Saturday, November 17, 2007

Interesting thread on digital villages...

Yes we need help in Sirisia. In September, I visited the small village that Crystal helped create in Sirisia. Of the 30 or so people that we met in the market, only one wore shoes but majority said something about the new development in the area - a Digital Village - which had brought to
them e-health and other educational programmes. There are no desks here. Women sat on benches training their eyes on one piece - the solar powered PC - and 150 of them had been trained. They ask relevant questions.

Here you see what we need to develop this country. We need to provide access (energy, connectivity and roads) as Yawe argues. But we also must lead our people through training to know how to navigate or drive the new technologies.

With access, these folks will be able to add value to their produce and market them through internet.

For now Walubengo we need you to volunteer a few of your hours in every quarter to provide different types of training such that by the time fibre is ready, our people would optimally use the fibre.


Bitange Ndemo


this is interesting!

Kanduyi, Bungoma is my 'shags' (home-town)! Let me know if i could be of some help. Even though I rarely go shags(for many reasons) my retired Dad+Mom, formerly high school teachers live there and I can always get them to cordinate some logistics (awareness, networking, etc)

Plse keep me (us?) posted on how the projected evolves...

Quite honestly I am shocked Mr. Yawe. I must come humbly and suggest that the the digital villages are a means to many ends. Here are a few possible ends that we will be meeting when we implement our telecentres in villages in Sirisia and Kanduyi:

1) Train community health workers using the internet: the benefits are obvious and the cost is SUBSTANTIALLY less than to send people to the city for education. Once we have perfected the training system it can be published online and used to train others

2) Anything else in which a person would want education: sustainable agriculture, nutrition, child bearing, English, French, Spanish.The internet is the largest library in the world floating through the air. It sure beats the price of shipping books from US publishers.

3) Income generation: We are using the internet to sell all sorts of items made by people in the village to supplement farming income. Well made items that seem exotic and come from a village are hot consumer items in upscale fashion stores in the US.

4) What good are online programs such as KACE if those who need them most cannot get online?

5) Then there is the simple but horrible truth that most people in the US and Europe never think about Africans. It is not that they don't care but that they don't think. Digital villages open up international communications. The people cease to be invisible. Poverty and malaria
get a face and a name.

Please understand that I had my first computer when I was three. I have never known life without one. I have been studying what a computer can do in a village for many years. The digital villages project underway in Kenya will help the people in many, many ways both
subtle and profound if done properly.

Asante sana.


I wholly agree with Elijah, what is the real objective here of the digital villages.

Kenya is unlike many of its neighbours, as the Americans and the issue tax claim experts or Michael Joseph and "peculiar calling habits". What seems to be happening is someone is trying to justify their existanca and relevance.

When you built a road in Kenya, you complete construction and move away, the government learnt long ago that it is not their responsibility to tell Kenyans what to do with the road. The citizens will decide where to develop shopping areas, markets, tourist stops and other commercial activities. Even the British would agree, see how a temporary stop in the railway construction has turned to be sub Saharan Africa's most vibrant city.

All we ask is complete the fiber to the district project and stand back, we as Kenya's will do things on that fiber that no one on earth would have thought possible. Take the Digital Village funds and use them to this objective. Where, how, when, or who is not the governments responsibility leave us to do what we know best, being peculiar.

Robert Yawe

Bitange Ndemo on digital villages

someone sought to know more about dital villages. I thought this was a nice answer from Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo. Please read and know that you can also walk to his office.......

The digital village is the vehicle to not only take technology to rural Kenya but to create employment to our rural folks through a bouque of services. It is also a conduit for trickling down the wealth from urban to rural areas. I know you may be wondering how this can happen.

Take for example the Ministry of Planning that spends in the upwards of Ksh. 600 million to collect household data through cross sectional surveys. You will need one half of these resource to pay youth in all constituencies collecting actual data over a period (longitudinal survey).

When the data is collected throughout the country, it makes it much easier to plan. Te data is updated continuously and there you create employment to the data gatherers. At the same time these village centers can be used as points of sale (in which case you minimize the impact of
scratch cards on the environment at the same time cut cost). Or simply wananchi streaming rural videos and creating a rural IPTV.

Just imagine availing the computer and the connectivity to 35 million Kenyans. The chances of innovation shall be highly enhanced at the same time you open the whole world to these people. A few learned ones would offer swahili lessons to foreigners wanting to visit Kenya (at a cost of
course). Na hii ni maendeleo. 60% of the GDP is resident in Nairobi. It is very noble to spread this through to Kaspul Kabondo, to Chepalungu, to Imenti South, to to Sirisia, to Kitutu na kadhalika. This will be the best way of devolving from the center and in five years nobody will be complaing.

If you this concept is not clear yet, please see me on the 10th Floor of Teleposta Towers any time after the 26th of November.


Bitange Ndemo.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mobile phones providing excitement for rural folks

At the tiny Gaithuri river, Mama Wambui stands. She is down in her arrowroot farm but has to answer a call from another woman across the ridge. She is 34 and a mother of six. Am sure you know at what age she started giving birth and her challenges in the village, so i will not dwell on that.

One thing is that Mama Wambui did not go beyond class five, she dropped out and was married off, after all, she was an asset.

However, Mama Wambui has found herself a new territory, where she teaches other women how to operate their mobile phones. Checking credit and loading credit, Mama Wambui helps them all. She is a hero in Giathi village.

But on this day, there was a major challenge, one woman had received an SMS indicating that she has been entered into a draw and she could win shs 6,000. But the sight of the figures spured new excitement as they thought they had hit a minor jackpot.

