Vodafone's Indian Unit in Merger Talks

Vodafone has said its Indian business is holding talks about a major merger which would create the country's largest telecoms firm.
It said Vodafone India, the country's second biggest mobile operator, was in negotiations with Idea Cellular, India's third largest network.
There was "no certainty" a deal would be agreed, Vodafone added.

Shares in the UK telecoms giant rose about 3% on Monday, making it the biggest riser on the FTSE 100 index.

Intense Competition
India's leading mobile networks are embroiled in what analysts have described as "a vicious price war", started by the arrival of a low-cost rival offering free voice and data to customers.

Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, together with current market leader Bharti Airtel, have been forced to cut prices by Reliance Jio, a new operator owned by the country's richest man, Mukesh Ambani.
Vodafone was forced to write down the value of its Indian business by 5bn euros (£4.3bn) in November amid the intense competition.

The firm has looked to spin off Vodafone India, but said at the time it would wait for the market to stabilize.
The merger talks with Idea suggest "Vodafone is taking the Indian tiger by the scruff", said Neil Wilson, an analyst at London brokers ETX Capital.

"India has become a trouble-spot for Vodafone, with losses there severely hurting the rest of the group," Mr. Wilson said.
"Indeed a vicious price war in India means the group could post its first operating loss in 10 years in 2017. The Idea tie-up looks like a way to limit the casualties on either side.
"Something had to be done and this merger might be the way to strengthen Vodafone's hand in the Indian price war."

In its statement on Monday, Vodafone said a merger with Idea would enable it to take the India unit off its books and receive a dividend from the new business.
Shares in Idea Cellular, owned by the Aditya Birla Group, have surged 26% on confirmation of the merger talks.

More than ten telecom operators are battling it out to attract the custom of India's one billion mobile phone users.
That has forced firms to keep tariffs low - significantly impacting their profitability.

And the entry of Reliance Jio last year - has made matters even worse.

You can't avoid its high profile advertising campaigns here - pushing introductory offers of free voice calls and internet to cost conscious consumers.
The deep pockets of Mukesh Ambani mean many expect rock bottom prices even in the long run, forcing rivals to slash their charges further if they want to stay in the game.
So even if this Vodafone-Ideal merger goes ahead, I doubt it'll be the last bit of consolidation we see.

Source: BBC

Former NASA Telecom Manager appointed as new NCA Boss

Ghana’s President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo has appointed former Telecommunications Service Manager at NASA, Joseph Anokye as the new Director – General for the National Communications Authority (NCA).

In a statement available to Biztechafrica and signed by the Communication Minister designate, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, it states that: “On behalf of the President His Excellency Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo, the President of the Republic of Ghana, I wish to inform you of your appointment as Acting Director – General of the National Communication Authority (NCA) with immediate effect.”

The statement also notified previous Deputy Directors Generals of the NCA to facilitate their handing over process to ensure a smooth transition.

Mr. Anokye takes on his new leadership role with a prolific background as a Telecommunications Service Manager at NASA, responsible for Integrated Services Network and Information Technology and Services. And also touted to be the brain behind the success of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP).

As a product of the University of Maryland from where he holds an MBA, Mr. Anokye’s experience spanned 18 years 6 months from September 1997 – February 2016 at Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland as a Telecommunications Service Manager - Mission Routed Data Network (NASA Integrated Services Network).

The new NCA boss formerly manages a team of highly technical network engineers who administer NASA’s Global Mission Telecommunication Wide Area Network (WAN).

As a Telecommunications engineering service manager at NASA GSFC, he worked collaboratively in many Telecommunications Planning exercises worldwide with Telecom and Network engineers from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), German Space Operations Centre (GSOC), Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO - Dongara) and many other national Space Programs like the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in California.
Source: Biztechafrica

MTN Ghana Introduces AMGO App For Movie Lovers

Ghanaian movie lovers can now access any of their favorite movies online using their smartphones devices, thanks to the launch of the Africa Movie on the Go Application software by MTN Ghana.

MTN Ghana in partnership with Africa Movie on the Go (AMGO), a content provider that has developed the AMGO App to give African movie lovers the opportunity to watch their favorite movies on the go.

AMGO provides the most current, high quality full length African movies on the go to connected smart mobile devices across Africa and beyond via it brand name AMGO. A mobile application like AMGO puts African entertainment in the hands of smart mobile users.

Speaking at the launch of the new movie App, the Acting Senior Manager for Product and Services, Bless Sefenu Agordjo reiterated MTN’s new vision which is “to lead the delivery of a bold Digital World to our customers” and stressed that the company also believes that access to digital products and services will change the lives of its customers for the better.

