Book review: Money, Real quick- the Mpesa story

About three weeks ago, Safaricom held a function to celebrate the book  “money, real quick” which relates to Kenya’s use of mobile money, commonly known as Mpesa. The reason why I say celebrate is because the book was launched in 2012 in Italy and has been available on the kindle and Amazon.

The book was sponsored by Rockefeller Foundation and was written by Nicholas Sullivan, a senior fellow at Fletcher school and Tonny Omwansa, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi.

The book was commissioned to provide a journalistic narrative driven story as well as highlight the impact Mpesa has had in the  country and the region. The book makes a very easy read and is very detailed, aside from a few areas where the story jumps back and forth and introduces topics with no details but you get the details later. Some of the stories were not tight enough, like the way the story of the iHub is told, I felt it should have been knitted better.

Moving on…..

When I saw the invite, I remember thinking, these will be the same stories of Mpesa, how Vodafone came to rescue us, this poor person, this farmer, this who bla bla….. you can insert your own Mpesa stories, rinse and repeat.

Then I remembered that I have always had all these Mpesa questions that I needed the book to answer. I am not sure whether you have similar questions but here is my list;

1. How exactly did Mpesa idea germinate?

I am sure we have all heard of the cases in court with business people and most notably Faulu Kenya, which is well addressed in the book.

The book traces the origin of Mpesa idea to series of workshops and meetings between Kenya’s finance sector players, telcos (vodafone, Safaricom reps), government types and all sorts of people. The role of DFID, British government donor arm is well underscored in their financing and follow up.

The book confirmed my perception, there is no way any Kenyan or individual entity can claim a piece of the pie while the initial investment was made by the British government and Vodafone. They gambled on an idea and it paid off.

Compare this to the countries who demand that the US government should not control the internet through the ICANN. The US government invested heavily in the development of the internet and it will take time for the US to let ICANN go. You can read more about ICANN here and here.

So, for those thinking that they can lay future claim to development of Mpesa, get the book and get a hint. Accept and move on….

2. What happened to the deal between Safaricom and Equity Bank over Mkesho?

Safaricom and Equity had developed a nice product for the mass market and the deal seemed like a union made in heaven, given the two companies’ huge marketing budgets and their ability to ride the mass market.

Michael Joseph has given an account of how the deal went south, how Equity decided to compete with Safaricom after the idea to split the money 50-50 went sour. Get the book and read about the tech innovation contest and who thought the other had no business in technology but marketing. It will surprise you 🙂

I am sure you all know that Equity Bank has applied for a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) to roll out services in 11 African countries in conjunction with Airtel. Maybe Equity is making good its intention to compete with Safaricom and push to the region, in a way that Airtel has been unable to do, at least in the Kenyan market.

The book has juicy details from MJ.

 

Unknown

 

3. Interoperability with other mobile money providers

The book gives the history of mobile money in Kenya and the players. It talks about issues of favouritism that government bodies have extended to Safaricom and how it dealt with them. It talks about the Central Bank regulations and dances around the issue of transferring money across the board.

4. Konza technopolis, silicon savannah, ….

Most of the books on Kenyan tech have tend to always mention Konza, that is why I expected it. The writers talk of BPO growth and how Konza will catalyse it. I guess they missed the memo that Kenyan BPO is dead and the ICT marketing bodies have moved to other sexy topics like managed services…

The book talks about Konza in detail and says all those things people say….. nothing new.

Overall the book makes a nice read especially with the history of Kenya’s financial sector, definitions like what is last mile and first mile….. and of course it has all the key buzz words; bottom of the pyramid, towards financial inclusion, and banking the unbanked, among others.

The book is priced £9.99 and $2.99 and I think the paper back is available locally.

Motorola Solutions launch new Enterprise Mobility products

Motorola solutions, Inc. has launched three new Enterprise Mobility products in Kenya to diversify its presence in the market. The new products include the ET1 Enterprise Tablet, the MC40 Enterprise Assistant and its award winning wireless solutions.

The new products will complement the existing portfolio offered by Motorola solutions including: ruggedized mobile computers and enterprise class smart-phones; advanced mobile scanning and imaging solutions; a robust line of barcode scanners and RFID readers.

“The company’s recent acquisition of Psion for $200 million has enabled it to flesh out its mobile computing portfolio and gain deep expertise in the manufacturing, industrial and supply chain sectors where Psion has traditionally been very strong” said Travis Heneveld United Nations Account Director, Motorola Solutions.

Heneveld also revealed Motorola’s deep cooperation with the humanitarian sector in the disaster relief eco system. “Motorola is not just about the technology. We are working closely with governments and NGOs around the world to bring communications services to where they’re needed most. Our advanced solutions and strong track record in emergency communications is helping first responders be their best in the moments that matter” he added.

James Kamweti, the Account Manager for Motorola Solutions Enterprise in Africa, said that these launches will support new vertical markets that Motorola intends in Kenya.

