Thursday, June 28, 2007

kenya using wireless 5000 years ago

A laugh from wainaina Mungai

After digging to a depth of 100 meters last year, Russian
scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 1000
years, and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already
had a telephone network one thousand years ago.

So, not to be outdone, in the weeks that followed, American
scientists dug 200 meters and headlines in the US papers
read: " US scientists have found traces of 2000 year old
optical fibers, and have concluded that their ancestors
already had advanced high-tech digital telephone 1000 years
earlier than the Russians."

One week later, the Ken yan newspapers proudly reported the

"After digging as deep as 500 meters, Ken yan scientists
have found absolutely nothing. They have concluded that 5000
years ago, their ancestors were already using wireless

Na ndio maana najivunia kuwa Mkenya!!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


My grandmother has always been a drama queen. if insearch of a divergent opinion, she is the best candidate.

so, when three of her grand kids sought her opinion on ICT, all answers were expected.

Of course we did not tell her about ICT, we broke it down. Like a mobile phone. My brother suggested she would buy her a phone so that they can communicate easily.

The answer was no!

“Ndikwenda gacheneneki,” translated to- I am not interested in the loud mouthed. “Gacheneneki” would ordinarily refer to a person who is jumpy and loud, all with negative connotations.

For the old lady, all the people in the village suddenly become loud mouthed once they own the cell phone.

Justifiably so- they all wan to demonstrate they have embraced the information age.

She continues to give examples of how people share their information in public because they talk so loudly.

However, she does not admit that the only reason why she goes to the local mini market is not to sell her wares but to pursue her hobby of finding out how everyone is doing and the developments in their lives.

Amid the drama and idle talk, my grandma explains to my bro that the only reason he would buy her the “gacheneneki” is to make sure that he defaults on his monthly visits.

“The phone does not mean much, I need to see you and talk to you,” the 80 year old iron lady says.

As she eloquently speaking about politics and social affairs, we sought to know why she gladly accepts a new transistor radio and not the phone.

She argues that with the radio, she can listen to the news and other topical issues. After all, the kikuyu plays tickle her and take away the boredom.

As we go through the motions of the uses of a computer and how it makes things easy…blab la bla.

She makes it clear that we can save the crap for another day, arguing that all the talk was just a euphemism for departing from our customs and obligations.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Is Africa a dump for electronic waste?

The recent push for computerization in Africa has come with new challenges of dumping which has posed environmental hazards in many African countries.

Pictures of computer dumpsites in Nigeria have arrayed fears that western countries are using Africa as dumping ground for obsolete computers in the name of computer donations.

At the just concluded e-learning Africa conference, the theme of collaboration was underscored and computer donations were at the heart of it.

Tony Roberts, the Chief Executive Officer and founder of Computer Aid, sees the question of e-waste from a more generalized view.

“People need to be asked and challenged about electronic waste, its not only computers, the mobile phone we use will one day need to be disposed, the hi fi system, the TV at home, will have to be disposed at one point,” says Roberts.

According to Roberts, the world has now consumed more than a billion PCs, a billion mobiles and a billion TVs, which need to be disposed in an environmentally friendly way.

Without underrating the environmental concerns, Roberts says the images from Nigeria and china is all about greed. Some companies in the west are said to promote such kind of dumping to avoid costs of recycling and purchase of computer components.

The major metals use in computer manufacture are gold, silver, platinum, and copper, and their costs are up the roof, making recovery of such metals a booming business in most developing countries.

Instead of breaking the components and recycling as required, Roberts says most companies engaging in such dumping do not care about recycling or environmental concerns posed by such activities.

Though the costs are high, most countries in the European Union especially the Scandinavia have invested in recycling plants that are environmental friendly. But some countries like Britain are yet to invest in such measures.

So, for the computers that are donated but do not meet the minimum required standard set by Computer Aid; they are shipped to Germany and Holland for recycling. The charity meets the costs of recycling.

“We ensure that all the computers we get are in proper conditions, for anyone to use. We donate P3 and P4s which are professionally evaluated before shipping,” says Roberts.

Gladys Muhunyo, the Africa programme manager at Computer Aid says the charity is concerned with improving people’s livelihood and not harming them.

Locally, Muhunyo says there is a recycling project at Computer for Schools Kenya, one of the major computer recipients from the charity.

“Computers are improving lives of people and businesses. That’s an advantage and the challenge is designing ways to recycle them at an affordable and environmental friendly way,” says Muhunyo.

However, Muhunyo insisted that the issue of e-waste does not relate to refurbished computers only but also new computers which at one point will need to be disposed in an environmental friendly way.

She calls for concerted efforts between communities, governments and organizations in designing innovative and cost effective ways to recycle the electronic products.


A decade of providing computers in Africa

When Tony Roberts and two colleagues came up with the idea of assisting communities in less developed countries with computers, the idea was termed as “crazy”.

Roberts and his colleagues never gave up! They started Computer Aid, a UK based charity that refurbishes computers and ships them to various communities in the world.

