How to use Skype and make VOIP calls for beginners in South Africa

My statusSkype allows users to make telephone calls from their computer to other Skype users free of charge, or to landlines and cell phones for a fee.

Unlike most other VOIP (Voice-over-Internet) software, Skype uses a peer-to-peer model, which is the most efficient way for transferring large amounts of data over the Internet, in a distributed method. An d so when a Skype user calls another for a voice call or video conference there no extra costs. Additional features include instant messaging, file transfer, SMS, video conferencing and its ability to circumvent firewalls.

Niklas Zennstrom Janus Friis Skype foundersEntrepreneurs Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis created Skype in 2002 with a vision of liberating consumers and businesses from the need to pay for talking to each other across the globe.

It’s easy because the user interface is intuitive i.e. easy to navigate and operates like a normal phone just on a computer screen.Skype is free to download and use from www.skype.com – you only pay if you want to call landlines and cellphones. You have to purchase Skype credits to make calls to landlines and cellphones. View this detailed comparison on Hellkom.

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Cape Town celebrates its unique innovation in the IT industry

The Cape IT Initiative (CITI) concluded a bumper year last night announcing the winners of its VIP Graduate Club and Women in IT programme.

Kathy McCabe was announced as the overall winner in the Women in IT programme. McCabe runs Radical Learning, which supplies bespoke learning software as well as training to a number of underprivileged schools in the Western Cape.

Kathy epitomises what CITI stands for. Not only is she a smart and dynamic woman, but her work is furthering the growth of IT amongst our young people. By exposing them to IT at a young age we are increasing their reading and technology literacy, said Viola Manuel, executive director of CITI.

The VIP Graduate Club focuses on equipping IT graduates with additional business skills that will help them excel in both the corporate and the entrepreneurial spaces.

Lee Meyer walked away with the prize in the corporate stream, and Nayeela Joomaye scooped best entrepreneur title. The VIP Graduate Club is run in conjunction with Microsoft SA.

McCabe and Joomaye will join other Western Cape entrepreneurs in the CITI incubator, Bandwidth Barn, for the duration of 2008. McCabe will also be accompanying other CITI member companies to the premier IT exhibition CEBIT in Germany next year, where she will showcase her products and services to a global market.

Newly elected CITI Chair, Andrea Böhmert, outlined the organisations vision for the next three years saying that real innovation was required if Western Cape companies were to take their place on the global stage.

³If Cape-based IT entrepreneurs want to grow their businesses, they will need to shift their mindset, climb out of their comfort zones and develop the skills that are necessary to cope with the international competition outside of our home turf,² she said.

CITI also issued a call for interest for both Women in IT and the VIP Graduate Club for 2008.

Next year holds enormous promise for our local companies. CITI has continued to refine its delivery. Our success has been recognised internationally, with the Canadian government requesting detailed delivery plans in order to replicate some of our programmes. CITI continues to grow from strength to strength, but our continued success still depends on a functional and determined IT cluster, Manuel concluded.

Interested entrepreneurs can contact CITI via email on admin@citi.org.za

 

Link To Your World podcast interview

Recently I was approached to do an interview about the rise of the individual with Link To Your World. Some of the points I discussed was how I moved from working in the corporate sector to starting my own business. And I also discussed the power of social networking and social influence to position you as an expert in your industry.

You can download or listen to the podcast interview with Mike Orshan here.

 

The Cluetrain to getting cosier with Your Clients

This is a column I wrote for the Institute of Directors’ Directorship magazine – Download the scanned article here: The Cluetrain to getting Cosy with your Clients. Here’s the full article.

Cluetrain ManifestoA powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.” Cluetrain Manifesto

Ramon Thomas #1 online researcher in South AfricaThe term “Cluetrain” stems from a quote: “The clue train stopped there four times a day for ten years and they never took delivery” from a veteran of a firm now free-falling out of the Fortune 500. The clues are embedded in the conversations people are having in more prolific ways than ever before on the Web. And the question is – are you listening yet?

Today it is much easier to listen to your clients, and prospective clients than ever before. Thomas Friedman outlines three great eras of globalisation:

  • Globalisation 1.0: 1492-1800 a period where the world shrank from a size large to a size medium
  • Globalisation 2.0: 1800-2000 a time when multinationals were the dynamic force driving global integration
  • Globalisation 3.0: began 2000 and characterised as a time when individuals have new-found power to collaborate and compete globally.

