2014, what a year in the tech world in and out of Uganda. I am sure you agree.
The last 12 months have given way to what I would call a roller coaster of stories that could probably be seen as the pedestal for 2015. With the inter-marriage of digital culture, telecoms, gossip and business this has essentially changed the way news is made and reported. We admit we missed to report on some of the big stories like the recent Sony hack or the low-end stories like Makerere students making drones, some stories have really tested our ethics as tech bloggers especially rumor-mill stories. Lets not forget our gadget reviews that have made it really big on this tech blog.
It wasn’t all sad news, though: 2014 brought us the most focused and fascinating push for social media with the increasing awareness now that we have more Ugandans using twitter and Facebook than ever before. The stories below are based on techjaja posts with high number of hits, search and impressions.
As another year draws to a close, let’s have a look back at what’s brought us here.
LTE made cheap with the Huawei G535
This was the most read article on techjaja,something that keeps me wondering up to now. Thanks to Huawei, the Huawei G535 phone attempts to bring a mid range flagship, best-in-class smartphone with the highest network speeds. It’s a mid range phone that stacks up against the competition. At less than $330 (UGX 800,000) The Huawei Ascend G535 gives a promise that LTE devices will go down in price one day. Even though it might be chunkier than its predecessor the Huawei P6, but it’s still well-built plastic and looks good. The addition of 4G connectivity will allow for super-fast data downloads, meaning those selfies from the 5-megapixel front-facing camera can be uploaded without having to wait around.
Aborted Anti-Gay Law drama
In February this year, President Yoweri Museveni, signed the famous anti homosexuality bill into law. Of course we all know by now that this move was later dismissed by the courts of law on the grounds of lack of quorum. But before it was annulled, there was drama on social media especially when unfounded rumors spread that Facebook was about to block Uganda from accessing it’s social media platforms which also include Instagram and WhatsApp. All in the name of equality and human rights. Obviously the panic was all in vain.
#DesireLuzinda & #BringBackOurMBs
Need I say more? This was all about nudity and thanks to Desire Luzinda and Zari, Ugandans were given a pedestal to rant out about nudity on the different social media platforms. In fact, the most searched word in Uganda on Google in 2014 is Desire Luzinda. And, we already out did ourselves about this topic in our blogs. As for Zari please never do it again, anyway your White party is now on am sure its sold out. But the truth still stands, mbu you were a disappointment.
Ebola Got real
It may not have been such a deserter in Uganda, but the Ebola virus in West Africa (Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone) was real. As a result, more than 6,000 people died, and this year’s outbreak became the largest ever on record. We even had companies like MTN and Airtel come out to fight Ebola in different ways.
Uganda has also taken Healthcare workers and researchers over to west Africa to work tirelessly to treat Ebola patients. Despite the dangers of their job, they’ve provided patients with the necessary help. Now, as the year draws to an end, an Ebola vaccine is still a long way off, and many believe that the outbreak will continue well into 2015.
Top Young Girls in Tech
Techjaja went down and dirty with a list of the top ten young girls influencing the tech industry in Uganda. It can also be seen as a list of the outstanding female belligerent of the everyday anti-female-stereotypes. They were listed in no particular order, but all of them represent young women who have had an achievement in the distinguishable areas of science, engineering, technology and tech-journalism.
Orange Quits Uganda’s Telecom market, Gets Sued and Africell takes over
When unconfirmed reports circulated the web about Orange selling its operations in English-speaking nations in Africa, the company came out to dismiss such rumors, but sooner than later its Ugandan operations were up for sale and were bought by the Lebanese Africell holdings limited. In August, the regulator UCC approved the deal and later retracted the approval in October due to a court case that involved the ex-employees who sued the company for failure to pay their terminal benefits and a high court judge halted the sale.
