Thursday, August 16, 2007

Second Time Round

As far as education is concerned, when Europeans get an education, they become more rooted in their culture. When Africans get educated, they become indifferent to their culture. (Mmatshilo Motsei, The Kanga and Kangaroo Court)

We have singularly and spectacularly failed in using education as a tool to enhance our identity, ideology and culture. Many of our scientific, social and economic policies are crafted by people whose views, beliefs and philosophies are rooted in a foreign culture, irrespective of whether those who craft them are black, brown or white. The result has been a disgrace. Our sense of nationhood is non-existent. This has led to under-achievement in most (if not all) crucial pillars of our national development e.g. health, transport, economy, agriculture etc. As individuals we have been complicit in this decay. As professionals we are guilty of negligence, abdication and gross incompetence.

We are however lucky in that we have another chance at redeeming our shattered aspirations as a nation. This can however only be achieved by using the ICT infrastructure as a tool in promoting science and technology education, enhancing our culture by producing local digital content and nurturing home-grown ideas. John Wesonga in a blog article titled Content for Africa by Africans (July 29, 2007) states that,"...the need for locally produced quality content is one that all African countries face, the colonial legacy that most African countries have inherited has resulted in a large amount of Western/European content forming the bulk of what we expose ourselves to. The vast amount of traditional and cultural information that was passed from generation to generation has been largely ignored by local content providers and instead our bookshelves and magazine racks are filled with the latest copy of Harry Potter among other publications."

Wesonga sums his blog article by further stating that, "...the infrastructure to manage, store and disseminate the content to the masses is available, all we need now are the content providers who have a passion for Africa to step up and focus on producing the content. The opportunities for provision of content are enormous and range from academic applications, business and cultural applications."

This is a position I subscribe to. It is only when we prioritize and assist local developers produce quality content will we be able to harness our talents and skills. The infrastructure is been developed and is, right now, primarily focused on technology and its attendant legislation. These developments are namely the ESSAY and TEAMs submarine cable projects, launching of the ICT Digital Villages, the development of the Terrestrial Fibre Network and Fibre Optic National Network (FONN) and the zero rating of computers and peripheries to encourage accessibility to all.

This technological infrastructure will provide us with the opportunity to “re-educate” ourselves. Having got it wrong the first time round we cannot afford to blunder again. The ICT network should be channeled to promote our ideals, values, principles and hopes. It would be the height of folly if we disperse Internet connectivity to disparate parts of Kenya with the sole purpose of exposing and propagating alien content. Kenyans from Turkana to Kehancha and from Mombasa to Kisumu need access to the World Wide Web so as to contribute to and benefit from the global knowledge economy. However what they don’t need is another element that will be used to erode their values and restrict their intellectual development. Local content is paramount and should be buttressed with innovative applications of technology. We should, for example, use this technology to assist local computer gamers produce socially acceptable and relevant games that promote our values and culture. Gwimgrafx Studios is pioneering this field. Another example would be to enable creation of locally based Internet radios and television stations that would nurture the generation of local content and achieve its subsequent distribution. There are many other examples - film, folklore, seed research, health and civic education, finance and business etc.

It is not too late to rectify the situation. By promoting our culture and ideas we shall be providing a nurturing ground for future homegrown intellectual development. This can be possible only by the appreciation, encouragement and development of local Kenyan content by all the stakeholders e.g. the government and ICT professionals. Any failure at this point will be a betrayal to our future generations.

ICT Board

The Kenya ICT Board is currently composed of the following.

Ms Catherine Ngahu - Chairperson
Mr. Paul Kukubo - Member
Mr. Peter Kimacia - Member

We need more ICT professionals in the board e.g. the Chairperson of the Computer Society of Kenya and an accomplished ICT educationist.

I would wish to express my support to the Board as they work at elevating our ICT sector to higher achievements.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Kachumbari Remembered

One year has passed on...Kachumbari - The True Kenyan Villager...we remember.

Identity Theft in Kenya

Some time back I came across the above notice in Nakumatt's website. It was warning their Smart card holders that there are some "devious" operators, masquerading as Nakumatt officials, roaming around with the intent of obtaining bank details from them. Of course once these details are acquired various cyber criminal activities can be conducted. Identity theft is one of the most nefarious.

Has Nakumatt over-reacted by crying wolf about identity theft this early? Let's find out.

Willie Sutton, a notorious American bank robber of a half century ago, was once asked why he persisted in robbing banks. "Because that’s where the money is" he is said to have replied. It is obvious that crime follows opportunity. Where is the money in Kenya today? It's in the software and opportunities abound - MPesa, electronic banking (Equity), increased usage of debit and credit cards, electronic utility bill payments and many others.

The recent technological advances we have experienced have had a significant impact on many aspects of our life namely banking, stock exchange, retailing, education, health etc. When the digital tsunami (EASSy or TEAMS) eventually arrives it will be fait accompli that all our money will be in binary code.

