Update: Liquid Telecom gets internet working

After a day of internet not working, Liquid Telecom got the internet up and running. There are about 400 people with more than one gadget, which probably makes the hitches understandable.

I bumped into Paul Statham, Chief Commercial Officer at Connected and I promised to do an update; that the internet is now working.


Oracle, Dimension Data, govt contracts and the great wall of silence

For those who have been following the tech sector closely, you will know that there is a lot of money floating around for big projects. The only challenge is that very few projects go to local companies; you can cite the common excuses given, lack of capacity, financial backing, etc

This means that most of these projects are deployed by big international corporations. One of the contract requirements is that these companies must transfer skills etc etc… we all know how it goes.


Let us take the example of IFMIS I wonder how many people remember what exactly it does. Well, read it here . This project is using Oracle. Apparently government paid for 14 modules and only three or four have been implemented. The project started in 1998.

Apart from that, it is said that the government has spent about Ksh 100 million on Oracle licenses across the various government ministries. Just calculate the amount of money paid in licenses annually.

That is why, in my estimation, the greatest winner in the whole government digitisation favours Oracle because the government can not afford to vote away from the investment.

So, is Oracle happy at the continued support that it will receive from government going forward? I caught up with Gilbert Saggia, head of Oracle in Kenya and asked for just five minutes.

“I can not talk in the absence of my PR person, maybe we can do this tomorrow?”

Well, companies have rules and regulations but I haven’t seen him or got a reply to my email, so we assume that was the answer he wanted me to have.

Dimension Data

Three years ago, Dimension Data won the tender to implement Unified Communications within government. It is a way for government to stop using landlines and reduce the communication costs.

I have not gotten the actual costs, some people privy to the tender say it was $16 million while others insist it was about $30 million. Take your pick.

I tried to get a response from Dimension Data and this is what I got.



ICTA position

I asked Victor Kyalo, ICTA CEO, on why the DD project had to take so long and he explained that political changes, building preparedness etc meant that only two government ministries are interconnected.

The project is expected to be completed soon :)

My question

Why do international companies decline to answer questions on these tenders? Is it:

a) That because government is a client, they have to be the ones to comment, so who are you to comment? Thats if you want more biz.

b) The companies do not want to be associated with failed/stalled/lengthy (insert yours) ongoing projects?

c) They are there for the money and do not care whatever happens to the project, they sold whatever they were selling, they earn from annual support and licenses and anything you would like to ask is none of their business.

It is what it is :)

Of Journalists, press conference and political pressure

Yesterday, the first day of Connected Summit, there was a press conference attended by Info Com PS Joseph Tiampati, ICTA CEO Victor Kyalo, Andrew Waititu, SAP CEO and Edwin Yinda, ICTA Board chair.

This was a routine press conference. If anything, the CS had not arrived and it looked like the only big story would be the affirmation and details of a previous announcement by Deputy President William Ruto that Kenya will have third generation ID cards.

The journalists went on with the usual questions and one sought clarification on the actual cost, Tiampati clearly indicated that the cost would range from 5 to 8 billion Kenya shillings, this was on record, tv, radio etc.

Just like it was a routing press conference, this was a routine story.

Well, that was until Capital Fm was the first to run the story, on radio, online and through text service. That was the time the political pressure kicked in. Apparently, the figures were discussed in a closed door meeting and Tiampati was not supposed to disclose.

And Ruto/his office/his handlers were pissed!

Calls started going into newsroom bosses, demanding a correction, even before the story ran. The issue was that the figures were wrong, it will not cost that much, etc… For the journalists on the ground, they could only stand their ground because there is no way ten journalists with radio and TV clips can be wrong.

In retrospect, you can understand Tiampati, he is the technical guy, he probably sat in those meetings that decided on these figures. He probably has not been briefed on how to doge journalists questions and saturate press conferences with philosophical and abstract BS.

For tech journalists looking for stories, this is the guy to talk to….he will give you a story :) probably anytime :)

Anyway, it was a nice last minute run around for the guys handling PR for Connected Summit.

Here is the correction/clarification sent late in the evening.

“Government to begin digitization of all persons

 The National Digital Registration Exercise targets to establish clean data set registers for all people, establishments, land and assets.

The entire exercise covering all the four data sets budget will be firmed up as soon as design and logistics are finalized (this is still work in progress).

The people registry which is the immediate exercise will target to clean up especially the 0-17 years old records. Details to be captured for those between 12 and above will be to ensure clean data for planning and socio-economic use.

This will be across all the different data users in Government and the private sector who rely on data for their operations.  Effectively through economies of scale this will lead to lower costs and efficiencies across the board.”


ICT Authority to have a desk for ICT related work permits

For the last year or so, the immigration officials have been camping at “tech start up” hotspots, seeking to weed out illegal workers or in other words those with no work permits.