He noted that digital access to education, healthcare services, media and entertainment, financial services and the internet are all revenues to enhance the way people live their very lives and that MTN’s vision is to enable access to all these benefits for the consumer.

“A key component of enabling access is technology and we have work hard to deploy, upgrade and expand our network infrastructure and IT systems to support the provision of our products and services. Three ultra-modern data centres, thousands of kilometers of fibre-optic cable, over 2,000 cell sites, introduction of the first mobile 4G service in Ghana- these are some of the ways we are delivering the digital world and ensuring good experience for our customers” he said.

Mr. Sefenu then urged MTN subscribers to download the Amgo App to enable them enjoy their favorite African Movies at their own convenience.

The AMGO App which MTN Ghana has introduced on to the Ghanaian app market is available on google play for android devices. With the AMGO App one can easily watch downloaded videos offline as many times one like, anywhere and anytime on one’s smart mobile device, and movies can be paid for using MTN Mobile Money or any other electronic payment service of one choice.

Microsoft Staff 'Suffering From PTSD

Two former Microsoft employees are suing the company for not protecting them from the psychological effects of viewing disturbing material.

The two men were left with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after working at the firm, the lawsuit alleged.
Their jobs involved viewing and reporting material, communicated via Microsoft services, that had been flagged by automated software as being potentially illegal.

Microsoft told the BBC it disputed the claims, and that it offered industry-leading support.
"Microsoft takes seriously its responsibility to remove and report imagery of child sexual exploitation and abuse being shared on its services, as well as the health and resiliency of the employees who do this important work."

It said the balance of protecting internet users while minimising the impact on its employees was a continued learning process.

Saving children’s lives
Henry Soto and Greg Blauert worked for Microsoft’s Online Safety Team, a division responsible for upholding the firm’s legal obligation to pass on any illegal images to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

When an image is reported, or automated software has “spotted” an issue, a human being is required to view the material and forward it on to the authorities, a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

The company said people with this role are only required to do this particular task for a short period of time - and that they are kept in a “different office” from other staff.

But in papers filed on 30 December 2016, the two men said the company did little to warn or prepare them for the disturbing images they were required to view.

The lawsuit says both men’s efforts were “instrumental” in saving children’s lives and securing prosecutions, but that both were paying a serious psychological toll.

But the documents described Mr. Blauert as suffering greatly from this work, contributing to a mental breakdown in 2013. When he expressed his discomfort, it is alleged that he was told to "smoke", "go for walk" or "play video games" as a distraction.

'Horrible and inhumane'
Mr. Soto viewed "many thousands of photographs and videos of the most horrible, inhumane and disgusting content one can imagine," the papers said.

"Many people simply cannot imagine what Mr Soto had to view on a daily basis as most people do not understand how horrible and inhumane the worst people in the world can be."

In an internal employee review, Mr Soto was praised by his bosses for having "courage". However, he said the work resulted in him suffering "panic attacks, disassociation, depression, visual hallucinations" as well as the inability to be around young children, including his own son.

Doing so would remind him of "horribly violent acts against children that he had witnessed," the court papers said.

Mr Soto alleged that when he requested a transfer out of the team in 2014, he was told he would have to apply for a new job within Microsoft "just like any other employee". When he was eventually moved to a different section of the safety team, he said he was still being asked questions related to his prior role.

Microsoft disputed this particular detail, saying: "If an employee no longer wishes to do this work, he or she will be assigned other responsibilities."

Employees on the Online Safety Team are automatically put on a “Wellness program”, Microsoft said, which included mandatory monthly one-on-one sessions with a counsellor to combat what is referred to as "compassion fatigue".

The company said many measures are taken to minimise the psychological impact on people viewing the material.
The measures include efforts to reduce the "realism" of the content.

Microsoft’s software automatically blurs imagery, lowers the resolution, makes it black and white and separates the audio from video. Images are only seen as thumbnails, not full size.

Furthermore: "Employees are limited in how long they may do this work per day and must go to a separate, dedicated office to do it; they can’t do this work at home or on personal equipment.”

However, a spokeswoman could not speak to whether employees undergo any psychological assessment prior to taking on the work.

Social networks are working on ways to share intelligence over illegal images

Technology companies, particularly those offering web storage or social networking, are under continued pressure to do more to remove images depicting a variety of problems - from terrorist propaganda to child abuse.
The companies are working on better ways to share data so that an image flagged by one company would automatically be removed by another, minimising the number of people exposed to the material.

The lawsuit in this case is suing for an unspecified amount in damages, but also for its suggestions on how to improve the Online Safety Team to be taken on board.

Microsoft confirmed to the BBC it will oppose the lawsuit, but has not yet made its response to the court.
Source: BBC