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.