Given this you can assume Globalisation 3.0 = Web 2.0 / Social Media. And using the tools like blogs and social networking website you can begin to monitor the online conversation that is taking place right under your nose. The real beauty is that the listening can be automated by using RSS technology to be notified whenever certain keywords of people, products, brands or company names are mentioned. You then have to respond or participate in those conversations.

You can also use services like Google Alerts to keep track of both news stories, online discussion groups and blogs. There is a growing list of companies who have shot themselves in the foot by ignoring the conversation like the Kryptonite lock fiasco from back in 2004. When online conversation are ignored you run the risk of heated debates between bloggers and readers spilling over into the mainstream media. And the authority of bloggers are growing every year vs mainstream media according the quarterly study, The State of the Live Web by Technorati, the leading blog monitoring service in the world.

In South Africa the most severe example how damaging online conversation can be is in the widely reported case of Independent Democrats’ Simon Grindrod being named on the “SA Male Prostitute” blog as an alleged client. Now if the ID party was listening to the conversation by just placing Google Alerts on all their most important people’s names, they would have found out about this – literally within minutes of the information being posted. And on the flip side you can also monitor your competition using these tools.
And so I propose a radical idea to corporate South Africa: Set-up your own blog and allow your clients to come to you and post their feedback on a platform that you control. When you do this, you start to move beyond CRM because you have entered the conversation and begun to listen. There is an old Indian proverb, “Listen or thy tongue will keep thee deaf”. The number of South African companies employing this technology for marketing and public relations purposes is growing, but the real value lies in the elusive obvious: customer relationships.

People complain about the service levels of the banks, the Post Office, Home Affairs or Telkom. And when dealing with the biggest organisations, consumers may indeed feel helpless. And yet a growing number of online vigilante’s are emerging. For example the Hellkom website, which has challenged the mighty Telkom, to the point where Telkom sued the owner. The publicity generated by this action has turned this website into a very popular advertising platform because of it’s new popularity. A better approach would have been to engage with this person in an online dialogue. Using your resources to counter all the objections or complaints raised. Bring customer testimonials and feedback to the front line to presents a positive image of Telkom. No, the mighty, needs to assert its power and show that it can stamp out a silly website. Think again.

As you gain access to the inner thoughts or true feelings of your clients you can begin to create products with their input. This is a revolutionary way of creating new products and services because you have in your clients, a testing team, unpaid, and eager to contribute to the creations, they want to own and posses in the future. Fiat, the Italian motor manufacturing giant has returned from the brink of bankruptcy by using social media to listen and take those suggestions and feedback to heart in the design of the new 5007 model.

So what do you do when you are not even sure of your boss will listen to you? Gather the research, study your competitors, and look outside your industry for ideas on how you can leapfrog your competition. It’s easier and easier to replicate and duplicate so you have to continue to differentiate yourself. It’s been said that attention has become the most valuable resources and not time for individuals. And certainly it is true for companies that clients, or prospective clients who are paying attention are the most valuable. And the easiest and simplest way is to allow them to participate in the creation of new products and services. The old top down approach is something of the past. You can die a slow death or you can begin to resurrect yourself, your company, your products and services. It all starts by being open and listening for the grasshopper at your feet.

 

Be Like Water, my final Toastmasters speech for 2007

This was my final Toastmasters speech for the year and my 10th, which I passed. It is also the final speech in the first level: Competent Communicator:

Madam Toastmaster, Ladies and Gentlemen…

For the longest time I did not understand the difference between motivation and inspiration. However, as I kept studying and learning I believe the key difference is that motivation is when some external force is required to move you forward, while in inspiration, there is an inner force that directs you. And so if you consider for a moment how much of your ambitions, dreams or goals never materialise its likely due to the fact that you lost motivation or lost steam along the way. This is the opposite of what I want to share with you tonight.

Tonight I will share 3 principles with you by which I live my life:

Principle 1: Empty Your Mind

Now I’m sure you have all heard the old clich?d question: Is your glass half full or half empty? This is a common expression, used rhetorically to indicate that a particular situation could be a cause for optimism (half full), pessimism (half empty) or as a general litmus test to simply determine if an individual is an optimist or a pessimist.

A Zen master received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. The Master served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!” “Like this cup,” the Master said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

How is this relevant to Toastmasters? It’s simply: If you do not empty your mind before coming to a Toastmasters meeting you will not learn anything. What is clear to me is that most people attending Toastmasters meeting indeed follow this way of thinking.

Principle 2: Letting Go (Accept Things As They Are)

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