure in the country and articulate an agenda for bridging the gap between the haves and have not’s.

He called on the Ministry of Education to join hands with the Ministry of ICT and incorporate ICT in the country’s education curricular beginning from primary level.

The president also explained why the ministry of Communication Technology was separated from the Information ministry, saying it was for the country to leverage on the abundance opportunities in ICT sector.

“When we came up with the idea of separating the ministry of communication technology from the traditional ministry of information, we believed that the concept of information is bugging down that ministry. The minister of information is always harassed when people are abusing the President. We believed that communication technology is a key to economic development and we should remove that from the political gossips that adorned our media. That is why we separated it and looked for somebody that we believed probably had no voter’s card as at that time to head the ministry, so that the communication technology will be insulated from the routine activities of the traditional activities of the minister of information.”

Noting that the country’s key to attaining industrial revolution is in ICT, he said, “it  is only ICT that can take any nation to advanced nation and at least we should work hard to join this revolution.”

President Jonathan therefore said the country should begin to think along the line of digital revolution.

He said: “It is a fact that broadband access and Internet technologies are a key enabler of socio-economic growth and the attainment of a fully knowledge-based economy.

“It is important to start thinking of how to build a digital economy particularly in this era of the knowledge economy. The critical factor here is that we are in the middle of a digital economy particularly in this era of the knowledge economy. The critical factor here is that we are in the middle of a digital revolution that has seen ICT transform the global economy. ICTs have changed the way we live, work and learn. In some countries around the world, including Nigeria, ICTs have even transformed the way citizens participate in governance.

“Whereas we are working to transform our present realities, my administration is also laying a proper foundation for a prosperous future. Therefore, the Ministry of Education must incorporate ICTs in our National Education Curricular beginning from the Primary School Level because, if we desire to raise the global ICT leaders of tomorrow, we should not burden them with the disadvantage of starting out late. Celebrated innovators of today, like Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and Mark Zukerberg, founder of Facebook, discovered their love for software development between the ages of 9 and 12.”

He also urged Nigerian parents to begin to expose their children to ICT so as to encourage them to familiarize with new technologies and the desire to develop software programs and applications.

He also assured that his “administration will continue to give the necessary support and encouragement to ICT practitioners in Nigeria to empower collective effort in attaining the goal of 21st century economy.”

 

 

FG plans technologically powered agricultural sector

The federal government has announced plans to introduce Information and Communications Technology (ICT) into the agricultural sector.

Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Akinwunmi Adeshina said the government plans to distribute 10 million mobile phones free to farmers in 2013 to boost food production in the country.

According to the minister, mobile phones would be used to ensure there is no third-party interference in the distribution of subsidized fertilizers, increase transparency in delivery as well as pass across information to farmers first hand.

The minister also announced that the sum of N37 billion would be set aside to launch a major initiative aimed at developing a younger and more dynamic entrepreneurial class of farmers in the country.

Effective distribution of government subsidized fertilizers to farmers to boost food production has remained a problem over the years.

The minister said “Phones to be shared will be used to curb fraudulent activities and third party interference in the distribution of subsidized fertilizers”.

He also said “it would not be business as usual in the agricultural sector. The target now for the government is to reach out to 20million farmers between now and 2015. Already, the commercialization of cassava to produce Nigerian made food items is saving N2.4 billion every year”.

But in spite of this success; “the minister says the challenge of finance has remained a major obstacle”.

Board Member of the Rockfeller Foundation, Strive Masiyiwa said “the initiative is in partnership with international organizations. The government hopes to reduce the country’s dependency on wheat import within the next four years”.

Already the introduction of a farmer’s help line in each local government area to promote the e-wallet system for farmers to encourage production of substituted food is a major project by the government to completely diversify the country’s economy from oil.

Nigeria Communications Act to be reviewed- House of Reps

The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Communications, Mr. Oyetunde Ojo, has said that members of the House will soon begin the review of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003.

Ojo, who spoke to journalists on the sidelines of a stakeholders’ forum organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission in Lagos recently, said the review would commence in the second quarter of 2012.

Reviewing the Communications Act, according to him, has become imperative in view of the current realities in the ICT sector.

He said, “With the issue of ICT convergence, poor quality of service, security for investment and infrastructure among others, the current   Communications Act has clearly outlived its usefulness and the time has come for us as lawmakers to take the bull by the horn and do our job.”

Ojo said the committee attached much importance to the review, adding that it would begin the exercise before the end of April, 2012.

The Communications Act 2003 provides the regulatory framework for the communications industry in Nigeria.

The lawmaker said the proposed review was aimed at synchronising policies for future development of the sector; stating that the National Broadcasting Commission Act 1992, Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1990, the National Information Technology Development Agency Act 2007 and other related acts in the nation’s ICT sector would also be reviewed.

Ojo said the review would be carried out simultaneously with the Senate to ensure that the Acts were amended to suit the requirements of modern ICT industry.

He said, “In 2003 the Act was created to empower the regulator to ensure that operators abide by the ethics of the business. Form 2003 till date, it is about nine years, and it cannot work in the present environment.

“For instance, for an Act that says if an operator is found wanting the company pays N100, 000; the Act, of course, is not well guided. Events have passed the Act. Telecoms is something we have to re-plan to meet present challenges.

“The sector is moving at a very high speed. We need to have a strategic plan for probably more than 10 years. For instance, broadband in Nigeria has remained in lower ebb compared to other parts of the world and if you open your Internet facility it takes more than 40 minutes to get connected; whereas in a place like the United Kingdom you get connected on a click.”