READ MORE

HP launches HP ELITEPAD 900 in the Kenyan market

The tablet market is becoming increasingly diverse. HP has today launched the HP ElitePad 900, a new tablet that brings into the Kenyan packet a design with enterprise-grade features, functionality and support.

The ElitePad 900 is designed for business, government, healthcare and retail. It features HP ElitePad Smart Jackets which add connectivity options and longer battery life along with specific add-ons that customize the tablet for specialized uses.

It is an ultrathin, lightweight Microsoft® Windows 8 tablet that offers full serviceability, enhanced security and manageability found in HP Elite PCs, packed with a battery that passed over 115,000 hours of tests.

“Many organizations are forced to trade design for functionality when making technology purchasing decisions,” said HP Kenya Managing Director, Mr. Charles Kuria. “By combining the style and user experience consumers demand with the features IT requires, the HP ElitePad shows that customers can have it all.”

For the business people:

Shaped to fit comfortably in the hand, the HP ElitePad offers a 25.7 cm (10.1”) display, weighs just 0.68 and measures 9.2 millimetres (mm) thin. The 16-by-10 aspect ratio maximizes the display area for ideal viewing of traditional business applications, as well as video content. Precision crafted, with an eye toward fit and finish, the HP ElitePad uses stylish, premium materials such as CNC-machined aluminum and Corning® Gorilla® Glass 2.

Powered by next-generation Intel® mobile processors, the HP ElitePad delivers PC productivity for those on the go and Intel x86 compatibility for existing business application support. It is optimized for Windows 8 and supports touch-, pen- or voice-based input. The HP ElitePad also provides power efficiency and smartphone-style convenience with compatibility for traditional Windows applications, as well as easy integration into existing IT environments.

The unique, productivity-enhancing ecosystem of HP Smart Jackets and additional accessories designed specifically for the HP ElitePad expand the tablet’s potential, turning it into a total enterprise solution:

·    HP ElitePad Productivity Jacket—includes an integrated keyboard, connectivity ports, SD card reader and adjustable viewing angles for a complete computing experience.

·    HP ElitePad Expansion Jacket—adds USB, HDMI and other connectivity to get more done on the go. Add even longer battery life when bundled with the optional HP ElitePad Jacket battery.

·    The HP ElitePad Rugged Jacket—provides added protection

·    HP ElitePad Docking Station—delivers an enterprise-class desktop experience with an added keyboard and monitor and also charges the tablet. Or, use it to set the tablet up as a secondary screen for phenomenal multitasking.

·    HP Executive Tablet Pen—lets customers write messages and notes in their natural handwriting directly on screen and then save or convert to typed text for use in other application

Capacitated with tools for mobile work or play:

The HP ElitePad tablet’s 1080p front-facing video camera and 8 megapixel (MP) rear camera with an LED flash and included CyberLink YouCam software help users easily communicate face to face, create high-definition (HD) web videos or record training videos without high production costs.

Powered by technology from HP Labs, the company’s central research arm, new HP Page Lift is an application that automatically trims, and correctly lights and orients a captured image of a whiteboard, paper contract or other document so it is ready to use or share without requiring manual editing.

Users can easily print directly from their HP ElitePad to any ePrint-capable HP printer or to a networked HP printer without the need for downloading drivers. HP ePrint software allows users to print remotely at more than 24,000 public locations such as hotels and business service retailers. The HP ElitePad also helps small workgroups connect with HP Wireless Hotspot, a desktop application that allows users to share a wireless internet connection and network bandwidth.

Additional user-experience software includes the CyberLink Media suite, which enables users to manage and create audio and video content with the same easy-to-use interface as other HP business PCs. Plus users can record and listen to audio with a stereo microphone and headset jack that feature the richness of SRS Audio.

Information management is made easy with Evernote, which captures, saves and synchronizes information across devices with impressively quick search capability, and Skitch software that eases collaboration with colleagues by quickly marking up images with captions or sketches.

Manageability, deployment and security for IT environments The HP ElitePad offers a long life cycle, stable image, three-year limited warranty and HP Global Series Support, all of which IT managers expect in an enterprise tablet. The HP ElitePad is fully serviceable with an optional, industry-unique service tool for self-maintainers that allow customers to access the panel, battery, motherboard and unibody chassis, helping reduce downtime and keep sensitive data and devices in-house. In addition, organizations will appreciate the enterprise-caliber data, device and identity protection from HP Client Security, including HP BIOS Protection, Security Manager and HP Drive Encryption. Additional security features include Device Access Manager, Computrace and Spare key.

Device deployment and on-going support and maintenance are made easy with x86 compatibility and support for HP Client Management solutions. The LANDesk Management Suite also increases security and eases management by providing differentiated tools to locate and protect data on lost devices, remotely capture SIM card info for mass WWAN activation and enforce geographic policies to remotely lock, full wipe or selectively wipe data.