This dependency has brought with it increased vulnerability which has spawned various "devious" activities, as Nakumatt so explicitly put it. Identity theft is one of the most lucrative cyber criminal activities around. In 2002 worldwide identity theft losses measured $73.8 billion and losses for 2003 were estimated at approximately $221 billion. The opportunities are abundant and this makes Kenyan businesses and individuals "ripe for the picking".

Identity theft occurs when a fraudster steals your name and other personal information for fraudulent purposes. It is a form of crime where somebody uses a false identity to commit a crime. This type of crime has been made considerably easier to commit due to the inherent loopholes that exist in ICT systems.

The main documents used for harvesting identity details include birth certificates, bank statements, credit/debit card slips, driving licences, passports and land registry documents. These documents are all over, someone can bribe a Posta employee to intercept your bank statements. What about "man-in-the-middle" attacks (fixed or wireless) that intercept your online bank passwords, e-mails and other crucial digital information? Financial information can also be supplied to rings of fraudsters by corrupt bank staff. Cheques are a considerable risk. Banks have this habit of writing your account number, ID number and PIN number at the back. As a result all your details are conveniently located in this document.

This threat is not only a source of worry for individuals. Businesses have to consider identity theft when evaluating risk. This isn’t the old risk model which concerned itself with a forged company cheque every once in a while.

How do you protect yourself? Do not use your mother’s maiden name or place of birth as a security password. In other words use a ‘stronger’ password and never use the same password for all your online or ATM accounts. Do not carry address details in your wallet. Cross check your credit/bank records frequently for any untoward expenditure. For those who use office messengers to collect their personal mail from GPO or City Square, your vulnerability is high. Try and restrict personal details to your personal post box whose access you can control. Don’t leave personal documents lying around in the office or home and dispose of personal documents properly by either shredding or burning them.

The threat of identity theft was illustrated by the recent arrest of seventeen Kenyans in Kansas City (USA). They are charged with massive fraud where they allegedly stole identity information (including social security numbers), predominantly from elderly nursing home patients, and used it to prepare both federal and state tax returns using tax preparation software. They then allegedly prepared false W-2 (wage and tax statement) information, listing employers that the identity theft victims never worked for, false residence addresses, and other false information.

Kenya needs a legal and institutional framework that enables identity theft victims to easily reclaim their identities, reputation and credit rating. The Kenya Information and Communication Technology Board should be at the forefront in addressing this serious issue and in sensitising Kenyans about this menace.

Nakumatt is justifiably worried about its should you.

NB: I would wish to extend my congratulations to Ms Catherine Ngahu on her appointment as chairperson of the Kenya Information and Communication Technology Board.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mutahi Kagwe articulating our ICT Strategy

On April 20th, 2007, Mutahi Kagwe, MP and Minister for Information and Communication, gave a lively and thought-provoking speech to more than 60 World Bank staff and external participants from development and academic institutions and the private sector.

This highly successful event was organized by the e-Development Thematic Group with sectoral and country unit collaboration, including the GICT, Kenya Country Unit, PREM, infoDev and IT SLC Quickstart.

In spite of the last minute notification, the response was overwhelming and there was only standing room left by the time the event got started on that Friday afternoon.

Please note some salient points e.g. previous prevalence of illegal international exchanges, the logic behind provision of international gateway licences, proposed Technology Park, investment of American tech companies into Kenya, continued membership of East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) etc.

This presentation was informative and impressive.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Telkom Kenya

So here I am at 11.55 pm (GMT) 24 June 07 and I wanted to check out the rates of Telkom Wireless ( Instead I get the above. Telkom Kenya - you need your website up and running 24/7. Two possibilities here: Kenya Offline or Bongeni Jo!!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rwanda - the ICT Tiger

On 18th June, 2007 Rwanda and Burundi formally joined the East African Community (EAC) as full members. They signed treaties of accession to the EAC bringing the membership of the regional body to 5 countries with a population of 100 million.

This event is important to all ICT practitioners and investors in Kenya. This is because Rwanda was developing its ICT industry before its regional neighbours had an inkling of the potential and competitive edge ICT gives nations. Rwanda has a knowledge-based economy that is only matched in the region by Mauritius.

The dot-com tuned President of the country - Paul Kagame - initiated the whole process when his ideas were actualised through the Vision 2020 which was launched in 2000. It focused on IT as a crucial cornerstone for future development. This is similar to our Vision 2030 which I believe should have been formulated much earlier. Contrast this with Mauritius whose Ministry of Information and Communication was busy with ICT policy formulation, implementation and physical development in 1997 (you can blame this delay on our asinine politics).

Anyway Kagame’s confidence and steely determination was remarkable when you consider he was pushing this new approach against a backdrop of national recovery from the genocide trauma.

His vision had logic stamped on it. With no port access, expensive airfreight rates and instability around it, Rwanda needed a new kind of economy. It chose the knowledge economy.

Much has been achieved. In January 2007 Kagame informed fellow heads of state, at the 8th African Union summit, that the country had set its science and technology spending at 1.6 percent of GDP. This is comparable to the OECD countries. Other developments include the building of telecentres, computerisation of primary and secondary schools, a $10 million e-Government project and continued investment in the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).