This all came to an end when they finally reached a deal and eventually Africell took over the Orange operations in Uganda. With the transaction now completed, this means Africell takes over about 700,000 voice subscribers, and over 1 million data customers all riding on the company’s 2G, 3G, 4G and WiMAX networks. Africell Holdings has now reached 11 million active subscribers in Africa, and has registered a 700% increase over five years, and expects to end the year with over 12 million subscribers. Of course the recent situation of the ministry of Internal Affairs rounding up all Africell Lebanese experts show there is still more drama to come from this camp.
Large Phones are now so in
Out goes small phones, in comes the Phablets. Its now a common sight to see screen sizes grow as quickly as a pimple on a teenager’s face. It’s official, 2014 marks the culmination of this trend with almost every flagship Android phone having a minimum of 5-inch screen or above and this was no exception for Apple’s iPhone with their Mega iPhone 6 Plus. Yes, the Koreans were right all along.
Today, a good phone should be a large screen phone, and we can officially say that they are no longer a niche extreme for the most enthusiastic. This change has been fueled partly by the advantages the bigger size provides: neat extras like higher-resolution screens, larger batteries, and optical stabilization for the camera can be built in more easily when there’s more room, and a lot of consumers have opted for them over the compactness of a smaller device. Samsung is no longer the King of large screens as very Tom-Dick and Harry of a phone maker mostly the Chinese OEMs like Huwaei or Xiaomi have something to match them.
Vodafone sneaks in
As if we don’t have enough telecom companies in Uganda, European telecom brand Vodafone under Afrimax decided to roll in and scramble for the pieces that Orange has left behind with their 4G-LTE data network. As we still wait for their voice prices to roll in, (Assuming UTL is not bureaucratic enough) the company released their data prices and most people where not impressed– but what the hell — this is Vodafone we are talking about plus Ugandans love new things. In Africa, Vodafone also operates in South Africa, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho and Mozambique under the Vodacom brand.
MTN & Airtel get new bosses
The two big telecos MTN and Airtel Uganda had a change in management. In the yellow camp, we said goodbye to Mazen Mroue and welcomed Brian Gouldie a man who comes with over 20 years experience in the Industry. Brian is a founder member of MTN, and comes with a rich career. He is Strategically and commercially focused fellow with excellent leadership skills. He is also an early adopter of new thinking or innovative approaches and continues to be a catalyst for positive change.
At the big Red’s camp after several months of waiting, Airtel Uganda got a new “boss”, Tom Gutjahr, a Former Tigo Paraguay chief executive officer is now Airtel Uganda’s new managing director who started work on August 1st. As every telecoms CEO, Tom has big dreams of dethroning MTN from it’s number one spot and refocus the company to the data market. And, Airtel is closer to doing exactly that than any other telecom company in Uganda.
Top performing Radios according to Facebook rated
With most companies embracing Social Media, techjaja will judge them using the same platform. Techjaja ranked the top 10 FM Radio stations in Uganda based on Facebook Engagement and Galaxy FM took the overall top spot. CBS FM was close second and was number one in comment engagement and Facebook post categories. Digida FM, Capital FM and Sanyu FM followed.
SMS Spamgate & unscrupulous data charges
Ugandans finally rose up with one voice to fight spam SMS with the help of the regulator UCC. MPs accused the regulator of incompetence and that it had failed to fight the tel-marketing virus that was lingering for years. The MPs also sighted out incomprehensible irregularities at Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and the absence of a national standard to regulate mobile carriers in Uganda to account for why more than 17 million mobile-phone subscribers are paying for spam messages and calls.
That aside — MTN the biggest teleco faced it rough– their customers rallied a massive social media campaign that had been aimed to boycott of the network. This was not only because of Spam SMS and calls, but also unscrupulous data charges. The company came out to apologize for these irregularities and rebated data and airtime worth UGX 778,102,469. And now, thanks to UCC you can (or in the future) dial *196# to unsubscribe from Spam SMS and calls on any network.