This year, the charity celebrates a decade with an aim of surpassing the 100,000 computers’ mark. To date, Computer Aid has provided about 90,000 computers to various organizations, 75 per cent of them in Africa, and the numbers are rising by the day.

“It’s a good way to celebrate our 10th anniversary. Back then, the idea was termed as crazy but today, that question is not open for discussion,” said Roberts.

At first, Computer Aid worked with major international organizations such as Action Aid and Oxfam where they identified community organizations in need of computers and worked together to make it happen.

To make it easier, Roberts says the charity posted an application form on their website where the non governmental organizations were expected to fill and update on the number of computers needed.

“We not only received feedback from our partner organizations but other people surfing stumbled on our site and expressed interest. We received applications from organizations working in sanitation, education, health, among many other fields,” says Roberts.

According to Roberts, the various organizations wanted to introduce computers but lacked the money to buy new computers and even where they had the money to buy, they felt a need to make savings.

Because Computer Aid could not meet the overwhelming demand, Roberts says communities were urged to meet the costs of refurbishing and shipping, which still ends up being cheap.

From humble beginnings, Computer Aid has now provided 75 per cent of the 90,000 computers to African schools, colleges, hospitals, among other community based projects.

Asked about community response, Roberts says communities have mobilized resources and applied for computers, as well as government institutions.

Rwanda government has been at the forefront of embracing computers. Indeed, the Ministry of Health in the central African nation has deployed 500 computers in the national referral hospital, and is pushing digitization to the districts hospitals and local level.

At the just concluded E-learning Africa conference, Roberts met with government ministers from Uganda, Zambia and Madagascar who all expressed interest to continue the partnership.

In Madagascar, the minister requested 26000 computers in five years, which translates to about 6,000 computers annually; a task Roberts says is easy.

“We have hit such numbers before Computer Aid provided 6000 computers in Chile annually during their computerization programme,” said Roberts.

Whilst Roberts insists that the response has been good, he cites other challenges such as training of users and servicing of the computers once deployed.

“Supply is one part, training teachers, providing installations and rolling out the ICT curriculum is another part that requires concerted efforts between governments and communities to work together,” he adds.

The policy framework in African countries has also been problematic but more countries are formulating policies to guide the rolling out and implementation of ICT projects. In Kenya, the government has published the Kenya Communications (amendment) bills and is expected to b e debated in parliament soon.

With donations to over 100 countries, Roberts has helped communities achieve the dream of having computers and making their work easier.

“I could see in my own country (UK) computers benefit schools, hospitals, and in economic and trade. The EU has successfully built its economy on ICT for 15 years and I wanted that to happen in other parts of the world,” says Roberts, with a look of satisfaction on his face.

But for Roberts, the real satisfaction is in hearing the story of James Muthoka, a farmer in Machakos who has used computer generated metrological analysis to determine what crop to plant and make a bumper harvest or the ministry of health official who is able to map the patterns of the malaria carrying mosquitoes and advise residents accordingly.

His satisfaction is also reflected in the faces of students and teachers who are able to access computers in their schools.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ever been a witness in court?

It is known that most people in Kenya approach the courts with fear and trepidation. A visit to the court reduces even mighty men.

Lawyers, magistrates and judges have contributed to this image. They ask a barrage of questions that can confuse even sharp minds.

Lawyers bank on their ability to confuse and harass in order to get answers.

For instance I was listening to a case where one of those mean looking directors was on the stand. He heads a big company and to cap it all, he is white.

So with a mastery of English, the witness had managed to evade all questions by the lawyer until he (the lawyer) asked; so you are a conniving fraudster?

The witness turned red, was seething with anger and said all the things he was trying to hide.

So, the lawyer might be bad and hated, but he won the day for his client.

Then there are these other lawyers who ask the same question ten times or ask a long convoluted question that leaves the witness dazed and saying all contradictory things.

There was this guy, he came to court claiming he was a manager and was speaking very good English. At one point, he forgot his English and asked for an interpreter in his mother tongue, he no longer understood or maybe he chose to be stubborn.

I guess with a magistrate, a bad cross examining lawyer and a court full of eyes staring at you is a proper recipe for fear.

Woe unto you if you in the rural courts!

But there is a slaying ground for lawyers; it’s called the court of appeal. In that court, the appellate judges ask questions before you start talking. Only the toughest lawyers survive.

That is why they hire the lead counsel.

Monday, June 18, 2007

what Koch Fm needs........

when power goes, the radio goes off air....

inspired by a pirate radio in Brazil, Koch Fm started operation as a pirate radio two years ago. last year, the radio got a licence to operate within 2km radius in Korogocho slums.

just like many other sectors that depend on the erratic power, the station is in need of a generator.
the volunteers have raised money and bought a generator but have not installed it. a company profile with the history and programs will be availed,

here is the breakdown of what is needed.