ICT has transformed Rwanda. The Economist recently reported that Rwanda is well on its way to achieving several of the Millennium Development Goals due to the impact ICT has had on this emerging economy. With substantial business process redesign, government support and focused leadership, Rwanda has demonstrated to East Africa that much can be accomplished when ICT is used as an engine for development. However this feat is not unique to Rwanda. It was achieved earlier by Mauritius where its ability to harness ICT has enabled it achieve one of the highest GDP per capita rates in Africa.

Kenya has obviously heard the rumble of the digital tsunami. We have embarked on various ICT projects and more crucially we have recognised that the future will demand a knowledge economy. It is in our interest to work closely with Rwanda now that they are part of the EAC. There are many opportunities for mutual co-operation in ICT and it would be negligible if we did not exploit this opportunity now. Student exchange programs should be initiated, the respective Chambers of Commerce should meet with the aim of promoting ICT trade and ICT practitioners from both countries should work together to develop locally based software.

The opportunities are endless and I will soon be inviting Dr. Shem Ochuodho to furnish us with a comprehensive outline on how we can work more closely with our Rwandese brothers - with the aim of further developing our local burgeoning ICT industry.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Potential of ICT in Kenya

The potential of ICT investment in Kenya is illustrated by the phenomenal financial results posted by Safaricom. A previous posting (1/06/07) in this blog had profiled the company and its CEO.

Safaricom has emerged as one of the most profitable Kenyan company with historic results that saw its pre-tax profits hit Sh17 billion. The results were released today (20th June, 2007).

This is the highest that a Kenyan company - whose results are made public - has made, eclipsing corporate giants listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange.

With profits at this level, Safaricom nearly made as much money as what Kenya Airways, East African Breweries and Barclays Bank did combined. These businesses made a combined pre-tax profit of Sh21 billion on revenues of Sh94 billion.

This is the kind of money that all Kenyan banks and insurance companies have been struggling to make in a single year for sometime. Kenyan banks combined made a pre-tax profit of Sh27 billion in 2006.

With Safaricom’s revenues and net profits growing by over 30 per cent over 2006, these results underlie a robust performance of the economy, but also opens a new debate over whether mobile carriers are overcharging customers with the company now earning an operating margin of 38 per cent.

This means that for every shilling the company generates in revenues, 38 cents goes into operating profits. More on

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bongeni Jo!!!

Equity Bank’s website was defaced last week. Safaricom’s website is suspiciously unavailable. There is some mischief going around.

The cracker who defaced Equity’s site might not have caused serious loss to the bank apart from denting the reputations of the in-house IT team. However Bongeni Jo (let’s baptise him so - after one of his calling cards), exposes a security lapse that would have had more serious implications. I immediately recall the recent system intrusion of TJ–Maxx and its affiliates. During this incident over 45.7 million payment card details, owned by customers of this firm, were stolen. The more startling aspect of it was that this data was accessed during an 18 month period from around July 2005 to December 2006. The breach was only made public in March, 2007 ( The technical sophistication employed by the TJ-Maxx crackers was worrying.

The implication is obvious. How long was Bongeni Jo’s escapade? Did he compromise the bank's database? Of course Equity Bank would not have been so forthcoming if serious damage had been done. How many firms in Kenya have had intrusions and have decided to keep quiet?

It might have been a harmless prank but you have to note that cyber crime has become such a lucrative venture that criminal gangs are sponsoring their ‘bright’ members to pursue computer science degrees. The return now warrants this kind of investment.

It is one thing to apply defensive measures but there is no security system that is impregnable. The horse has already bolted in this instance. Equity bank therefore needs to embark on a computer forensic investigation that will not only identify the weaknesses of their system but also nab Bongeni Jo (he definitely left ample digital evidence). This would deter future crackers.

Computer forensics is a field that is slowly gaining global traction. It is something Kenyan firms who have a digital presence need to take seriously. I am initiating various projects in this regard however I shall discuss the relevance of computer forensics to the IT industry in Kenya in a future post. Due to its sensitivity I can only generalise but we need to start preparing for the cracker onslaught, it will surely come. Bongeni Jo was only a harbinger of things to come.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Kenyan ICT Bigwigs (Corporate) – Part 3

Michael Joseph (61) is the Chief Executive Officer of Safaricom Limited and has extensive international experience in the implementation and operation of large wireless networks. He has been in this position since July 2000 and has been primarily responsible for the re-launch of the company and its subscriber growth from approximately 20,000 at the time of re-launch to over 5.5 million as at 21st January, 2007.

He was previously the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) for Vodafone Hungary where he was responsible for the implementation and operation of the company’s DCS 1800 network, including the installation of over 500 base stations, 2 switches, an Intelligent Network platform, and the introduction of Value Added Services like WAP, SMS and mobile internet applications.

