African Tech Villain of the Year

Rising cybercrime and the increasing number of credit card fraud cases make the technology industry appealing for undesirables, but governments and companies also have the ability to let the electorate or their customers down. HumanIPO reporters pick out their top baddies.

Gabriella Mulligan: South Africa’s former communications minister Dina Pule has plagued the department of communications (DoC) and betrayed the South African public for almost two years, finally resulting in her removal from her position this year. Under Pule’s (lack of) direction, the DoC missed 46 per cent of targets in 2012/2013, the auditor-general revealed. An unprecedented scandal caused by the misappropriation of ICT indaba funds ran all year, with multiple investigations into Pule’s involvement.  Parliament’s ethics committee found Pule  “wilfully misled” Parliament and referred the case to the police; while an investigation by the public protector concluded her actions to have been “unlawful” and “unethical” – Pule having manipulated her position to the financial benefit of her boyfriend. She was ordered by the public protector to apologise to the Sunday Times newspaper, for carrying out a vicious attack against the paper for reports into her misconduct – the press ombudsman having earlier thrown out complaints against the paper by Pule. The MP heading up the ethics committee probe into allegations against Pule was assigned bodyguards following reports of assassination threats allegedly made by Pule’s boyfriend. Overall, it was revealed South African taxpayers stumped up ZAR1.2 million (US$119,000) to cover Pule’s legal fees this year.

Richard Cutcher: 2013 is in danger of going down as the year African governments hammered the first few nails into the mobile money coffin. The Kenyan innovation, which began with M-Pesa, remains a booming business and is spreading to other parts of the continent, albeit slowly, but threats lurk to its future. Kenya and Uganda began taxing mobile money transfers as they eyed a slice of the ever growing pie. Governments have done nothing with regards to innovation of mobile money services and a tax on transfers is the equivalent of giving a friend US$10 and the government turning up mid-handover and taking 50 cents for itself.

Paul Adepoju: The Nigerian government for its online eavesdropping scheme that goes against freedom of expression.

Tom Jackson: The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), for its handling of the digital migration process. There has been confusion over the date, uproar from media houses, and a general lack of education of the Kenyan public, most of whom say they are unready and want the date postponed. No way to handle such an important transition, but unfortunately par for the course across the continent right now.

Nick Sato: Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, despite his policies that seek to build up the ICT sector in Kenya and Africa as a whole, who has passed into law a “draconian” media bill. Despite earlier sending the bill back to parliament, his recommendations from a journalistic point of view are more ruthless and seek to draw back Kenya to the old dark days when freedom of the media was quite a luxury.

Selipha Kihagi: The Tanzanian government through its transport regulator, which is the reason a local software and mobile technology company, Zoop, has failed to launch an electronic booking system for Tanzanians. Zoop has already created the e-ticketing system but due to challenges of overcoming the institutional barriers from regulators who hold a tight grip on ticket prices and bus services, as well as hesitation from bus service providers who fear change, it is yet to launch.

Nanine Steenkamp: Part state-owned South African operator Telkom has shamed itself in being unable to sufficiently take care of its employees, with scandals such as a ZAR6 million (US$589,800) loan to an executive having surfaced. Telkom has also ‘villainised’ itself in multiple ways in its approach towards trade unions.

Facing allegations of blackmail, miscalculations in proving the legitimacy of its responsive proposal and failing to live up the promises of the already questionable agreement, this company has done the industry and its dependents the opposite of proud.

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