Will connectivity frequency get affordable?

At the height of digital migration, there was a lot of optimism on the opportunities available to people not able to afford the huge capital outlay that broadcast services require.

One of the things we were told was that with the migration, there would be available spectrum for businesses to use and better still, the white spaces would be available for rural area wifi services. White spaces refer to the gap between two stations; usually left to avoid interference.

The ideas coming from the ministry of information and communication was that now rural folks interested in newer versions of cyber cafes or wifi services could use the white spaces. The Communications Authority wasn’t buying in the whole philanthropic angle; it ha always insisted that white spaces don’t work.

That is why the story by Business Daily today is not shocking; CA has said that white spaces is the domain of signal distributors. There is no rule that a certain group of people will get concessionary rates when it comes to buying space; the distributors are also in business.

Some companies had invested in the white spaces as a way to demonstrate the opportunities low cost internet can provide. One such project was spearheaded by Microsoft and the ministry, while the CA felt that it was left out of the discussions. With the rates going commercial, let us watch and see.

The CA gets so many things right, except those that involve catalysing business outside the bigger players. It has done well to stay out of the dispute between Airtel and Safaricom over frequency sharing. That is after Safaricom paid or committed $55m to blocks on the 700 freed after digital migration. There is an impasse on the pricing and whether the sharing envisaged under the policy was for the big players and smaller players like the wifi providers.

Have you ever wondered why smaller companies buying connectivity from bigger companies struggle? Read Kahenya Kamunyu’s optimism when he launched Able Wireless  then skip to his first blog outlining his frustration and then the more frustrations; rinse and repeat. Try and not laugh at the part where he disses Joe Mucheru, information and comms CS and the other luminaries of Kenya’s ICT sector.

Of course the CA is entitled to collect as much rent as it can, but it would collect even more if the companies thrive. Why not create another category for frequency recipients and peg it on radius? That way, we probably wouldn’t need the universal services fund to grow network in certain areas because these businesses will establish the business case. For instance, if a wifi provider in Tana river interests the local businesses, schools and the people, the big providers may just come with better offers.

There are initiatives to drive Huduma into every county but if there are private entities  providing similar services; the counties can only grow more.

The question is; will we ever get the free frequency to roll out services in whatever area  smaller players want? We usually think rural areas deserve more but there are other areas in urban that could provide opportunities.

The question of spectrum is contested, just read about the drama in South Africa, where people feel the impending auction will only benefit the bigger players. Of course  the big players like Vodacom have spoken on how the economy will receive a major boost.

If you are interested in reading more about spectrum developments in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Senegal, please read this paper by Steve Song.

 

////

 

What can we expect from Mucheru, Kyalo in ICT?

There is no doubt that the appointment of Joe Mucheru and ICT Cabinet Secretary and Victor Kyalo as PS is expected to provide new impetus to the ICT sector.

Why?

For the last two years, Kenya’s ICT sector has been uneasy over the rate of progress, much of which was blamed on unsupportive government officers and changing global trends.

The unease stems from the fact that seven years ago, there was a lot of hype, government support and international goodwill that resulted in competitions, grants and general investments in the sector. With this progress, Kenya seemed to be taking its place as a bonafide contender for Africa’s top technology hub.

That momentum seems to have slowed since the appointment of Dr. Fred Matiang’i as the head of Ministry of Information and Communication. The concern was that Dr. Matiang’I lacked deep understanding and appreciation of the ICT sector because he was an outsider in the ICT sector. In some cases, outsiders bring about change and development and in other cases, it doesn’t happen.

For those who know Kenya’s tech scene, these are the leading lights in policy and technology in the last 17 years; since the Kenya Communications Amendment Act took effect. Mucheru is probably well known for his role in growing Google in Africa, he was the first hire, when the content giant decided to set up offices in the region.

Mucheru and Kyalo were involved in policy advocacy and ICT sector involvement  through the Kenya ICT Network (KICTANET), an online forum that allowed members to contribute to government policy,  and the Telecommunications Service Providers of Kenya (TESPOK), a private sector lobby group.

However, those who have transitioned from private to public sector know that it can be tough. You need the workers at the ministry to help in delivery of promises, the supporting team usually determines the success and can sabotage or support, just like the private sector.

One of the arguments for sector challenges is lack of support for the government front, usually blamed on clueless leadership. Now you have people at the top who understand the challenges and opportunities in the sector. For once, the PS and CS are industry insiders, if they fail, then its not because of appointment of “wrong” or clueless leaders who don’t foster growth in the industry.

For those old enough to remember the “dream team”, we know that success in the private sector doesn’t always translate to success in the public sector. Success will be hinged on culture change for some of the characters who are set in their ways and may not be too happy with regime change. Kyalo has already navigated the murky waters, let us see how Mucheru deals with crocodiles.

So, what should we expect?

Leadership and direction- E.g Safaricom dominance

One of the biggest controversies relates  to the issue of Safaricom dominance and the best way to support Orange and Airtel to turn around profits and find a way to compete with Safaricom.

When asked about this topic by the parliamentary vetting committee,  Mucheru promised to work with the Communications Authority and explore ways to help the other telcos to be more competitive. He mentioned infrastructure sharing as one area that could promote more competition.

He was quick to mention that Safaricom is valued at $ 5 billion, which is lower than Whatsapp ($19b) and Uber ($60b). Of course there is no correlation between market capitalization and market dominance but I got his point to be that we must grow more billion-dollar companies before curtailing their growth. The fact that the committee didn’t pin him more means that they were either clueless or will allow Mucheru to bullshit around, as long as he can drop big names and jargon.