He landed at his current port of call (Nairobi) in 2000 and re-launched Safaricom. Since then it has grown significantly. It began with a workforce of 200 and now has over 1000 employees. Staff are well trained both prior and during their tenure at Safaricom as Michael places great emphasis in a dynamic workforce that operates as a team. The subscriber base has subsequently grown by almost 600%.

Safaricom is arguably one of the most profitable listed businesses in Kenya. It's revenues and net profit have been growing at an annual compound rate of 27 per cent and 66 per cent - a huge momentum that could double the business in a few years. A profit of kshs12.77 billion in its last financial year made Safaricom the most profitable company in the region. Michael's stewardship has been exemplary.

This kind of growth not only makes Safaricom by far the biggest and most profitable business in Kenya but also the most influential in terms of how it affects everyday lives of the citizens. Michael recognizes that a significant part of the economy is informal and is being facilitated by the mobile phone sector. Safaricom promises to transform communities in Kenya so that the mobile phone, telephony and information technology should no longer be status symbols but integral business and personal tools.

Safaricom’s aim is to remain the leading Mobile Network Operator in Kenya. In order to achieve this Michael has placed a strong focus on quality of service to customers. Integral to this has been pricing and customer service. The ability to grow the rural customer base and offer them appropriately designed products is a particular feather in Michael’s cap.

Michael accredits Safaricom's growth and success to its ability to move fast towards bridging the digital divide, its innovative work force and the firm’s development policy. With Michaels amazing store of energy and the firm’s sustained will to succeed, the team has developed tariffs which are adaptable to every lifestyle and every pocket. Safaricom has derived most of its growth from airtime sales, especially the introduction of the lower denomination top-up cards.

Safaricom has also introduced innovative products adapted to the Kenyan market such as “Simu Ya Jamii”, the community phone concept that has revolutionalised accessibility of mobile telephony among the lower-income population, which cannot afford a handset. Another ingenious product is “SMS Sokoni”, which provides daily agricultural commodity prices through SMS. The recently launched “M-Pesa” which allows subscribers to make simple financial transactions from their phones looks set to become a popular service. It marked the first time in the world that a mobile service provider had ventured in the e-money business.
(Note the development of products aimed at the low - income market).

Micheal has a passion for environmental conservation and has steered Safaricom's partcipation into numerous projects including the Aberdare Forest Fund and the Safaricom Lewa Marathon. He has a BSc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cape Town and is a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers (I.E.E.E) and Institute of Electronic Engineers (I.E.E), UK.

CSK Needs To Flex Its Muscles

The Computer Society of Kenya ( is a non-profit professional association that exists to further the ICT profession. Its current Chairman is Mr. Waudo Siganga.

In Kenya we have various professional bodies, some vibrant, some lethargic and most in comatose. One of the most vibrant is ICPAK (Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya) that co-ordinates and oversees the activities/interests of all qualified and registered Certified Public Accountants. Other visible associations include the LSK (Law Society of Kenya), AAK (Architectural Association of Kenya) and NNAK (National Nurses Association of Kenya) among others.

These associations, apart from safeguarding and promoting the interests of their members, have a more critical role to play in society. They are meant to protect the public interest. This means that these associations are responsible for the regulation and licensing of practitioners in their field. These members must be in good standing and professionally monitored if they are to be entrusted by society to perform various crucial roles. The public, in general, is not sufficiently knowledgeable in a particular field of practice so as to determine the validity, worth and integrity of a particular professional. An apt illustration would be the lawyer who defrauds clients of their money and does not deliver the professional services required of him/her. It is the LSK’s mandate to contain such errant members. Mention can also be made of the collapse of a commercial building in Nairobi (January, 2006) where nine lives were lost and over seventy workers seriously injured. Who was supposed to ensure that structural standards met the prescribed standards?

The Kenyan ICT industry is destined to experience phenomenal growth in the near future. ICT practitioners will develop various projects for Kenyans - some of them safety critical - others will be financial, health-based or even research oriented. CSK has a window of opportunity to entrench itself in this nascent but rapidly developing sector. It is time the CSK re-claimed its role in the ICT industry. As the de jure ICT professional association, its functions and activities cannot be viewed in isolation to the development of this sector. It's main role is too crucial to be overlooked.

My first recommendation would be that CSK needs to establish, formulate and maintain a database of all ICT professionals. This should not be voluntary, it should be a mandatory membership. Any ICT professional in Kenya must, by law, ensure they are registered as members of CSK if they are willing to conduct their professional activities within the confines of the law. This would ensure that our rapidly developing industry is not hijacked by white-collar criminals masquerading as ICT practitioners. The necessary legal framework would not be difficult to obtain especially when the relevant ministry is currently only too willing to listen and act on the needs of ICT stakeholders.

The CSK should also embark on an information awareness campaign aimed at dissemination of ICT issues to the society. The public should be informed regularly on any technological, social and legal developments/changes in the local ICT industry. Special emphasis should be placed on the risks that accompany the free access to information of all types. The need to inculcate a mature approach in dealing with this access would forestall, or minimize, cybercrime and general abuse. To this end, Kenyans need to be informed on their ICT consumer rights. The CSK, with the assistance of the recently launched Kenya ICT Consumer Association, can ensure that consumer education and protection becomes a priority in this sector.

