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General News of Saturday, 25 February 2012

Source: Samuel Dowuona

Ghanaian develops affordable Audio Conferencing system

A Ghanaian company called Forum Network Limited (FNL), owned by 2008 independent presidential candidate Kwesi Amoafo-Yeboah has developed a new Audio Conferencing system that can easily be used by every average Ghanaian family, social, regilious, media and business group for meetings and conferences without members having to be physically present at one location.

The system is called Forum Audio Conference, and it allows users to log on to obtain their own conference phone number (an MTN numbers) and access code from www.forum.com.gh.

The system allow up to 1,000 people to hold an audio conference via their mobile phones and pay the normal call rate, no extra charge.

It also allows people to call into church meetings and listen to preaching live, or into conference, press conference and participate.

Kwesi Amoafo-Yeboah said Forum Audio Conferencing was designed to cut out the cost, time and risk involved in people having to travel to social and business meetings, and to enable people to do meetings electronically and pay only the normal phone call rate.

He noted that there is an estimated 17 million mobile phone subscribers using more than 21 million mobile phone lines in Ghana, and that meant the use of the mobile phone for communication is already relatively huge in the country.

Mr. Amoafo-Yeboah noted that Forum runs on the concept that business interaction is group interaction which usually required physical meetings, unless there is a way to hold business meetings without physically congregating at one location.

He said Forum Network is therefore collaborating with MTN, for starters, to create an electronic GSM platform for all levels of businesses, families, religious group, social groups and even professional groups like journalists to hold meetings or even participate in conferences without being physically present.

“We feel this is a good time for this kind of solution in Ghana because it is providing the opportunity for business, family, religious and social meetings to be done electronically at very affordable rates," he said, adding that “people do this from the comfort of their homes and offices so they get to do other things as well.”

He said audio conferencing is making life easy for lots of businesses and groups around the world, adding that audio conferencing platforms like Webbex , Go To Meeting, and freeconferencingcall.com are owned by big IT companies, which are generating huge revenues from those platforms.

“Freeconferencingcall.com for instance is running five billion minutes of conferencing calls per year and that tells you this solution is relevant to the times we are in and we see that opportunity in Africa and we want to take advantage and help people in Ghana better their lives,” he said.

The service is entirely voice-based and the telecom operators have hinted this year the industry would go much more data because voice is gradually losing its steam, but Mr. Amoafo-Yeboah said the notion that voice is dying and data is taking over is completely misplaced because voice can never die.

He asked “if voice was dying how come Microsoft bought Skype just to be part of audio conferencing – Google is the king of data but it has a voice program called Google Talk – so if the big boys are going into voice why are we running away from voice.”

“We think there is plenty of opportunity is voice and voice can never be free because even when telecom operators sell data bundles, the bundle includes a package that allows people to talk and if those people use the talk time for Forum Audio Conference calls, we still get paid,” he said.

Product Manager at Forum Network, Samuel Menyah Asah-Kissiedu, who is the brain behind the system, said people can access the service by registering online at www.forum.com.gh or by sending 'forumgh, your name, your email address' to short code 1945 and get a special MTN phone number and access code.

He said the service is not the exclusive preserve of the elite or for corporate Ghana alone, but for small trade groups like drivers groups, spare parts dealers, market women associations, farmers groups, fishermen associations and even families, churches and others.

“It is also possible for Castle to get Forum Audio Conference number and access code and give it out to journalists who cannot attend the President’s Meet The Press so that those journalists can call into the press conference and listen at real time and ask questions,” he said.

Currently, Legacy and Legacy is using the system for their nationwide Springboard conferences for those who cannot attend, and some individuals are using it as well.

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