There was excitement in the village as they summoned the most educated (mainly standard 8 drop outs) to interpret the message. They all focussed on the money, everyone thinking they had won.

It took time before they could get the right message. they had to wait until evening for one of the girls in a local day school to come and help out.

The excitement died down but one thing was clear, they say people are illiterate but when it comes to money, everyone notices the zeros.

For this village, it is certain that the little education comes along way, and that those who went to school feel very good. The mobile phone has given new relevance to the rural folks.

Beckyit featured in Adam magazine

When my friend Joy told me that my blog was featured in the November issue of adam magazine, i wondered what it was all about.

I had not read the new magazine and was curious to get hold of it. From the adverts, i thought the magazine would be the answer to the feminist magazines. I was wrong!

I found out that it was a balanced magazine with a "BlogIT" column that features good blogs, the bearable and the ugly.

This blog was found to be "bearable" coming second to www. which obviously is good.

I think its awesome that the magazine has such a column, i think it will raise the bar and improve how people run and maintain the various blogs.

I must admit its a challenge publishing posts and hoping that people read and leave comments but then they do not. But with these kind of comments, you know that people are reading even though they do not comment.

At this year's Highway Africa conference, other more prolific and notable bloggers like Vincent Maher, Ndesanjo Macha and Daudi Were spoke about challenges of attracting traffic. I knew i was not alone.

So, even if you do not leave a comment, your visit is appreciated.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Harry poses

I challenged him to make another pose better than this...


He was still protesting.


Am not sure what we were staring at...

A visionary

yes in deed.... Albanus Gituro

Cathy and Carol

They know how to pose, i could not get the photo i wanted..

Remembering high school

We were asked which was the best pose. Fatma is an alumni of Kamuchungwa-ini day and night secondary school and was there to show off...


James thought my job was lucrative and he decided to be the competition...

Am not talking to the press!!!

"My comment is no comment" she said.......

Technology and us

At meetings, it is important to keep in touch....

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

why the process?....4

It was important to build on the common interests, strengthen them, and harmonize the voices.

why the process?....3

The process was important for various stakeholders to identify the common foundation they share; to promote access to ICT in Kenya

why the process?....2

The process was necessary- to identify ways to strengthen the lonely voices..... recognize their competencies in the various fields and the contribution to overall goals...

why the process?....1

The process identified some of the lonely voices within ICT sector- in academia, civil society, government and private sector....

why the process??

The process was started to ensure that the network does not stand alone....

Discussing ICT strategies

others chose more friendlier settings within the lodge...

Beware of private roads

Only in such areas do you get such signs. if you defy, you may have an arrow planted in your rear part of the body. But we were not going to get into such trouble now that our mission was well defined.

Fear of Chomodori farm

The land housing the lodge borders with the Delamere farm and for the sake of my dear life, i thought it was better not to go further. i could only cast my eyes beyond the horizon. i cant recall his name, Chomoldley, Komodori, Chormodrey,....among a host of others....

Night skyline...

The skyline looked great at night......

Jumping over the fence

National Geographic tells us that people go for nature walks, so i decided to venture out. it was in the evening but i wondered why the management thought i can jump over the fence. Funny.....

Discussing ICT strategies

welcome to lake Elementaita lodge. you can see it has several activities but i was here to plan how to move ICT issues forward, and engage policy makers.

Now that they don't teach horse riding in the secondary school or college i went to, i wondered how to take part in such an activity.

Enjoy the photos....

Monday, October 08, 2007

Debating E.A Telecommunications harmonization

The East African Community, in its current form, was established as a partnership between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in 2001. Burundi and Rwanda joined the Community in 2007.

The purpose of the Community is "to widen and deepen economic, political, social and cultural integration in order to improve the quality of life of the people of East Africa through increased competitiveness, value added production, trade and investment." This includes a process of integration beginning with customs union (established in 2005), moving through the creation of a common/single market, then to monetary union and finally to political federation.

Harmonisation is crucial to this process. Harmonisation does not necessarily mean that arrangements in all three countries must be the same, but that they must work together in a way which promotes cooperation and cross-border trade, and which does not favour one country or its businesses/citizens over another. The EAC Strategic Plan proposes harmonisation in many areas of economic and other activity - from fiscal and trade policy to legal and judicial processes.

Harmonisation of policies and regulations relating to communications is also proposed within the EAC. Harmonisation was an important part of the development of a single market in communications within the European Union - in which communications businesses from any one country can compete on equal terms with those in any other country within the Union. The regulatory frameworks associated with harmonisation have been very important in liberalisation within the EU.

The study which David Souter is presently working on focuses on options for harmonisation of communications policy and regulation within the EAC. It is primarily (but not exclusively) concerned with telecommunications and with services that depend on telecommunications. At this stage, it is also primarily concerned with the three founder members of the EAC (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda).

Important questions raised by harmonisation include the following:

1. What differences are there at present between the communications markets in the different EAC countries? What effect do these have? What would be the effect of removing them?

2. What are the main problems with current policy and regulatory arrangements in each country - particularly where business development and consumer services are concerned?

3. What effect would the development of a single market in the EAC region have on communications businesses and on consumers? For example:
a. What would businesses be able to do that they cannot do at present?
b. What difference would it make to consumers?
c. Would it facilitate more transactions across national borders - in ICT and other sectors?
d. Would it lead to the development of more EAC-wide ICT businesses?

4. What are the main (economic, social, political) drivers for harmonisation of communications policy and regulation? What are the main constraints?