 

The HP ElitePad 900 is currently available in the Kenyan market and the retail price starts from Kshs 90,000

More information about HP (NYSE: HPQ) is available at http://www.hp.com.

 

Samsung launches Galaxy note II in Nairobi

After launching the Galaxy note II in more prestigious/economically higher etc.. markets, Samsung finally launched it in Nairobi today. Two weeks ago, there was a grand launch in Cape Town, South Africa.

Samsung has already elbowed Nokia out of the low end segment of the market, and is now seeking to dominate the more lucrative smartphone market. The smart phone has changed the business landscape right from business meetings, bank transfers, editing documents, mobile office, digital planners, and calendars. South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are the leading markets for smart phones in Africa.

The Samsung Galaxy note II is for anyone who wants to be creative, experimental and productive. The distinctive features for the galaxy note II are about technology and hardware. This phone has powerful performance processor, perfect viewing experience and a wider screen. It is the first android 4.1 operating system.

It is also a multitasking device, such that while talking you can also take notes, you can also open multiple windows on it. For example, you can open the browser and open the window for making notes because it comes with multi screens. It also has quality air view and you can use the S Pen to preview your pictures, calendar and planner.

The S pen and the S memo features, gives you shape matched and better handwriting features. Note II has one of the best hardware and strongest batteries. For the photographer the Samsung Galaxy note II comes with multi functions for the camera.  You can preselect the mode and template on which you can take the picture; you can also do still photography while doing videography.

As part of been a leader in innovation the Samsung Galaxy note II comes with a 24 months warrant and e warranty.

Questions raised during the launch were:

1. What is the price of the new mobile? And in terms of digital divide in the market what is Samsung doing?

A: Samsung has launched a number of affordable smart phones including the galaxy pocket whose price ranges between Kshs 9,000 and Kshs 9,500 and is small in size with applications and features of any smart phone and android.

The note II Galaxy costs Kshs 62,000 at the retail market.

2. There has been controversy between Samsung products and Apple about patenting and copywriting how is this going to affect the new product?

A: The controversy is not about the manufacturing process, Samsung products or technology, there have been legal issues, as is the case, when companies are manufacturing similar products. This controversy is about the shape of the product. At Samsung we are committed to be ahead of our competitors. We are the only company manufacturing a note in the industry. We started this in last year and we are committed to innovating new technologies in the market.

3. What is Samsung’s strategy in addressing the Digital Divide in Africa?

A:  We are looking at Africa and saying we are not going to emphasis on voice and SMS only but place ourselves where Africa is going tomorrow in terms of digital operations and internet use. We are creating new avenues for internet penetration in the market. While others are walking out of the African market we are doing exactly the opposite and walking in.

We have also been in Kenya for a number of years now and we are establishing infrastructure and investing in human resources, for example, the engineering academy in Kenya as a way of investing in Africa.

4. Given that Galaxy Note II is for businesspeople are there supporting devices, for example, when there is no power and you need to use the device?

Samsung Galaxy note II has a powerful battery. Power consumption depends on how you use and what you use it for. We also have two power saving modes programmed in it, the standard and custom power saving modes.

 

Samsung Galaxy Pocket- my take

When you think about a phone, what factors do you consider? Cost? Operating System? Weight? Feel and Look? Well, people have several considerations but for others, its just show off and perception. How many people have you seen with an iPhone and all they do is just call, text and receive calls?

For someone who has been using a basic Nokia a.k.a iTorch or mlika mwizi as its commonly known, upgrading to Samsung Galaxy Pocket looks like a huge acheivement 🙂 Its my first android device, and I thought of sharing my experience.

Can't compare Nokia entry to Samsung Galaxy Pocket but its a leap...

Factors:

Pricing:

The Galaxy pocket is affordable, retailing at Ksh. 10,000 (approx. $130) it looks and feels light and has all the elements of a smart phone. It reminds me of the first time the Ideos got into the market and the craze for affordable smartphones reached fever pitch.

Hardware

There’s a 2MP camera at the back, which is good enough, its not as good as 8MP in some gadgets but works well for me. One of the good features is the Micro-USB port that allows both charging and transferring of data, it is located on the top, adjacent to the standard 3.5mm headphones jack.

Display

The Galaxy Pocket has a 2.8-inch which is not as big as the Galaxy SII but for the price and the need for battery life, its ok. The only challenge I have is with the keyboard, which has a feel of the iPhone why typing but it seems too crammed and doesn’t have the “fat finger” typing 🙂 thats when you want to type one letter and it presses the other.

Software/ Interface

The Galaxy pocket runs on Android 2.3 and is powered by an 832MHz processor which is very nice for a multi-tasker. There’s more than enough room to store apps, photos, music and videos with the phone’s 3GB internal storage, expandable up to 32GB via microSD card slot, which is more than an average user needs.

Performance/ Battery life

The Galaxy Pocket comes with a 1200mAh battery that delivers a good performance but for a person used to a Nokia that can keep charge for three days, its still a challenge remembering to charge it everyday.