Opera Browser in Africa

I just had the great pleasure to meet Rolf Assev, the Chief Strategy Officer for Opera Software. Opera is an Oslo-based company whose slick & lightweight web browser most Nokia users know and love. 

Here are some notes I scribbled down from Rolf’s talk in Cape Town this morning:

In Africa, the ratio of mobile subscribers to fixed lines is 15:1, mobile penetration was at 28% in 2008 & Africa is the fastest growing market

The mobile phone is the “PC of Africa”

Opera Mini has 1,5 million users in South Africa

The market wants cheaper phones 10 – 20 usd, need to have internet access
Because operators are charging per KB, reading 10 pages of The Times online could quickly cost more than buying the entire newspaper’s print edition

Opera Mini was built in response to high costs of mobile data in Africa (!)

Because Opera Mini compresses websites before delivery to the mobile phone, 40 million African Opera Mini users are saving 9 billion USD/year in data charges.
Despite this knock on operators’ revenue, more people are using the internet because it’s more affordable, and Opera Mini has moves approx $2 billion worth of data traffic per year

Top 5 African countries by number of users:

1. SA (each user views on average 357 pages pm)
2. Nigeria (476 p/user/m)
3. Kenya (514 p/user/m)
4. Egypt (302 p/user/m)
5. Libya (385 p/user/m)

In one year, page views increased 308%
Unique users increased 74% 
Overall data usage increased 124 %

(You can see stats for the rest of the world (and some interesting observations) here: http://www.webaddict.co.za/2009/11/25/top-10-mobile-sites-south-africa/

The most used websites in South Africa are:


Most used websites in Nigeria:


Mobile phones are the best way of bridging the digital divide in Africa and to deliver education, information & news, remote medical service, alert services etc

Opera facts: 
since 1994, 11 offices, HQ in oslo
>750 employees, 500_ engineers & tech support,
150+ million downloads of the desktop browser
1 million weekly downloads of opera mini
100+ million opera mobile browser installs

Story about a guy in Nigeria who “sold internet” to people. He’d charge them $20 to ‘internet enable’ their phones and tell them to come back the next day. He’d then simply install Opera Mini for them, which takes a few minutes and is free. 

p.s. If you’re not running Opera Mini (or the very slick Opera Mobile 10 Beta) on your Series 60 or Windows Mobile phone you can get it here: www.opera.com

Surfing Simply with the Hotshot behind the Hotspots

Business Day article on Skyrove (24 November 2009):??http://www.businessday.co.za/Articles/Content.aspx?id=87859

Besides feeling a bit uncomfortable with being called a "hotshot", I think BD's Dave Marrs really captured the Skyrove philosophy very well. ??


Telkom isn't the competition, it's the environment. -?????We realise that there???s nothing we can do about Telkom???s monopoly over the last mile of copper,??? says Kleynhans. ???But we can stake a claim to the last 50m by helping people set up their own hotspots and gain access to the internet wirelessly and cost-effectively.?????

???I felt that breaking the law was justified under the circumstances,??? he says. (I actually quoted an oft-used struggle-era poster that stated: "Defy Unjust Laws". A few years ago it was "illegal" to communicate across a public boundary. If your kid was to talk to the neighbours' kid using two tincans and a piece of string, he'd be a little criminal. This was written into our laws by SBC when they bought a stake in Telkom. I decided to openly defy it. Fortunately things have changed significantly in the last few years and yes, you are allowed to talk to your neighbours over the fence using technological innovations. Skyrove is now one of ~600 fully licensed telecommunications service providers)??

Skyrove intends to triple the size of its network in the next year.??The key to achieving this, he says, is the simplicity of the process. ???I call it the dad test: would my dad be comfortable using the system???? To gain access to a Skyrove hotspot, users ??? be they casual coffee shop customers or B&B guests making use of free vouchers or residents of apartment blocks serviced by hotspot entrepreneurs ??? log onto the company???s website from their laptops and either enter the voucher number and password, or buy bandwidth credits using their credit card.

The Mobile Data Apocalypse

My friend @andrewsmit sent me this brilliant article today: http://mobileopportunity.blogspot.com/2009/11/mobile-data-apocalypse-and-what-it.html



Smartphones produce 40x more data traffic than traditional feature mobile phones.??

A notebook PC generates 450x more traffic than a traditional feature mobile phone.??

Built-in WiFi is now good. For a long time many mobile operators resisted selling smartphones with WiFi built in. They viewed WiFi networks as competitors for customer control, and wanted to prevent usage of them. Now that they see WiFi as their savior, the operators are suddenly encouraging its inclusion in phones.??

Traffic shaping is a fact of life, and a likely source of irritation

Say hello to capped data plans. Completely unlimited wireless data plans are not sustainable long term; the economics of them just don't work. And in fact, virtually no data plans today are completely uncapped; there is almost always some fine print about the maximum amount of traffic allowed before surcharges kick in or the user is tossed off the network. (AT&T actually starts charging extra if you use more than 5 GB per month on their "unlimited" data plan)

Residential 3G is a bad idea. As soon as the networks start to get congested, the operators will need to offload traffic to residential WiFi routers connected to DSL or cable.??