5. What priority issues need to be addressed in the first stage of harmonisation? (In other words, what major problems faced by businesses or consumers should be addressed first on a cross-border basis?)

6. Should arrangements for market structure and regulation eventually be the same in all EAC countries? If so, over what timescale? If not, why not?

7. What institutional arrangements would be appropriate for harmonising communications policy and regulation in the region? What would be the right timescale for doing this?


Information, youth, and the challenge of infertility

Tuesday is the day for the fertility clinic and the young women in the queue have all had a challenge getting pregnant. Most of them are young, and outwardly in great shape. Not a single one looks unhealthy, or malnourished. Their faces betray a profound melancholy, the only sign that anything is amiss.

I only find out why they were standing there when I get into a conversation with an older woman standing with them. The conversation turns to the subject of family-planning and she points at the women before launching into what is for me a detailed overview of the science of contraception. She explains that years of using family planning pills and injections has brought on something like an outbreak in the numbers of women who find themselves going through great difficulty conceiving.

So extensive is the problem that the district hospital has designated a day on which the affected women get to learn more about their condition and also share information with the doctors on what is in these numbers a recent phenomenon. Ironically, the clinics are set-up much in the style of the very family-planning clinics where women are brought together and taught the benefits of birth control programs.

"So when did the rain start beating us?" I asked.

She is quick to respond: "when we deserted our values and decided to pursue sex for pleasure. Chastity is no longer valued and the role of grandmothers and aunts is now only peripheral."

Upon reflection, I wonder at how true her sentiments ring. Graduating from high school now opens the doors to a period of carefree sexual adventures. More and more, the girls who restrain themselves are seen as backward and repressed.

The problem however, is that the very society that allows and encourages young girls to give themselves up to this passion, cannot accept in that girl the consequences of her freedom. So it is that the girl must be free to have sex as she pleases, but this must never lead to pregancies. Pregnancies would disrupt her education and career, the security and support of having a partner may be denied her and the social consequences of her pregnancy in our increasingly religious society will be hard to bear. The psychological burden of ostracisation and perhaps even rejection by her family, are added to by the financial burden of caring for a child in an economy with sky-high inflation and endemic unemployment. Deprived of the social security net of the past, pregnancy is for many young girls a terrible undertaking, one to be avoided at all costs.

And so it is that we start taking contraceptive pills very early on in life. This causes our hormones to adjust, and may lead to such problems as irregular periods or in extreme cases, to prolonged postponement of the menses. But this is just a small part of the problem. Contraceptives have been blamed in scientific studies for everything from lower bone densities, strokes, heart-attacks, increased incidences of cancers and blood clots to an increased susceptibility to venereal disease.

What further exacerbates an already messy situation is the fact that unlike other drugs, these contracptives are often taken in secret, without the careful attention and constant supervision of a physician. While many can and do get away with it, there are few who can claim to have enough information to make truly sound decisions.

The challenge therefore is to appreciate the dangers of contraception and the necessity of information in deciding what to use, in what quantities and for what periods. It is not enough to be able to access this over the internet, or to diagnose oneself on the basis of the musings of a random blogger. Like with most things, look hard before you leap.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

ICT acheivers awards.......

Dear African ICT Achievers Participant

Congratulations, you have been chosen as a African ICT Achievers Finalist in the following category : Excellence in ICT Journalism

Face-to-Face Adjudication will take place from 8 -12 October 2007, at ForgeAhead offices in Rivonia, Johannesburg, South Africa. Finalists who cannot attend the face-to-face interviews will have video- or telephonic conferencing with judges. At the interview sessions, the marketing department of ForgeAhead will conduct video interviews with all finalists for media purposes. Please ensure that you are available after your interview for the video interviews. A photographer will be at the interviews to take your photograph for the Commemorative Publication. All finalists profiles will be published in the Commemorative Publication. Please note if you will do a video- or telephonic interview you must supply ForgeAhead with a Hi-Res Photograph of yourself.

Below, the interview schedule for the different categories. Please ensure that you open your diary for the times indicated. The interview session will be 30 minutes and judges will use your CV submitted online and the criteria as a guideline for questions.

KPMG, official Auditors, and ForgeAhead Research Department might do follow-ups on information. Finalists will be announced to the media at the Finalist Breakfast on 16 November 2007. At this event, certificates signed by the Minister of the Department of Communications will be handed over to all finalists. ForgeAhead will invite all finalists to the event. Winners will be announced at the Banquet in November 2007. All finalists will receive formal invitations to the banquet. A trophy and certificate will be handed over by the sponsors of the category at the banquet. The Gala Banquet will take place 17 November 2007 at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa.

In 2008, ForgeAhead hosts a Golf Day for all partners and finalists. We will send a formal invitation to you to join us for a day of golf and to launch the 2008 programme. The Golf Day is scheduled for March 2008.

Please note that each Finalist is responsible for their own travel & accommodation expenses, unless other arrangements have been made.