1 piece 3 safe automatic change over = 80,000
24 metres , 10mm twin width earth @140 = 3,360
4 piece roll bolts 8mm @130 each = 520
1 piece concrete earth dip @2000 =2000
1 piece earth rod 4inch @ 550 =550
4bags of cement @ 400 =1,600
1 tonne concrete each = 1,100
1 tonne of sand @1,300= 1,300
4 pieces box iron/ion tube 2x2 each @ 1200= 4,800
3 pieces box iron/ion tube 1x2 @ 950 - 2,850
4 pieces iron sheets 21/2m @ 550 each = 2,200
4 pieces wire mesh @ 1400 = 5,600
2kg hood iron @ 180 =360
3 pieces inches @ 85 = 255
exhaust system @ 7,000
labour and transport = 45,000
testing and communication = 3000
VAT @ 16% = 25, 839


most of our web content is irrelevant- Michuki

only 10 per cent of kenya websites are relevant

Having a website maybe the most fashionable thing for many Kenyan companies, but how many websites are relevant? How many have content that is important to local people?

Michuki Mwangi, Chief Executive Officer at KENIC reckons that 90% of the websites in Kenya are irrelevant and user unfriendly. The 10% are under construction, and remain so for a long time.

At the monthly forum, Michuki indicted many organizations of developing websites that don’t give visitors reason to come back, because they have same information after three years.

“Less than 50 % of the content of the web is irrelevant and does not address the core functions of the organizations,” said Michuki.

For instance, Nakumatt Holdings website; it has a slide show of buildings, information about the company and very little about the products available and the prices. Uchumi website has information about products and the prices but is limited to products on special offer.

Compared to Tesco super market in the UK- all the walkways are listed, groceries, finance, media information occupies less space, and maximizes on their core business.

The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) website is equally incapable of providing flight information, parking costs and directions to and from the airport. The website does not load up easily and has more information on tourism compared to its core functions.

With the website being labeled as off the mark, one participant commented that even the boards at the airport do not work.

compare to the British Airports Authority website- it has flight information, how to leave from one airport to the next, car park direction and fees, security alerts among other features.

Telkom scored higher marks, had all the information about their services, loads fast but there is no way to purchase the services online, one has to fill forms and visit agents to get services.

Michuki argued that the main problem lies in the fact that websites have been labeled as “IT jobs” and are only there, not to help in marketing. In this respect, many organizations leave website management to their IT departments and do nothing to improve on the content available.

To redress this, organizations need to identify right target group, build online social networks, and collaborations between academia, media and government to ensure that content is generated.


Friday, June 15, 2007

KICTANet members make a difference at Koch FM

When Carol Wanjiru and Hellen Wanjiku gave their presentation about Koch Fm, the challenges and successes, the crowd was delighted.

It was a capacity crowd of Kictanet members who turned up probably to listen to the opportunities and challenges to development and maintenance of local content in local radio stations and websites.

For a station that started as a pirate radio at the Korogocho slums in Nairobi, Koch Fm officially launches tomorrow (Saturday June 16th)

The station broadcasts at 99.9 at a radius of 2km, incidentally, the same frequency is licensed to Ghetto Fm at Majengo slums. If they exceed the radius, then they interfere with each other’s frequencies.

In this respect, Koch Fm would like to stream online so that even those living beyond Korogocho can listen to them. But they have no website.

That was made history yesterday by KENIC and Communicart. KENIC will organise for them to get a domain while Communicart will develop their website and ensure it’s interactive.

Because Koch Fm wants to encourage qualified youth to abandon crime and seek employment or entrepreneurship, the website will allow organizations and individuals to post employment and training opportunities which will be broadcast at the station.


Radio Simba to train presenters at Koch Fm

When Carol Wanjiru agreed to make a presentation at KICTANet’s monthly forum, she did not expect the response to be that overwhelming.

“I knew good things would come, but this is more than good. Thank you KICTANet!” she said.

Apart from having an operational website, Radio Simba invited Koch Fm presenters for a hands-on training at their offices in Lavington.

Nicola Munene, from Radio Simba, confirmed that the station would be delighted to expose the volunteers at Koch Fm to the rigors of a commercial radio station and how they make presentation beneficial to the community.

“We will arrange when they can come over to our offices. I think it will be mutually beneficial,” said Munene.

Koch Fm is operated by youth at Korogocho slums on voluntary basis.


Koch Fm needs a generator

It is not every day that Kenyan journalists commit their money to the community but Ng’ang’a Mbugua had a noble idea- to contribute towards Koch Fm’s acquisition of a generator.

Mbugua, a journalist with the Nation wanted had learnt that Koch Fm was fundraising to buy a generator and wanted to contribute to the cause. So he sent sms to all his friends. He asked for whatever they had, shs 100, 500, 1,000 or 10,000.

Now, Koch Fm has a generator but has no money to install it. They got estimate costs of about shs 120,000.

KICTANet members have been invited to pledge their contribution towards this worthy cause. Whether monetary or in kind, all are welcome to contribute.

We are drawing a list of those interested in contributing.

Andrew Limo from E-government directorate was the first to pledge. Please add your name to this list.

Ideally, Kenya ICT Action Network would like to help, and make sure the ACTION part is more prominent. It is such acts that will bridge the digital divide……

Do I hear the names???