It is evident that the shortage of IT skills will be a major impediment to the sustained development of ICT locally. The Minister for Education illustrated this fact recently when he stated that most teachers in our primary, secondary and tertiary institutions are computer illiterate ( These are meant to be the “ICT champions” and they are unprepared to surf the coming digital tsunami. As much as the government has an obligation and responsibility to rectify this situation the CSK would assist by initiating school IT projects and organizing the ICT Schools Congress.

To be able to build an ICT professional body, that is respected and valued for the exploitation and application of IT for the benefit of Kenya, we need the CSK to assert itself and provide a more visible leadership role.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

KQ - The Pride of Africa

I shall be flying Kenya Airways, the Pride of Africa.

Thanks tHiNkEr’S rOoM for bringing to our attention the myopic CNN coverage.

Show your support, fly KQ.

We are not remainders!!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Computer Crime

Coastweek ( reports that on one fateful night in April 2007, a gang of nefarious robbers broke into the Pastoral Centre Offices of the AIDS, Population, and Health Integrated Assistance Program (Aphia II) in Tudor, Mombasa.

They broke into the main office and stole 20 computers which were carted away in a pick up. The greater loss, according to the report, was the vital data stored in the computers in favour of HIV/AIDS patients in the Coast Province. As a despondent Catholic Archbishop of Mombasa, Boniface Lele, put it "this is hitting the poorest of the poor in the Coast".

In the recent past we have read of similar thefts from ministry, parastatal and corporate offices, especially in Nairobi. The security provided to such premises is questionable to say the least. That is, however, not our concern at this point. What can be safely concluded is that the physical theft of computers and peripherals has been on a steady increase over the past few years.

As more and more Kenyans join the national grid (especially in the rural areas) we shall see the rate of computer crime sky-rocket. This increase will be ignited by the demand for computers which will have outstripped the supply. The ‘black-market’ will only be too willing to remedy this anomaly. Some time back it used to be the bicycle, then the radio and the TV, the car followed and now the computer has become the commodity of choice for these ‘wajambazi’. Nowadays after gaining unlawful entry into your home, these fellows will scream 'nugu...wapi pesa, wapi pesa'. In the not too distant future it will be 'nugu...wapi gomputa, gomputa iko wapi'.

It is worth noting that our police force is woefully unprepared to deal with computer crime, be it in the physical or digital context. It is a common practice for law enforcement agencies in various countries to concentrate on certain 'notorious' crime genres, such as homicide, sex offences, fraud, kidnapping and bank robberies. These ‘notorious’ crimes usually warrant special resources, specialization and attention. They are classified under ‘serious crimes’.

Certain crimes are peculiar to certain regions (if I may paraphrase Mark Joseph). In Kenya we have our car-jackings and land clashes. You will note that though our nefarious robbers have previously been slow in embracing diversification, they have now obviously seen a growth area in computer crime.

Computer and Cyber crime has gained in notoriety in most advanced countries to the extent that it currently falls under the 'serious crime' category. In response many countries have established High Tech Crime Units or Cyber Crime Divisions which are now considered essential elements of any national police force. Countries that have operational computer/cyber crime units include - USA, UK, India, Australia, China and South Africa, among others.

Kenya Police needs a visible and effective High Tech Crime Unit to counter computer crime in Kenya. This unit would be charged with sensitizing computer owners and users on measures to take so as to secure their computers and data. Backup plans, insurance, serial number listing and other measures should be coordinated by this unit not to mention the obvious investigation, apprehension and policy formulation.

Computer crime cannot, and should not, be dealt with in a vacuum where the local IT industry does not know what is happening or where stealing a computer is equated to stealing a Sanyo radio.

Information/Data is a valuable resource and if we are to anchor ICT to our national development plans, then it is only sensible that we organize ourselves and ensure these ICT resources are protected by a professionally equipped law enforcement agency.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Diary Note


28-30th May 2007, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi, Kenya

The subject is Building Infrastructures and Capacities to reach out to the Whole of Africa, reflecting the significant efforts of African countries to set up their national and regional ICT infrastructures to create access to education, training and services for all.

Sample Conference Highlights:

* A lively debate about the challenges and alternatives of building ICT infrastructures to provide access and connectivity in Africa, with the participation of SRI International, USA, the African Virtual University, LinkNet Zambia, Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie and the Université de Kinshasa.
* A pre-conference workshop on the subject of Harnessing the Wealth of Free Global Digital Learning Resource Repositories, led by Moustapha Diack of the International MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching) initiative.
* A practical, hands-on workshop aimed at teaching participants how to Produce and Publish Media for Online Learning will take place on May 28 - 30, organised by the BBC, Kenya Institute of Education and ATiT, Belgium.
* A session focusing on cutting-edge technology developments for Africa, especially on the advantages and applications of Web 2.0 Technologies, with valuable benchmarks from the University of Potsdam, Germany, the University of Leicester, UK, the City University of Hong Kong and the Royal Veterinary College London, UK.
* Examples of how eLearning is being used to enhance the training of civil servants, based on the experiences of UConnect, Uganda, the Canada School of Public Service, the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD).
* Examples from schools of how ICT is being used on a daily basis, including the winners of the recent GET Showcase competition organised by the Gauteng Department of Education, South Africa from the Rosettenville Central Primary School and the Roshnee Primary School, South Africa.