Interview Schedule


09h00 - 10h30, Top ICT Company

10h50 - 12h20, Top ICT SMME

13h30 - 15h00, Most transformed ICT Company


09h00 - 10h30, Top ICT Workplace provider

10h50 - 12h20, Most Innovative ICT Company


09h00 - 10h30, Top Civil Society / NGO

10h50 - 12h20, Top Public sector CIO

13h30 - 15h00, Top Private sector CIO


09h00 - 10h30, Top ICT Business Woman

10h50 - 12h20, Top ICT Business Man

13h30 - 15h00, Top ICT Educator


09h00 - 10h30, Top ICT Youth Innovator

10h50 - 12h20, Top ICT Young Entrepreneur

13h30 - 15h00, Excellence in Journalism

Kind Regards

Shirley Jacobs | Events Manager | ForgeAhead

Friday, September 21, 2007

I have just realised politics is messy

Funny how politics can get messy. i have realised that no matter what any government does, there will always be the opposition, and its mission will be to trash what any government has done.
i wish we can shift to better issues.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

final one

the evening was good...

the band again

the song Nisixoshelani from the latest album

At high street

now you get to see Rose better...

With the Nigerian Bishop

With Johnah Iboma. The church he goes to worship has about 1 million members, his church has an auditorium that can house 100,000 people.

But he says he has not been active in the church choir because he is busy in his office at the Punch newspapers.

Last year he won an award at the annual HA awards

And we got down to business...

With Angela(Uganda) and Henrie (seychelles)

more songs

the band continued with the hits

pop duo -Mafikizolo woowed the crowd

you know the song Ndihamba Nawe.... its a famous song. the group led the dance.

@ the awards dinner....

With Timoth Kasolo, from Zambia. Clearly, Rose Nzioka did not want to be in the picture but you can see her anyway........

one of the interesting pix

just came accross one of the pix from Brazil.
it is the adverts they use on cigarret packs, to let you know the disadvantages of smoking.

i thought it was a good way of communicating, though it does not necessarily stop people from smoking.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Newspaper columnists are dinosaur bloggers- Maher

By Rebecca Wanjiku and Mantsha Nkayi

The blurred lines that differentiate blogging and journalism were exposed yesterday, at a discussion on whether bloggers are columnists or columnists are bloggers.

The discussion was spiced up by the presence of Freddy Khumalo, a columnist who thinks bloggers are not necessarily journalists/columnists and Vincent Maher, who is of the opinion that newspaper columnists are “dinosaur bloggers.”

One of the lingering questions was; who do bloggers speak to and who is their audience?

Khumalo took the opportunity to trash some bloggers as mere diarists who do not follow any code of conduct. He argued that some blogs are dedicated to pets and may not make much sense; however, he admitted that some blogs contain important and informative material.

“When am writing a column, I have to take time to consider the impact of what am writing about and whether it has been said before and under what context. With the blog, it is easy, and there are no such considerations because there is no code of conduct,” said Khumalo.

But Maher a former head of the New Media Lab at Rhodes University argued that bloggers have filled in a space that was not previously addressed by the mainstream media.

He was supported by journalism trainer, Roland Stanbridge who added that 50 per cent of the women in the Middle East are blogging and addressing issues considered as taboo and not addressed in mainstream media.

“Blogs are giving people voices, whether it is eroding morality in society is not the issue, it is a place for the people to air what they feel. Maybe the people want a change to such standards of morality,” said Maher.

While supporting the argument that newspaper columnists are dinosaur bloggers, Maher invited participants to evaluate the development of communication from newsletters to newspapers and to letters to the editor-through snail mail.

He argued that blogs give an opportunity for feedback and connection with the communities, which is vital for any media organisation, and he also mentions that blogs are personal web pages.

But the main question that was not satisfactorily answered in the discussion was: given the challenges of technology and information penetration in Africa, can one claim to be blogging for the public while they have no access to internet or computers? Is blogging elitist?

Highway Africa turns 11

Part of the crowd at Highway Africa conference opening ceremony in Grahamstown.

holiday homes??

ever heard of those holiday homes? they are plenty in PE

view from above

Port Elizabeth coast line, from above.

Malawi, Zambia and Mauritius win inaugural gender and HIV/AIDs awards

By Rebecca Wanjiku
Malawi, Zambia and Mauritius yesterday won the inaugural gender and HIV/AIDs awards, in recognition of their exemplary work place policies.

The awards were judged through peer review and targeted 218 newsrooms in the southern Africa region.

Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) won the HIV/AIDs category; Times of Zambia was runners up. In the gender policy category, Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) scooped top honours while the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation took the runners up position.

Organised by Gender Links and several regional organisations, the awards sought to initiate a process where the media houses in the region will develop and implement policies and commit resources to implement them.

“We all know that the media has not produced gender and HIV/AIDs policies. But how do you change an institution without putting your neck on the line? The awards seek to recognise media houses in the region willing to sacrifice and implement such policies,” said Colleen Lowe Morna, head of Gender Links.

While citing scanty statistics of HIV/AIDs reportage in the media, Morna added that the awards are critical in showing other media houses in the region how to implement their policies and improve the quality and quantity of stories.

The awards were organised in conjunction with the Sol Plaatje leadership Institute which is dedicated to training media managers in Africa .

“We would have liked more entries and we hope to receive more last year. It was inspiring to see that most applicants also presented the actual policies and implementation plans, which validated their claims,” said Francis Mdlongwa, head of the institute.

The awards are targeting 80 per cent of Southern Africa newsrooms by 2008 and it is hoped that reporting of gender and HIV/AIDs issues will also improve. It is also projected that more media houses will implement policies to support national, regional and international legal instruments.

Speaking on behalf of the judging panel Mdlongwa said the winners, had committed resources to ensure that policies were understood and complemented through a series of policies. In Mauritius , it was noted that MBC had appointed a gender coordinator who made monthly reports to the head of MBC.

The award ceremony was spiced up by music from Nia band, which embodied the true spirit of Africa with representatives from Kenya , Zambia and South Africa . Participants were treated to songs in Swahili, Xhosa and English.

