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VAS Africa 2012 review
Social Media can Teach Operators Something… How to Manage Millions of Users Each Day
The second day of VAS Africa has closed in Johannesburg, South Africa to great acclaim.
For the second year in a row the event has provided an important platform for VAS experts
from the telecommunications, media & ICT industry in Africa. Furthermore, this second annual
event was far more extensive than the 2011 event, both in terms of content, and in terms of
including more of the ‘disruptive’ players in the ecosystem. Day 2 in the conference keynotes
was all about focusing on this potentially disruptive element, as operator executives spoke
alongside social media and OTT gurus.
The day kicked off with Google’s speech, delivered by business development expert Bryan Nelson,
about how local content & app providers must make their offerings more ‘searchable’. The keynotes
then saw a fantastic ‘Ecosystem Brainstorm’ with leading experts Prins Mhlanga, Managing Exec. of
Vodacom’s Digital Media, Maxime Cuvellier, business development for Orange Technocentre, Randall
Abrahams, MD at Universal Music SS, Ben Zaaiman, CEO of mLab SA and Andrew Herd, Multi-Media Manager at ABN Digital. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the discourse between these different players in the ecosystem, but what became clear was that operators have a need to take the lead in important matters like billing for content, and that a lot of simplification of such systems still needs to take place.
The conference then moved on to focus in particular on the social media side of things, with
illuminating presentations from both Vodacom’ss Prins Mhlanga, and the CEO of popular social
networking platform Mxit, Alan Knott-Craig. The audience then benefitted from a ‘Social Media
Panel & Tweetathon’ with questions for the panel being delivered from the audience via Twitter
using #VASAfrica. The panel really addressed controversial issues challenging providers of social
networking platforms, including child protection controls, and general privacy rules. Expert
opinions and examples from Alan Knott-Craig, Nic Haralambous, CEO of Motribe, Tshepo Selokela,
Tech ‘Bunny’ at Cell C’s Customer Support Office and Bradley Shaw, Tech Editor at Rolling Stones
Magazine. The clear message from the panel was that operators really need to modernise and pick
up pace if they want to compete with successful social networking players like Mxit. In fact,
Alan Knott-Craig did not hold back in letting the audience know that the traffic on operator’s
networks in a month is comparable to that on Mxit’s platform in a day. The network isn’t
overwhelmed because the software engineering used by Mxit is far more capable than the systems
in use by operators – so there are definitely still lessons to be learned.
The rest of the day was dedicated to the inaugural Mobile Marketing Summit, proudly in partnership
with the Mobile Marketing Association SA, with a real focus on issues like; how to reach African
consumers through mobile, how to guaranty quality content, using mobile to build relationships
with lower-income consumers, examining whether Africa is ready for apps, and leveraging the mobile
web in a meaningful way. Simultaneously there were fascinating VAS case studies from mPedigree,
Orange Community Phone Project, Dr. Math and the BBC Worldeide Service.
The CEO of event organisers the Com World Series, Mr. Ian Hemming said “we are incredibly proud of the success this year’s event has been.
The content presented by speakers, and the discussions conducted between panellists have been in
enlightening for delegates, and this event continues to represent an important annual forum for
the digital ecosystem in Africa.”
This could not have been achieved without event sponsors Comviva, Spice, Business Connexion, Intersec, Huawei, SSD-TECH, Adaffix & Lumata, without whom the free passes for operators, app developers and other key industry segments would not have been possible..
Finally, the Com World Series team, organisers of VAS Africa made the exciting announcement that
the 2013 event will be realigned with changing market priorities, and will change from VAS Africa,
to be called Digital Services Africa in 2013! This change is reflecting the expansive services now
available over mobile and digital channels – no longer do all players recognise the term Value Added
Services, but in fact more segments of the ecosystem will be included in this umbrella event name,
including cloud, m2m, TV, IPTV & other content broadcasting, and more! It’s one not to be missed.
See You Next Year!
Digital Services Africa
25-26 June 2013:
Sandton Convention Centre,
Johannesburg, South Africa