For further information visit



28th May – 2nd June 2007, Nairobi, Kenya

The conference is organised by Fahamu on the use of mobile phones by human rights organisations in Africa.

For further information visit


ICT Africa 2007

October 1-5, 2007, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi, Kenya

ICT Africa is an annual continental information and communications technology conference addressing all aspects of ICT development in Africa. The conference is convened by NEPAD council in collaboration with the NEPAD Kenya secretariat. The 2007 event will be organized by Global Conferences, Cape Town, South Africa.

For further information contact

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Kenyan ICT Bigwigs (Policy) - Part 2

Dr. Shem Ochuodo needs no introduction. He is currently an ICT Advisor to Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of Energy and Communications and presently chairs the Inter-Governmental Sub-Committee on East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) Project under the auspices of the NEPAD (Africa Union's New Partnership for Africa's Development).

Shem is the immediate past CEO of the Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA), and a former CEO of the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC). As a former MP for Rangwe (1997-2002) he distinguished himself by championing democratic ideals. The Kenyan Parliament - Members’ Participation Report of 1998-2001 reports that he scored the highest performance marks (651). He also earned the notoriety of being ruled out of order 24 times over the four-year period. He was closely followed by Njehu Gatabaki (Githunguri SDP) who scored 431, Mukhisa Kituyi (Kimilili FORD- Kenya) with a score of 430, and Juja MP Stephen Ndichu (421). He has also previously been a Senior Lecturer and/or External Examiner in a number of African Universities.

His major area of current interest is policy design for ICT for development, especially in poverty reduction and the attainment of the millennium development goals. He holds a PhD in Software Engineering and Database Technology from the University of York (UK) and a Honorary LLD from Marlboro College (Vermont, USA) for Entrepreneurship Development, Politics and Innovation.

Through the African Regional Centre for Computing (ARCC - Kenya) which he founded, he pioneered internet into Eastern Africa. ARCC is an NGO whose initial focus was to promote the development and usage of computing and communication technologies in Africa, with specific emphasis on internet technologies. The initial focus was on Kenya from where it provided the first full internet access. Shem is still the Executive Director.

ICT Education in Kenya

It is an undisputed fact that ICT holds great promise for developing economies like Kenya. This is the engine that can possibly get Kenya out of its poverty rut. To be able to compete on the global market Kenya needs sustained economic growth and this sector can open up new prospects. Minor correction, I am not espousing ICT as the express ride to economic nirvana or a panacea to all our self-imposed afflictions. No, the potential is enormous but not all encompassing.

However, apart from the presence of a well developed regulatory and institutional framework, the importance of how ICT is taught in our educational institutions is crucial. WYSIWYG = an unsupervised and unregulated curriculum will naturally produce workers with outdated and irrelevant skills.

A four tiered approach is required to ensure successful percolation of the benefits to a wider section of Kenyans.

To its credit the government appreciates that ICT education/training needs to be strengthened and this is aptly illustrated in the ICT Policy paper which commits the government to the following:

1) Promoting ICT in education at primary, secondary, tertiary and community levels by developing ICT curricula and ensuring that teachers/trainers possess the requisite skills.
2) Setting up a framework for evaluating and certifying ICT training programmes
3) Developing a mechanism for attracting and retaining skilled human resources.
4) Establishing networks for sharing training resources.
5) Developing strategies to support research and innovation.

Under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, the ICT Trust Fund, under the chairmanship of Professor Karega Mutahi (P.S.), has developed two educational papers. They are the Kenya ICT Trust Fund Blueprint and the National ICT Strategy for Education and Training (go here -

These documents outline, in an articulate and professional way, which direction our ICT education needs to go and how to achieve the outlined targets. The ICT Trust Fund by the way draws its membership from the government, corporates and regulatory bodies. The corporates are represented by Mr. G. Muhoho, the MD of Kenya Airports Auhority. So far so good, ICT education has been given its due priority by the Ministry and we have the theoretical framework.

However, more needs to be done. As we wait for the basic technological infrastructure to infiltrate the country I would encourage the government to adopt a more proactive public campaign so as to sensitize Kenyans on the need to embrace this technology.

I would recommend the following further specific measures:

1) Encourage the establishment of computer clubs in estates, villages and localities by working with the private sector, the church and the community to facilitate the establishment of these clubs. We can start with venues been in churches and schools. Our kids can then be able to develop their computer skills while at home during the school holidays.