As the ceremony drew to a close, Morna encouraged participants to dance to the famous song “Vulindlela” which is Xhosa for “open the way”. The song was sung by the late South African musician Brenda Fassie.

The song was symbolic for the winners, expected to open or lead the way for other regional media houses.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Rural stories remain untold

By Rebecca Wanjiku

Africa’s best stories remain untold, because journalists and bloggers have concentrated in urban areas and neglected rural areas, said Tanzanian journalist Ansbert Ngurumo.

Presenting at the Digital Citizens Indaba, Ngurumo indicted journalists and bloggers for the insufficient content of African stories on the internet.

“The stories have to cover the feelings and aspirations of people. Most of the stories cultural, social and political are in the rural areas. These rural people are isolated because they have no access to the technology and if they do, they may not be able to blog or publish their stories,” Ngurumo added.

With journalists, he said they concentrate in town centres because that is where there is technology to transmit the stories meaning that most stories told are from the urban centres and occasionally from the rural areas.

In developing local content, Ngurumo argued Africans have to develop the civic will to blog more because “it does not take political will to start and maintain a blog”. Ngurumo told the Indaba that Africa has to “villagize” the internet and make sure that people in the rural areas blog, podcast and tell their stories to the world.

Speaking about lack of a critical mass of African languages on the internet, Ngurumo said he chose to blog in Swahili because that is the language he knows best and is spoken by about 100 million people in east, central and parts of southern Africa.

“Why would I want to blog in English yet 100 million Africans communicate in Swahili?” asked

Through his blog- , he was able to reach several people mostly from Tanzania where Swahili is the national language. The comments on the blog, he says, have been used to gauge the political and social temperatures. For instance, he said he had been forced to delete certain posts after readers complained about them.


Negative images- Africa complained, the west has responded

By Rebecca Wanjiku

The longest and loudest complaint by African leaders is that western media portrays Africa as desperate and hopeless, the west has now responded.

The complaints have been directed to the global media houses such as CNN, BBC, AP, AFP and Reuters accused of only covering civil wars, hunger, corruption and deprivation in Africa- these are form the bulk of African content on the internet.

Well, the response does not come from the big media, but from a group of Dutch journalists who felt the situation should change and started a website- is a website dedicated to Africans to tell their stories to the world without any inhibitions. The website is targeting politics, social as well as the economic challenges and successes in the continent.

The stories, photographs and video are uploaded to the site and have reached audiences in Europe, America, Australia, Asia and Africa. This is calculated to improve on variety and content of stories available of the internet.

According to Elles van Gelder, the South African representative, the website has received critical acclaim and is hoping to recruit journalists and bloggers from every African country.

“Why should western media fly in journalists while there are local journalists willing to tell the stories? We tap the talent, train them, and they become better writers, photographers and can take good videos,” said van Gelder.

The organisation has started a pilot project for reporting using state of the art mobile phones that can shoot video and upload to the website. This project will be tested during the general elections in Kenya, scheduled for December this year.

To establish the reliability of mobile phones in reporting Van Gelder said a group of Dutch students will embark on an Africa-wide trip, testing the mobile phones and the challenges faced.

This, van Gelder added, will help improve the quality of African content available on the internet, and the stories that come from the continent.

welcome to 11th edition of Highway Africa

welcome to another edition of HA conference.

many speeches, book launches, trainings and the blogging Indaba. keep visiting for updates.

will also try to review some books.


Monday, September 03, 2007

life truly begins at 40

for Edith Masai, this statement is a reality. at 40, the kenyan finished 8th at the just concluded IAAF Osaka athletics meet.

she is a true revelation, started competing at the mature age of 32, silencing those who say that one must start running in childhood. i recall reading a past interview on Ndereba saying how in her youth, running was not so much in her mind but she took it up later, after attending the prisons training college.

so, watching the women in Osaka yesterday, i felt so proud to be kenyan. it was just phenomenal. i must admit that the women's team did well at this event. i hope it gets better.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The young cheats of UON

For those who passed through University of Nairobi and registered at the department of Political Science, you must know Prof. Phillip Nying’uro.

For those who don’t, Nying’uro is proud and arrogant to be a lecturer, he will not shy away from letting you know he has a PhD and has gone to school for all those years. He goes on to tell you how in their day, they used to read and would still get any supplementary.

While at it, he laments how the parallel program has produced still born who don’t read, rely only on notes, are in a hurry to finish their courses and most of all, rely on their notes and still do not get any supplementary.

He claims that students rush to the sociology and communication departments because they get to “harvest A’s”.
If arguing on emotions, one may attack the prof. as being arrogant, conceited, egocentric, and a host of other adjectives you can come up with.

But evaluated soberly, his concerns are very valid. None of the students I talked to, disputed his arguments about time spent in the library and the fact that the departments in question give “good or better grades.”

That may be a better story to defend, talk about exams.

A friend of mine found herself to the subject of giggling, immature girls when she reported to the lecturer that they were copying exams and in the process adulterating her grades.

The girls were pointing at her because she had asked the lecturer to be more vigilant to the students who were distracting the class because they were bus turning pages. They thought she was hostile to their “good grades”.

The girls and boys were busy turning pages and asking each other “ni hii? Apana sio hiyo,” while dabbing in an exam. The students were so thick that they don’t even know their exercise books very well.

But the UON administration is to blame, there were about 80 students crammed in the stuffy Science 1 lab. It was so squeezed that the students could easily read each other’s answer papers.