This has been frustrating to “expats” who have maintained that Kenya has no tech capacity etc. I am sure you have read stories of how people can not find appropriate hardware such as key boards, mouse, etc in Kenya.

It seems Fred Matiangi, Info Comm Cabinet Secretary will give the expats a reprieve in the work permit application process.

Since Jane Waikenda took over at Nyayo house, she had a policy of employing stringent measures especially in areas where such capacity is available locally. This didn’t go down well for some ICT companies bringing in unemployed westerners in droves as “expats”. Some have argued that they would move their corporate headquarters to South Sudan or  Congo, just to protest, well, maybe Tanzania or South Africa.

Anyway, Matiangi says he has had discussions with his interior ministry CS and now ICT work permit applications will be treated differently. The ICTA will participate in the process and there will be a desk where the applicants can be helped.

This helps in the transfer of skills :)

How are Kenyan Companies fairing at Connected?

Last year, I did a post on KITOS and its efforts to ensure Kenyan companies are involved in large government tenders?

Has this improved? Well, I see JTL Faiba is a sponsor this year, if you think Liquid Telecom in Kenya, and that is it.

Mike Macharia and SST were conspicuously missing from the programme, maybe to give opportunities to other local company CEOs.

Who knows what happened to KITOS?

I don’t think the story has changed from last year…..


Liquid Telecom Succeeds in providing milkshakes, fails in connectivity

Last year, I wrote this story of pathetic connectivity at the Connected Kenya Summit. The issue was; how can you have a conference talking about connectivity and one of the most touted regional company can not manage internet connectivity?

This year, Liquid Telecom decided to abandon its core business and succeed in the food and beverage department. While the wifi didn’t work from the word go in the morning, Liquid shakes were working very well and some internet-frustrated attendees enjoyed the milkshakes thoroughly.

2014-04-15 17.09.32

I am sure for some people, having no internet connectivity is good for concentration but you know what? we are so hooked that people switched to their mobile hotspots, which means that in a room of 400 people, there were probably 300 hotspots.

This resulted to Liquid Telecom blaming these little hotspots for the failure in their network set up. Apparently these little hotspots were clogging the network. This didn’t make sense.

I have attended the Mobile World Congress, which is attended by 100,000 people and each provider has their network and yet, the public wifi works very well. How does it work?

Anyway, I think Liquid had a problem with their network and for a company of their repute, I think we should have gotten a better excuse/reason.

Apparently, the organisers were promised an STM1 (155mbps) and Ben Roberts, Liquid CEO confirmed that they were pushing 170mbps which is huge.

The duties were also subdivided; Orange were providing online streaming and Liquid to handle the conference connectivity.

But the milkshakes worked well for all attendees….


Connected Kenya Summit makes prog. changes….

Last year was my first time at Connected Kenya and I wrote this post suggesting some changes. The best part is that the program this year has changed.

The program has been changed to include breakout sessions, it has different tracks, the speakers seem to be on topic and the projection seems to be working ok…….

But… how do we deal with death by powerpoint, do we change font, do we say presentations are on for 15 minutes or what do we do with those power points?

I was seated next to Sam Gichuru of Nailab and he was not impressed with the presentations, he thought much should change in the presentations area.

“The set up is brilliant, the tech is good, the process and venue is good but the content needs to be repackaged to reflect the dynamics of attendees, less powerpoint and more discussions beteween the presenters and the audience,” said Gichuru.

The bigger point is, we have Oracle, SAP, Dimension Data, Liquid Telecom, Orange etc as sponsors, how about we engage in discussions regarding implementation of projects and how to overcome strategies.

For instance, government paid for 14 Oracle modules in IFMIS, how comes only three have been implemented, or something like that. We can get powerpoint as attachments or via bluetooth and read and discuss between the speakers and delegates.

For better details, please read the year old post :)

East Africa Ministers stay in the hotel whole day

Government Ministers from Rwanda and Uganda were forced to stay in their hotel rooms after Fred Matiangi, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication failed to turn up for the first day of Connected Kenya Summit.

Matiangi was meant to open the first day of Connected Kenya and launch the ICT Masterplan (revamped) but he was apparently/allegedly held up in meetings with the president and could not make it for the first day. Word is that he will arrive later tonight, to participate in the second day.

The minsters/reps from East Africa could not participate in the conference because protocol demands that if you visit a country in official government capacity, then your host must be there to receive you. If not, it would break protocol or raise an international incident.

It would be nice to hear stories of how Uganda and Rwanda have implemented the digital companies registry. Kenya is yet to get there.

Let us see if they turn up tomorrow….

Help Kenyan students with disability get to 5m

Safaricom will donate Ksh. 5 million to match the views on this video. It is the story of young Susan, her struggle and acceptance of living with visual impairment. It is very moving. Watch the kids in the field as they prepare for a sprint and the kids in the computer lab.

The big deal is not the Ksh 5 million, Safaricom can donate that, the issue is raising awareness on issues of disability and getting more people to provide information and services that cater for the needs of those living with disability.