Operators have a huge vested interest in unlocking WiFi access points. Most WiFi access points today are encrypted and inaccessible to other devices in the area. I think there's a strong financial incentive for mobile operators to work with fixed-line access companies to get those access points unlocked.

Recycling at Sasol Petrol Stations – Open Letter

UPDATE: I received a response from Sasol on the same day at this post. See further below. 

Dear Leonilda, 

Thank you for your time in reading this letter.

While reading SASOL’s 300+ page annual reports, I realised that I had
no space to keep the report and didn’t know where my nearest paper
recycling bins were.

It then occurred to me that many South Africans frequently visit
petrol stations and that petrol stations would be an ideal location
for recycling bins.

Besides for petrol stations being ubiquitous in SA, they typically
have enough space for recycling bins and would also be a fantastic
location to raise awareness of recycling.

I think such a project could tie in well with Sasol’s CSR programs and
would set a positive example for other fuel & chemical companies.

I look forward to your consideration!

Best regards,
Henk Kleynhans

Response from Sasol:

Good morning Mr Kleynhans,

I trust this finds you well!

I received your email via Marsja Hall Green – requesting more information on the recycling project. I’ve included a recent article published on the Bizcommunity website for your easy reference and information. We have had a tremendous response to this initiative and look forward to running full steam ahead with it in future.

Should you require any further information, please don’t hesitate to call and we will gladly assist.

Kind regards

Leonilda Koster
Communications Manager
Sasol Oil

Read the BizCommunity Article. 

Open Letter to Sasol regarding Paper Wastage

Hi Marsja,

That’s excellent news!

May I suggest for 2010 that the approach is done the other away
around, perhaps?

Instead of “opting-out” of paper report, people would have to “opt-in”
for a paper report.

That way the default position of SASOL becomes saving paper.

I’d take bets that less than 3200 will insist on receiving the paper copy.

Now, who do I speak to at SASOL regarding a recycling initiative at
petrol stations?

Kind regards,

On Fri, Nov 20, 2009 at 10:54 AM, Hall-Green, Marsja (MM)
> Dear Mr Kleynhans
> We ??have the greatest sympathy with shareholders who do not wish to receive the heavy annual report and, to this end, we sent out a communiqu?? earlier this year, requesting shareholders to indicate if they wish to receive electronic communications instead. ??Out of a possible 15 000 shareholders we received a response from about
> 3 200 people. We were pleased with this result as it also helps us to save a considerable amount of money on printing and postage.
> I am not sure why you did not receive this request – that included a pre-paid card – and I will forward your comments to Computershare, Sasol’s share registrars who are responsible for these matters. ??They will be able to respond more fully.
> In terms of JSE listing regulations and our articles of association it was not previously possible to arbitrarily remove people from the mailing lists, but I understand that we now have more flexibility to accommodate requests of this nature.
> Shareholders who have elected to receive electronic communications instead of printed material will in future only receive the links to the annual report to which you refer. ??I hope you were able to find the user-friendly online report on our website, as opposed to the pdf version.
> Kind regards
> Marsja Hall-Green
> Manager publications
> Group corporate affairs
> Sasol Limited
> Tel : ??(+27) 11 441 3237
> Fax: ??(+27) 11 441 3236
> —–Original Message—–
> From: Henk Kleynhans [mailto:henk@skyrove.com]
> Sent: 19 November 2009 08:33 PM
> To: Hall-Green, Marsja (MM)
> Cc: post@posterous.com
> Subject: Open Letter to Sasol regarding Paper Wastage
> Dear Ms Hallgreen,
> Thank you for sending me the SASOL annual report which I received as a
> shareholder.
> I wish to kindly request that in future you do not send me a hardcopy,
> but rather let me know by email (or a simple postcard, if you have to
> send something by post) where I can download the electronic version,
> which I see is currently available at??http://tinyurl.com/sasolreport
> The 2 glossy hardcopies I received are more than 300 pages long, are
> unlikely to be read nor recycled. Perhaps SASOL could help to start
> some recycling initiatives? Recycling bins at all petrol stations
> would be a GREAT idea!
> Kind regards,
> Henk Kleynhans
> —
> Henk Kleynhans
> CTO & Founder
> Skyrove (Pty) Ltd
> Technology Top 100 – Most Promising Emerging Enterprise 2006
> Tel: +27 (21) 4488843
> Cell: +27 (84) 3073451
> Fax: +27 (86) 6204077
> henk@skyrove.com
> blog: www.geekrebel.com
> ——
> “A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of
> others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he
> or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or
> she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are
> humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.” –
> Desmond Tutu
> —————————————————————————-
> NOTICE: Please note that this eMail, and the contents thereof,
> is subject to the standard Sasol eMail legal notice which may be found at:
> http://www.sasol.com/legalnotices
> If you cannot access the legal notice through the URL attached and you wish
> to receive a copy thereof please send an eMail to
> legalnotice@sasol.com
> —————————————————————————-

Open Letter to Sasol regarding Paper Wastage

Dear Ms Hallgreen,

Thank you for sending me the SASOL annual report which I received as a

I wish to kindly request that in future you do not send me a hardcopy,
but rather let me know by email (or a simple postcard, if you have to
send something by post) where I can download the electronic version,
which I see is currently available at??http://tinyurl.com/sasolreport

The 2 glossy hardcopies I received are more than 300 pages long, are
unlikely to be read nor recycled. Perhaps SASOL could help to start
some recycling initiatives? Recycling bins at all petrol stations
would be a GREAT idea!