And the lecturer kept on walking in and out of the exam room. It is understandable if some students feel cheated.

You would be shocked that in most cases, the students who carry “mwakenya” to the examination room are not the older working students. In most cases they are the young 19, 20-year-olds, who are dropped to school by their parents at 8 am and leave at night.

One has to wonder, if you have all the time, why cheat. The answer is simple, they have no clue, most of them. There are some who have a hung of things, but other, can even cram for you the whole book and reproduce it if need be.

One girl, known for dabbing, wondered why people have a problem. “Kama mtu hataki ku-dab si akae,” she said.

You may also ask a similar question and add that in some universities in the west, students are given exams to do overnight and deliver in the morning. So why do we feel bad when they cram or dab.

In my opinion, I think the parallel program is a good idea, and I am not saying that regular students don’t dap, they do.

The university suspends students guilty of examination irregularities, but this has to be accompanied by other measures like making sure that the examination environment is conducive.

More than that, I think the parallel programme should have an age limit, admit students who are beyond 25 so that they can have a level of maturity.

The opinions are varied. Bring them on!!!!


CTO Forum talks rural connectivity- but to who?

Last week, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) held a forum in Nairobi to examine solutions to Africa’s rural connectivity in Africa.

It is argued that about 80% of the continent’s population has no access to internet or telephone. Egypt and South Africa have the best penetration in Africa. The CTO said in the conference promo that this will take a giant leap forward when ministers, regulators, operating company executives and high-level officials from various development partner agencies converge at the meeting.

But the event, hosted by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), failed to provide a forum where all stakeholders could meet and hold discussions of research findings, policy options, regulatory strategies, business models, financing and investment facilities, available technologies and public-private-people-partnerships that could enable improvement in African rural connectivity.

Though the topic was on rural connectivity, the shs 40,000 entrance fee was not meant to bring in the rural folks. How many rural folks make the shs 40,000 in a month forget about saving that much for entrance fees.

When I raised this issue with one of the CTO organizers, he argued that the London based outfit needed the money so that it can redistribute to all areas it operates in.

But my argument is, we needed the rural market women and men to come and share how their lives had changed after they started using mobile phones, how it has helped save time and how the internet can revolutionalise the way they do business.

At such a meeting, you would expect the brokers who get cabbages and potatoes from Kinangop to come and share how they no longer have to take trips to the farms, they just make a call and the goods are loaded and delivered in Nairobi. How the instructions can change or be clarified by just making a phone call.

However, these stories can not be told, because they don’t have the requisite entrance fees, the event was left to top level government, civil society and private sector officials who can pay that amount.

The event was therefore punctuated by the same statistics and papers that had been presented in other events and all that was changed was the date and title of the conference.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

When commercial interests take precedence

Last week, the media fraternity united, journalists, editors, photojournalists and took to the streets in protest against the media bill.

It was a first- even during Moi days the media never took to the streets. They may have protested, but never before have journalists and their bosses united that well.

It had been decided that on that day, all newspapers would carry blank from pages without headlines. The electronic media would also not air news. This was expected to make a statement to the public on the role of media.

But this plan was defeated by competing commercial interests with some entities claiming that they may not make as much money if such steps were taken.

It may also be argued that admissions by Wako and Kagwe that they are ready to advice the president to shelve the bill may have taken the steam off the elaborate plans.

But it remains to be seen whether commercial interests can be sacrificed for the sake of common good.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Julie Gichuru does the job

Julie reads the petitio......

more colours.....

a close up ......

showing the real colours

showing the real colours.
no one was talking, afterall, they are expected to be silent....

muzzled press

they came with all their tools of trade...

journalists' demo

it is only times like these that one can tell how many journalists in kenya. for once, we rallied to our cause.
it was historic, never before have journalists taken to the streets.
today, editors, writers, photojournalists took to the streets..

from the silent demo

dressed in a variety of colours and covering their mouths, kenyan media practitioners matched throught the streets of Nairobi, protestitng aganist the media bill. The colours also represented the diversity of the electronic and print media present at the demo.

the early morning march was well attended by all journalists from all media houses. they carried their tools of trade.
Julie Gichuru read the petition at the state law office. the gates were locked and the journalists could only speak from outside.

i think the public is right when it accuses the media of being selfish. just google the hulla balloo about the media bill and you will see the number of pages coming up.
the media went on with the silent demo as a way of making a point to the government.
off course the media was there to cover itself.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wako deflates planned silent demo by the media

Kenyan journalists were scheduled for a silent demo on Wednesday 15th August and present a petition to Attorney General Amos Wako, urging him to advice the president to shelve the controversial clause 38 of the bill.
Because it’s only the president who can rescue the situation, the journalists wrote a letter to the AG asking him to expect them.
But the ever smiling Wako scuttled the demo by announcing that he will be advising the president to shelve the bill. At the same time, Wako is said to have called the bosses at media houses urging them to call off the demo. Sources indicated that the government was getting scared because in Moi days, there was no journalists’ demo whether silent or loud.
The problem with the clause is that like now where I talk about sources, I would have to reveal the source of my info. There is nothing wrong with that except that it is very ambiguous and can easily be misused. Meanwhile, here is Dr. Ndemo’s take on news about the demo…..