The video coincided with the launch of a revamped Safaricom website that has made technical and content tweaks to ensure that people living with visual impairment can access services as well as anyone else can.

For instance, photos should be as descriptive as possible, so that those using assistive technology can have the same info or create the same image as anyone else. Think about the radio or magazine programs; there are those that will give shallow information and there are those that that delve deep into descriptions, make you paint the image in your head and in the end, the intended impact is clearer.

Pupils at the Thika School for the Blind use computers. Technology provides immense opportunities for teachers and students.

Pupils at the Thika School for the Blind use computers. Technology provides immense opportunities for teachers and students.


Why should we care?

There are those who argue that every site has its audience and if the people living with disability cannot access, well, maybe they should stick to braille. The video above will also share the plight of students sharing text books and how technology has bridged that gap. If all sites made the teaks, then more people should access this information and its benefits.

Yes, the first is bridging the technology gaps; of the eight schools for special needs in Kenya, only Thika School for the Blind has access to computers; and even then, the lab caters for 100 students. The other schools will have to hope that one day, they will share the benefits of technology. Hopefully soon.

When you think of call to innovation, who does it target? Imagine if the students and graduates living with disability had the same opportunities to create cool applications? Maybe they will come up with applications that can be used globally. If you think of the saying that its only the wearer of the shoe who knows where it pinches, maybe there would be ground breaking collaborations. Of course, just like in Kenya’s tech community, many ideas fail, before one idea ends up to be the one, but at least the chances are there.

There is also the issue of increased employment opportunities; if the students are exposed to technology early, they can get new ideas to earn a living and in this era of technology, no one cares much so long as you can deliver on the other end.

Exposure also means that students learn code and programming early and can therefore take that route if interested. For those who remember Idd Salim, the late blogger and developer, those who went to Starehe with him knew that all what he wanted to do was computer stuff, and that is what he became. Nowadays many schools offer computer lessons for students. For many people, the internet is a well of opportunity; online publishing, open source collaborations etc…..


Braille is the common mode of communication, which means if you can't read or write braille, communication is tough. Emails provide an opportunity for better communication.

Braille is the common mode of communication, which means if you can’t read or write braille, communication is tough. Emails provide an opportunity for better communication.


Step by step

Two years ago, I had a chance to train young men and women from Africa Youth With Disability Network. The training was mainly on using online media. The best part about the training was that I learnt how to appreciate even the small changes that people make in order to embrace people living with disability.

The excitement of posting the first blog post, tweet or Facebook is the same for a person living with disability, as well as the able bodied person. But while an able bodied person doesn’t have to struggle so much

Anyway, go ahead and watch the video :)

Wananchi Group in Sh. 270m deal with Nairobi County

Wanachi Group has signed a $3 million (approx. 270m) deal with the Nairobi county, to connect 2,715 schools in Nairobi with internet.

The project was launched today and by June this year (yes, in 3 months), the pilot of 245 schools is expected to be done.  After that the project will be evaluated and the second phase rolled out in three to five years.

“In addition to the free Internet, Wananchi will provide each school with a digital set top box for connection to a television for use in delivery of audio content to students. Pre-primary kindergartens will be equipped with a digital set top box and a small television,” said the release from Wananchi.

Wananchi is the force behind Zuku and in as much as they have done very well to dominate fiber to the home, I wonder how they will handle a project of this magnitude. Yes, they have bottomless pockets with the recent acquisition but I hope this project will have a better ending.

Apparently, the project will not cost the government anything but I have heard that story before. A private, profit making enterprise splashing sh. 270m from the goodness of their hearts and expecting no favours from powers that be?

Of all the big ISPs (tier 1), I think Wananchi has been missing in big government contracts and this may be a chance to show that they can compete and deliver quality public services. Safaricom, JTL, Orange, and Liquid have all had a chance to provide large scale services to government.

Local vs. international transit bandwidth

I am hoping that Wananchi will use the opportunity to drum up support for local content and hosting and in the process take advantage of the massive telco infrastructure it has put up.

If the content remains international, then Wananchi will have bandwidth issues given the challenges of lighting up TEAMS fiber optic cable (that one deserves a post). Wananchi is one of the companies almost or already maxing on their share of the already lit fiber and the policy requires them to buy from the other shareholders though the price is not fixed.

Wananchi could press for a new lighting policy, that would allow them to satisfy the demand, but if it is a question of local loop utilisation, then probably very few ISPs can beat them on that.

I am sure they have a way to manage the network in such a way that it will not impact existing customers on the network.

One laptop project

I am not sure where this project fits with the one laptop per child or whatever we will call the 24b project, but for the Nairobi schools, this will be a blessing if it goes through. If the school has existing network, then whatever IT projects coming up will benefit them. The other ISPs should adopt the other counties and do the infrastructure and this whole ICT for schools promise will become reality faster.

Let us see what happens after the pilot……