Kiira EV SMACK sees the day of light
Uganda’s first hybrid car the Kiira EV SMACK finally saw the day of light and we made an exclusive three-part series dubbed THE ERA OF THE KIIRA. It featured the origins, the making and an analysis of the future and reality of having several cars like this made in Uganda thanks to Kiira Motors Cooperation. Last month, the car made it’s first stop out of Uganda in Kenya with the aim of attracting more investors to this project. We hope 2015 will bring more hope to this project.
e-commerce takes off in Uganda (OLX, Jumia and Kaymu)
Finally the struggle to be Uganda’s number one e-commerce company got real. With the advent of Kaymu, Jumia and now OLX, Ugandans are now spoilt for choice when it comes to where to shop or sale their new and used items online. Let’s not forget other companies like Hello Food that have come to revolutionize food ordering in Kampala and make your next meal from your favorite restaurant just a call away.
We discover we don’t own our domain
Most countries secure and own their own internet domain names and in Uganda the reverse is true. Apparently a private company owns Uganda’s Internet domain name — co.ug. This code is reserved for a country, something seen as threat to national security if it’s in the hands of private citizens or firms.
In late August this year, the MPs put the ICT minister John Nasasira to task and explain how a private company, i3c, formerly, known as Computer Frontiers, came to own the nation’s domain name. The legislators felt, in case of any problem, the nation would risk because sensitive government agencies like Bank of Uganda and Uganda Revenue Authority are using a domain which is controlled by a private operator. Mr.Saaka the NITA boss however said, negotiations were in advanced stages for government to reclaim the domain name.
Virtual reality fails the Askari
What happens when an Askari tries on the Oculus rift virtual reality gaming device. You just have to watch the viral video. The rest that happened was history and by the way, both the Askari and the VR headset are okay.
Data protection bill underway
At the beginning of the year, government began to create a framework within which data collected on individuals is to be used. Black hackers have made it a habit of infiltrating different databases and making it easy to search, access and edit them than if records are paper-based. This has allowed for organization-wide access to databases and offered an easy way to share information with other organizations. Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in conjunction with Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs (MoJCA) and National Information Technology Authority, Uganda (NITA-U) have developed a Draft Data Protection and Privacy Bill.
The Bill is hinged on principles of Data Protection which are:-
a. Use the data for the purpose that it was collected;
b. Ensure transparency and participation of the person whose data is being collected;
c. Keep the information accurate and up to date;
d. Keep the data safe and not disclosed to other people;
e. Retain information only as long as required;
f. Provide access to the person whom the data refers, on request
What to consider before buying a phone
People want good phones, but they don’t know what to look out for before they buy one. Well the team at techjaja broke it down for you with five simple things you consider before you buy a smartphone.
1. Which Phone Brand and Phone Operating System do you desire?
2. Say NO to counterfeit Phones
3. Which Kind of Smartphone Features are you into?
4. How compatible is the phone to Ugandan Networks?
5. How much are you willing to spend?
5k Telecom tax gets rejected
In what was seen as the most hilarious suggestion out of the August house, the UGX 5,000 tax on mobile phones was unanimously rejected by the public and telecom companies. The drama surrounding the proposed UGX 5,000 phone tax by MP Mr.Ekanya was the talk of the town in May. This proposal sparked several reactions on social media and the public. Geoffrey Ekanya was asked to drop his proposed tax on mobile phones by his fellow opposition cabinet members.
Telecom giant MTN Uganda, also asked the Parliament’s Budget Committee to reject the dubious proposal.
Techjaja goes from 2.0 to 4.0
2014 was also a great year here at techjaja we launched our revamped website version 2.o (project red bird) in March with a whole new website design philosophy and also separate ourselves form the massive Ugandan websites that look the same. This version ushered in
1. A new User experience / User Interface with a logo redesign
2. Great content (tech and none tech)
3. Improved speeds on PC and mobile
4. High interactivity in reviews
5. Doubling down on social media and a lot more
However, that was not enough in mid this year we embarked on another project to make it even better more unique and with a great user experience and this gave birth to project sparrow (version 3.0) and later project liwi or version 4.o that was launched in early last month. With great emphasis in mobile responsive design, annual geek week, podcasts and more. And, stay with us as we explore 2015 in tech and more.
Hope we’ve been a great source of mobile content in 2014, have a great 2015.