I did not want to comment on the Demo but I think the public is being misled here. What is the reasoning behind the Demo when the Government has made it clear that the issue shall be looked at? We delivered on all promises we made to the stakeholders and those who bothered to read and seek dialog.
I think by resorting into mob psychology you risk eroding the confidence and trust that we have built over the past view years.Since we have another bill coming, I have decided to present the lessons learnt (attached) from the Media Bill to avoid such situation in the ICT Bill. It is important that we all understand the legislative process in Kenya and it is only by making decisions based on knowledge that we can develop a civilized nation.
Bitange Ndemo.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Reality of Kenyan journalism

Patrick Kariuki Muiruri is known for many things, the fiery Gatundu North legislator has been implicated in tea and coffee wars in his area, does not shy away from confrontations and most of all, “tells things as they are.”

So, when PK said how poor journalists are, and that they survive on hand outs, he found some support from some parliamentary reporters.

“It’s the truth and people don’t like admitting the reality, for once, I support PK,” said one parliamentary reporter.

I decided to engage the journalist because it is the only way to know the way they feel. After all, it can be assumed PK was making reference to journalists based on his experience with them.

Journalists in Kenya are heavily vilified for being lazy, poorly read and surviving on hand outs.

Yes! It is true!

Sample this, a correspondent from the Nation or Standard earns a retainer of shs 15,000 and the rest is calculated on contributions. The possibility of making shs 30,000 a month is tough for some.

What correspondents earn in these two papers is what most staffers earn at the People daily and Kenya Times that is- shs 30,000.

This means that if the journalist has a family, they can only live in Kayole, Mathare North and Kawangware. There is nothing wrong in staying in these areas but bear in mind that the same criminals you expect the journalists to write about rule these areas.

So, there sets in greed, we all want to live beyond our means. But who is to blame, the journalists or the media owners who pay poorly?

The other reason is that journalists mix with the movers and shakers of the economy, some of the, can only buy beer, not even food. The politicians and businessmen exploit the poverty loophole to use the journalists in the dirty games.

Journalists are also guilty of agreeing to be used.

For instance, journalists in rural areas, they have no official vehicles, have to use politicians’ cars to the function. If not the politicians’ cars, they use the DC or DO’s car. How do you expect a journalist who was given a ride from Mathioya to somewhere interior to report negative issues about the people giving a ride?

There was this story of how some coast legislator kicked out a journalist from his vehicle because he had dared to contradict him. Unfortunately the journalist was left in the middle of the forest.

So yes, journalists may be a shame, but is that not the story of our society?

That is why it borders on immorality for a Kenyan journalist based abroad to hold themselves in their high horses and castigate Kenyan journalism (one actually did, and his comment was ill informed.)

The conditions are different, they are tough, just like that civil servant has to withstand staying in Ruai yet expected to report to work at 8 am, and journalists too have their excesses and vices.

By the way, you will be shocked that when it comes to handouts, the journalists in Nation and Standard get higher share because the newspapers are highly read. The other journalists get lesser handouts.

We can lie to each other about journalism and single it out as the most corrupt but it may be a reflection of corruption in society. And as such there are very honest journalists who I know will not take your handout, it doesn’t matter the source.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Of journalists, and corruption….

When a friend of mine sent a scathing SMS castigating a fellow journalist, I was offended. He had advised me to urge my colleague “to go to hell”.

I was offended because I expected more from a lawyer I had grown to respect, I thought he had better skills to deal with it than to splash mud on everyone. He complained of bad faith and malice, demonstrated by a cartoon in the newspaper.

But the core of my friend’s complaint was what he described as chronic corruption within journalism. He felt that the journalists who write or publish negative things are the same ones who queue for handouts.

This is an old saying, has been told over generations. Even the meanest of characters, who can’t even afford to buy a drink for anybody, shout themselves dead when speaking about corrupt journalists.

I am not overly impartial in this, because my opinion has always been- it takes two to be corrupt. Can anyone who gives money or other favors to journalists claim to be righteous?

The main question: do the journalists hold a gun to anyone demanding money?

This question was underscored by the Members of Parliament who claimed the only reason for passing the media bill is because the journalists are corrupt and survive on hand outs.

It was argued that it is fair to pass the controversial media bill that will force journalists to reveal sources,” because journalists are corrupt”. It was even said that journalists are always seen walking to parliament. How right!

The question of corruption is controversial, because the journalists threaten to publish malicious details. But there are other mechanisms for redress can sue or officially complain.

can journos champion their cause??

am just watching news about the civil society protesting about the media bill. am just wondering whether they have the basis to protest about the bill. where are the journalists to champion their cause?
apparently few practicing journalists take to the streets, leaving it to media owners to do the job....

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Erratic power, changing bills

“There is a problem with my bill, it’s too high!!” Mary said to the Kenya Power and Lighting Company cashier across the counter.

“You tell me, you are the one using the power, not me,” the cashier responded.

Mary had no choice than to pay the shs 2000 bill. Failure to pay would have meant disconnection, and reconnection procedures are a story for another day.

It was shocking for Mary, a single mother of three to receive that bill, because her bill for the last two years had been shs 150 or at most sh 200.

One can assume that Mary was justified to seek explanation for the drastic change in her bill. She wondered how she would have consumed all that power with the light bulb and the transistor radio.

But her story applies to so many Kenyans whose bills are inflated once in a while. KPLC argues that some meters are interfered with and once the interference is detected, the bills can be backdated.

With interference, the consumer gets a jua kali electrician to ensure that one consumes a lot but pays less. For instance, you can find a block of flats with all sorts of electrical appliances yet the bill is minimal.

There was a time Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) talked about selling power “pay as you use” like the scratch cards. Maybe that would have been a better idea, so that we can control what we use.