2) Encourage women groups to learn computing skills. Why not sponsor a member or two, especially the book-keeper for a basic course in computing. To some extent computing is intuitive and this should be possible irrespective of whether they have a formal education or not.

3) Remember Kenya Science Congress? I don’t know whether this competition is still alive. This forum promoted science throughout the country. Why can’t we have the Kenya ICT Congress that will showcase all the best in programming, database designing, gaming etc from high school students in Kenya. I am sure corporate sponsors are not in short supply and would willingly support this worthwhile project.

4) Train and deploy a critical mass of teachers in ICT who will be assigned the role of championing this technology in their respective schools.

5) Encourage students to develop local content which can be showcased in the Kenya ICT Congress.

6) Request CDF Committees all over the country to prioritise ICT development in the their constituencies. Just as health, roads and schools are prioritised I think it would be possible to use ICT as a poverty alleviation measure that should be urgently funded from the CDF funds.

We need to demystify the computer and its attendant technologies. It is a tool that can be used to bring about radical economic, social and political change. Who thought that telephony technology would be accepted with such alacrity? How much so the information technology! As we educate the younger generation on the importance of ICT let us also not ignore the older generation who might fall through the cracks if not targeted.

We need to get the education aspect right the first time round...the volatile nature of ICT might not give us a second chance.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

KQ 507

I would wish to extend my condolences to the families, friends and relatives of those who perished when KQ Flight 507, bound for Nairobi with 115 people aboard, crashed shortly after it took off from Douala in Cameroon on Saturday morning. To all concerned I say pole sana.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Surfing the imminent Digital Tsunami

The definition of synergy is: cooperative interaction among groups, especially among the acquired subsidiaries or merged parts of a corporation that creates an enhanced combined effect.

I had mentioned in a previous post that Trans-Century (a private equity firm) had bought out Wananchi Online. Business Daily reports that EA Cables is to shift production from the traditional copper cables and aluminum conductors to fibre optic cables.

This would not be news apart from the fact that there is a common denominator between Wananchi Online and EA Cables - Trans-Century has substantial shareholding in both entities.

What is the implication - Synergy. The production of fibre optic would lay the physical infrastructure for Wananchi Online and Seven Seas Technologies (yet another one in the Trans-Century stable). This is strategic investment. Trans-Century bought into KPLC so as to provide a ready market for its traditional cables.

However the digital tsunami is coming and it looks like Trans-Century has unwittingly stumbled into the future. The combination of the companies they have invested in (Wananchi, EA Cables, KPLC and Kengen) has a common future technological thread. Once you figure this out then you will definitely get startled.

Of course there are other predators lurking in the nascent labyrinth of our ICT sector, remember Safaricom? More IPO's are inevitable. Mergers, leveraged and management buyouts and other kinds of jostling are in the offing.

There is a proverb that is apt for this current situation:

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up, it knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a gazelle or a lion. When the sun comes up, you better start running.

To paraphrase: when that cable hits Mombasa you better run for your life whether you are a lion or a gazelle in the Kenyan ICT forest - coz it will be a no holds barred contest where all kinds of tactics will be witnessed, including infanticide.

The Kenyan ICT Bigwigs (Policy) - Part 1

These two gentlemen have championed the cause of ICT in Kenya and deserve commendation.

Mutahi Kagwe is an alumnus of the indefatigable Univ. of Nairobi and the United States International University. His early career orbited around finance, marketing and business administration before he became a politician. He is currently the Minister - Ministry of Information and Communications.

Dr. Bitange Ndemo is an alumnus of the Univ. of Minnesota, Univ. of St. Thomas and Sheffield University. His career revolves around finance, entrepreneurship and management (strategic). He is currently the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communications.

These technocrats have successfully overseen the publication of the ICT Bill, the ICT Policy Paper and the ICT Strategy Paper. Bitange has gone out of his way to articulate the ministry's objectives. He was even in Mashada some time last year explaining the undersea cable project.

This is a team that has produced results. However this is an election year and the cards will inevitably be shuffled. It will be a loss if these ICT champions are not allowed to finish their work. It will be even more tragic if, come next year, these offices are occupied by 'politicians' who think computers are primarily meant to improve the aesthetics of a room.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The ICT Pugilists Sharpen their Claws

The ring-side bell is currently ringing. The pugilists are in the ring, jogging on the spot. Muscles are rippling. Mouth-guards are been prepared and eyes are flashing menacingly as they size each other up.
It is now obvious that the ICT industry in Kenya is undergoing a major shakeup. The competitors are many and offer varied products for example leased line, ADSL, CDMA, internet and general IT services.

So who are they?

The hard-hitters are - Africaonline, UUNet, Swift Global, Telkom Kenya (of course!), Access Kenya, Safaricom, Celtel, Flashcom, Popote, Wananchi, Afsat, Form-Net, Symphony, Seven Seas and I-Connect.

The first punch was thrown by Transcentury some time late last year when they teamed up with Wananchi Online to jointly bid for African Lakes, the parent company of Africa Online. They however lost out to Telkom SA after a bitter bidding war.