Kind regards,
Henk Kleynhans

Video Showing Melting Glaciers

This video is 20 mins long, but it is pretty eye opening, so if you
have the time, have a look.


(via @elodiek)

Jack and his Nanny, Mma Bokwe


Media Crockery – Misquoting to the Extreme

Even Paul Hudson of the BBC copied it without doing his own research.

(This post was provoked interesting Daily Maverick post by Ivo Vegter)


The BBC post says: “To confuse the issue even further, last month Mojib Latif, a member of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says that we may indeed be in a period of cooling worldwide temperatures that could last another 10-20 years”

However, Latif says: “It may well happen that you enter a decade or maybe even two, when the temperature cools relative to the present level.” 

He did not say that we “may indeed be” in a period of cooling. And even if he DID say that, he makes it clear that this would be decadal and would not mean an overall reversal. He also didn’t say “last another 10-20 years”

How the SA Reserve Bank came to its policies

Ivo Vegter highlights again the Reserve Bank's shortsighted stance on mobile payments in this memo:??http://geekretreat.co.za/projects/mobile-online-payments

Basically, SA is unlikely to see the kind of social monetary 'revolution' that Kenya has experienced with M-PESA (Have a look at this documentary: )
Looks like we'll be stuck in the dark ages of Apartheid era Reserve Bank policies. There can only be two reasons for this:

1. It's a conspiracy. The policies are in favour of the Big Banks, which themselves are big shareholders of the SA Reserve Bank. It wouldn't be in their favour if people in SA were able to trade outside of 'the system'. You might soon find that Data or Airtime could be more valuable than currency. And of course, the Reserve Bank can control the money supply with normal currency, but it's more difficult to do so when alternative currencies are being used for trade. And although mobile payments aren't anywhere close to being a real alternative, it might just be more difficult to control.??

2. It's stupidity. But it's not Today's Stupidity. These policies were made long ago when our National Party forefathers couldn't imagine such a thing as a cellphone. And even if they could (based on a walkie-talkie), do you think they would have thought you could use a walkie-talkie to pay someone money???As Hanlon's Razor says: "Never ascribe to??malice??that which can be adequately explained by??incompetence."??

So why is Dave Mitchell of the SA Reserve Bank perpetuating and defending Yesterday's Stupidity?)??

Perhaps it can all be explained by means of the following parable:??

There was an experiment involving 5 monkeys, a cage, a banana, a ladder and, crucially, a water hose.

The 5 monkeys were locked in a cage, after which a banana was hung from the ceiling with a ladder placed right underneath it.

Of course, immediately, one of the monkeys would race towards the ladder, intending to climb it and grab the banana. However, as soon as he would start to climb, the sadist (euphemistically called ???scientist???) would spray the monkey with ice-cold water. In addition, however, he would also spray the other four monkeys???

When a second monkey was about to climb the ladder, the scientist would again spray all the monkeys; likewise for the third climber and, if they were particularly persistent (or dumb), the fourth one. Then they would have learned their lesson: they were not going to climb the ladder again ??? banana or no banana.

The scientist would then replace one of the monkeys with a new one. The new guy would spot the banana, think ???why don???t these idiots go get it?!??? and start climbing the ladder. Then, however, it got interesting: the other four monkeys, familiar with the cold-water treatment, would run towards the new guy and beat him up. The new guy, blissfully unaware of the cold-water history, would get the message: no climbing up the ladder in this cage ??? banana or no banana.

When the beast outside the cage would replace a second monkey with a new one, the events would repeat themselves ??? with one notable detail: the first new monkey, who had never received the cold-water treatment himself (and didn???t even know anything about it), would, with equal vigour and enthusiasm, join in the beating of the new guy on the block.

The researcher kept replacing monkeys until eventually all the monkeys had been replaced and none of the ones in the cage had any experience or knowledge of the cold-water treatment.

Then, a new monkey was introduced into the cage. It ran toward the ladder only to get beaten up by the others. None of these monkeys had ever been sprayed by cold water.

I don't know if our decidedly 3rd world exchange control & banking policies are due to malice or incompetence. On the one hand, I hope it is malice. Malice can be proven in a court of law and we could hope to uncover some bribes paid by banks for policies that favour them. On the other hand, if it's incompetence, it should be a simple matter of challenging the policies at the Constitutional Court and have South Africa be rid of them and welcome a new era of financial freedom.??