Tanzania has made good progress with LUKU- Lipa Umeme Kadri Utumiavyo- and it has been argued that LUKU minimizes the interference. But I knew friends who had interfered with the power

KPLC has been promoting the Umeme Pamoja, program, to connect more homes at minimal costs. But with the erratic blackouts and talk of power shortages, maybe KPLC should address some of these problems before connecting more.

Of course I am in support of more connections so that we can all share the light but are there things that KPLC can do better and improve the quality of their services.

CDMA- the future of communication

Written by Rebecca Wanjiku

Considering just how good the news seems, it is astounding just how poorly the messengers are telling it. The drastic discounts and improved product that Telkom Kenya has put on the market may well represent a revolution.

If this was Celtel or Telkom's prettier cousin Safaricom, Nairobi and the countryside would have been swooning in a deluge of colours and a cacophony of promotions, but this is Telkom Kenya even in 2007.

The most noise we have heard about the new service has been from the company's competitors, and specifically Celtel who are feeling increasingly like the third wheel in the love fest that is Kenya's mobile phone industry. With a market estimated at 9 million subscribers, 2.2 million of whose are Celtel's, the colossal profits should be a sufficient palliative even as Celtel await the adjudication of the Communications Commission (CCK). Celtel's complaint has been that the national fixed line operator does not have the unified licence that would allow it to operate both fixed lines and mobile networks. It also complains about Telkom's exemption from the 10% excise duty and the fact that it did not suffer the Ksh. 55 million that Celtel did on entry into the market. Telkom counters that it does indeed have such licences, being as it was in the market long before the invention of Celtel and Safaricom, but also that its service is not mobile but merely a fixed service with portable handsets.

As the CCK mulls over the issue, Director Waweru has in the past made statements that would seem to confirm Telkom's self-assessment, Celtel - who are bringing their world headquarters to Nairobi from the Netherlands and Safaricom- East Africa's fattest fat cat, would do well to consider just how lucky they are that Telkom Kenya are such poor marketers.

Telkom's CDMA technology ,which allows its subscribers to make landline calls as though they were cell phone calls, gets as cheap as 5/- a minute for inter-network calls) on some tarrifs, a world of difference from the 8/- which is Safaricom's cheapest per minute rate. This 5/- rate is for preferrred numbers, with other calls from a Telkom wireless number to another going at 5/50 a minute. SMS is dispensed at 2/50 again a big difference from the 3/50 t0 5/- range that dominates the market. For those with eager thumbs, this is a godsend as the 2/50 is only available in Safaricom's Saasa tarrif at off-peak hours. Telkom even have a tarrif, the aptly named Furaha that allows you to call any network, anytime, at a flat rate of 14/-. In addition, and this is perhaps what is fuelling the rage at the mobile phone operators, the Telkom charges do not depend on geographical proximity as is the case with ordinary landlines. Whether a call is connected between Mandera and Isebania, or Lodwar and Vanga the charges remain constant.

The new Telkom service, built on CDMA technology is key to a future where fixed line companies will see their copper-networks rendered obsolete by advances in technology. Further, the CDMA technologies are vital to a future where consumers will use their phones for more than just phone calls and text messages. In this exciting new world, with intensive internet browsing, games, music and movie downloads, streaming and other bandwidth hungry services in high demand, CDMA will finally triumph over the GSM technology that both Celtel and Safaricom are built on. So it is not just It is not just low prices that come with Telkom. The CDMA network is superior for data transfer with nominal maximum download speeds of about 2 MB. The normal speeds are somewhere in the region of 700 Kbps which is still much higher than you can hope to achieve on a GSM phone. CDMA consistently provides better capacity for voice and data communications than other commercial mobile technologies, allowing more subscribers to connect at any given time, and it is the common platform on which 3G technologies - which allow the use of data, video and voice at the same time-are built.

The technology which is the basis of the networks in South Korea and Japan's advanced status, is described as a "spread spectrum" technology, allowing many users to occupy the same time and frequency allocations in a given band/space. It assigns unique codes to each communication to differentiate it from others in the same spectrum, or as a smart one on Wikipedia put it

As a trivial comparison imagine a cocktail party, where couples are talking to each other in a single room. The room represents the available bandwidth. In GSM, a speaker takes turns talking to a listener. The speaker talks for a short time and then stops to let another pair talk. There is never more than one speaker talking in the room, no one has to worry about two conversations mixing. In CDMA, any speaker can talk at any time; however each uses a different language. Each listener can only understand the language of their partner. As more and more couples talk, the background noise (representing the noise floor) gets louder, but because of the difference in languages, conversations do not mix.

The future then is bright for the Kenyan consumer. In the ensuing price wars, we cn fantasise about improved services and maybe even free talktime, free sms and other such services. The religious can also seek intercessionary aid on the matter of cell phone prices. The CDMA handsets are currently retailing for as little as Ksh 4,000 although these are really rudimentary, lacking many of the little conveniences that GSM phones had made us accsutomed to.

As regards tarrifs, already, if you are brave enough, Celtel's Mambo 6 service allows you to speak for as little as 6/- between 11.00pm and 5.00am. On its Uhuru Umoja tarrif, you can go for a 16/- flat rate. On Safaricom's Super Taifa, after an initial two minutes charged at 20/- each, one can enjoy a pleasing 10/- per minute flat rateBoth mobile phone providers are also keen to boost up their GSM, and have launched EDGE services especially with a view to boosting GPRS speeds.

Outside Kenya? You can now get far more minutes on your calls home if the other end is a Telkom wireless one. The minutes on your calling card will double or even triple, and you needn't wait for the evening to call the house anymore.