The second punch is on its way and it’s from Access Kenya. This company is elbowing its way through the crowd to get at the telephony cake. Its initial public offer in the NSE, which began on the 19th of April, is meant to raise enough capital muscle to enable Access tough it out with the overgrown bullies of this neighbourhood (Safaricom and Celtel). I will be assessing Access Kenya’s future prospects in a future post.

The third punch comes from our previous cohabitants. Transcentury (together with a few other weighty ‘investors’) is to ‘amicably’ buy out Wananchi Online. Their target seems to be in the broadband Wi-Max internet network and Fixed Line Voice services for home and corporate users. This is not accidental considering the 3.5 billion National Fibre Optic project recently launched by the government. This project aims to link 124 districts and create a national grid.

There is going to be a vicious cat-fight and the arrival of even one of the three anticipated submarine cables will cause a frenzy. This in itself is not a bad thing. Consumers will benefit. However the institutional and regulatory framework needs to be developed so as to be at tandem with these rapid developments.

We need the recently proposed ICT Authority up and running post-haste. As an example, with the whole process of market opening and unbridled competition, the interconnection of disparate networks will become an important issue. This interconnection requires fairness, transparency and consumer prioritization if price and quality are to benefit Kenyans. In other words we need a referee. CCK is not upto the task, what with its well documented SNO bungling.

The ICT authority would be responsible for investigation of consumer complaints against operators, disputed bills of services, resolving technical encroachment and many other problems. We are currently about to proceed into a slug-fest without any referee - such fights usually turn messy and someone’s ear is bound to get bitten off.

NB: I would like to congratulate Mr. Alex Gakuru on the recent launching of the Kenya ICT Consumer Association. As the pioneer chairman, I would beseech Mr. Gakuru to get busy as soon as possible. I was looking for their website but I haven’t found one yet. Consumers have rights that need protection. This body will safeguard their interests because many nasty things are bound to happen to them out there in that vicious digital jungle. All the best Gakuru!!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Wooden Beams

Major developments are happening in the Kenyan ICT sector. Let me list some of them.

- Publishing of the ICT Policy and Strategic Papers by the Ministry of Information and Communication.
- Introduction of the ICT Bill 2006
- Development of the Kenya fiber portion of the East African Backhaul Transmission Link. This is a SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) based optical network that has been constructed from Mombasa to Malaba (Kenya - Uganda border) through Nairobi with spurs to major towns within the country. - Zero-rating of computers and peripheries to encourage accessibility to all.
- Development of the ESSAY and TEAMs submarine cable projects that will provide an undersea fiber optic cable linking Kenya and its hinterlands to the global super highway.
- The implementation of an e-government programme that has acted as a catalyst for widespread ICT uptake by the business sector and the public.
- Inception of the ICT Board that will market the country as an ICT destination, outline guidelines, set parameters and market the use of technology in economic growth.
- The April, 2007 launching of a multi-billion project to put ICT centres countrywide by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK). The project to cost Shs 12 billion ($ 180 million) will see all the 210 constituencies in the country have modern communication facilities and enhance universal access.

More developments are on the way and excitement is in the air. However as we march on resolutely towards the bright and shiny digital sun let us pause for a minute and consider a very important deficiency in this whole scenario.

Any building that is meant to withstand the vagaries of weather and constant usage needs a strong foundation. We are busy with the wooden beams, the floor trusses, the electrical wiring and the laminated arches. The double glazed windows are quite impressive. It all looks good.

However we have forgotten the legislation. How come we have totally missed this aspect?

The ICT Policy (January, 2006) states that ICT is currently considered by the following Acts:

1)Science and Technology Act, Cap. 250 of 1977
2)The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Act of 1988 and
3)The Kenya Communications Act of 1998

It is acknowledged that the above are woefully inadequate in dealing with issues of convergence, e-commerce, security, business process outsourcing, e-government and many other ICT functions. The ICT Bill of 2006 is still awaiting passage through parliament. I am not optimistic of that happening this election year.

What are the implications? One example has to do with Safe Harbour. These are basically a set of seven legal principles that are used by the EU and USA that concern data protection. In summary they state that for those countries outside the above two regions whose privacy practices (i.e. legislation) are not deemed “adequate”, transfers of personal information from these respective regions would be stopped.

Are our privacy practices adequate? Do we have readily available recourse mechanisms that can be used to resolve individual and corporate complaints in regard to data protection? Do we have legal procedures for verifying that intellectual property is safeguarded? Do we have procedures to rigorously pursue and prosecute online criminals?

Mr. Mutahi Kagwe and Dr Bitange have so far done a splendid job as IT champions in the government. They have however concentrated their efforts on the infrastructure (the wooden beams) instead of securing a stable and firm legislative foundation first.

We need to push for this legislation starting with the 2006 ICT Bill. The Computer Society of Kenya and the Kenya ICT Federation need to lobby intensely for more legislation. If we are not careful this discrepancy will come back to bite us - where - yes - at that place where it hurts most!!!