The CA and Matiang’I have been at odds with Safaricom, writing to parliament and promising to implement measures that cut Safaricom’s growth instead of helping others competing and catching up. Mucheru had constructive suggestions, let us see if he will implement/

The problem is that whether we like it or not, Safaricom supports other smaller companies and in cutting its growth, the government is eventually cutting the growth for other smaller companies. For instance, Mpesa depends on smaller local software developers to innovate, if the revenues drop,  this jobs go to India, where the costs are way lower. Of course, market forces could force similar results but its better than government doing it. That is why this fight makes more tech companies jittery.

It will be interesting to see how Mucheru handles this balancing act between the government and its largest tax payer.

Leadership and direction- Blockchain, bitcoin, etc

Every time new technology comes up, there is usually apprehension from the incumbent; mainly it borders on the economic effects but is usually masked as public interest; to a larger extent that is…… for instance, when Mpesa entered the market, banks complained to the Central Bank, arguing public interest and demanding that Safaricom be licensed as a bank and comply with all the rules if it wants to handle money. It was a convoluted battle that Safaricom finally won and banks had no choice than to partner.

Countries like Japan, Tunisia and many in the EU are exploring how to use blockchain. It will probably take another 10 years for it to go mainstream. You can read about bitcoin in Kenya here. CBK has already cautioned the public on its usage.

In this respect, Mucheru and Kyalo should offer leadership and insights on the best way for Kenya to go.  Whether CBK recognizes the opportunities provided by blockchain or not, will be down to the approach and guidance from the ICT ministry.

Restoring the vibrancy

There was a time Kenya’s ICT sector was vibrant, with competitions here and there, which provided opportunities for new ideas and career “app competition winners”. People say that the tech ecosystem doesn’t benefit from competitions but for the young guys from school, it can offer some motivation and a way to set up.

Its funny how some people vilify app competitions, even if they are well known or found their footing in those competitions. I recently read some WhatsApp messages from some guys saying how competitions spoil the industry. The irony is; the two loudest characters have won the most money and were a mainstay in those competitions. They ran professional start ups; being know just by pitching in those competitions.

For the people entering Kenya’s tech space now, you missed a boom of unaccounted government money, forget about the $1,000 Barclays is giving, this was money 🙂

There is so much we can expect, but this is all I can think about for now; read what Mucheru promises in this article.

//

 

Govt should centralise to improve security

In the last two weeks, a group calling itself Anonymous Kenya has terrorized government folks by hacking social media accounts belonging to Kenya Defence Forces, their spokesperson and the deputy president.

The response from government folks was just laughable. Just watch this KTN interview with Evans Kahuthu, the guy tasked with Information Security at the ICT Authority.  It was the week that the accounts were hacked, exposing the governments behinds and this guy dances on the fence with jibber jabber….. he didn’t say anything and the presenters/interviewers….well, that warrants a post on its own. I spoke to Evans later and he explained his challenges, off the record, but still, as an info sec rep in a government, this guy should have more teeth. Who should give him the teeth? Read on…

A lot has been said in the media and a lot of that is available online. But beyond all that, I thought it was better to look at the root causes, other than the symptoms.

When you talk to many folks in the ICT industry, a common theme that is emerging is the fragmentation of government ICT functions; yes the ICT Authority is supposed to be the more consolidated arm, but does it have all the powers? Listen to Evans and you will get it.

BtZtCDLIAAAOVkO

 

 

1. ICT Authority

When e-gov, GITs and the ICT Board merged to form the ICTA, the idea was that all govt functions would be consolidated into one major body that can now advise government and the county ICT reps on the technology directions. Now, I could go on and on but one key thing was that when the hackings happened, even the guys at ICTA weren’t aware of the passwords or who operates what.

It was clear that there was no audit or a centralised doc that can tell you the ICT hardware (servers, laptops etc), Software – think of all money paid to Oracle by government, and the attendant passwords. So when you say, why were we not Secure? Govt folks might ask, didn’t we invest in new locks?

2. Itumbi and his team

There is something about a duel between young and old people. The old guard thinks experience trumps technology, the young think the dinosaurs are hogging power and do not know what they are talking about. Itumbi and his digital team, are in charge or operate the social media accounts. They know their stuff and no one will tell them anything.

I asked whether the ICTA and team Itumbi have ever sat in a room together and I couldn’t get straight answers, so I assumed the answer was no.

So, the ICTA is in charge of ICT direction in this country but do they give advise or direction to team Itumbi? Whether they like it or not, its government security and it matters.

I am not sure what security precaution team Itumbi takes  but clearly, more synergy is needed at least not to have the Deputy President’s personal number exposed. There is no big deal but probably some people will add him to their Whatsapp group on neighbourhood security or something.

3. The Communications Authority

Now, the CAK is the big boy. You know the guy or girl in your school who would threaten or take your piece of bread in high school, yet they have theirs? Well, CAK insist that it can handle all matters tech in the country, even when its clear that that they should handle only policy stuff.

The CAK has been in a tug of war with ICTA to own the Cyber security master plan and the numerous master plans and road maps that this government has specialised in. It has been clear that they can’t handle. Why?

 

KECIRT

Picture this; in May 2012, a group that maybe the now anonymous Kenya set up KE-CIRT twitter account, which has the ca.go.ke as their contact and has been tweeting on tech matters. After the hacks, the account was used to spew disparaging remarks and push the buttons of Anonymous group.

Do you think a government body would be spoiling for a fight with anonymous given the situation?

When I asked the folks at CAK, they said that thats not them bla bla but you are the custodian of KE-CIRT, how would you not know of an account operating in your name, now masquerading as the government body? From 2012? There has been no attempt to at least lock your accounts to avoid squatting?

You can imagine the commotion and phone calls as people tried to find out who was KE-CIRT and others saying how they are helpless and can only depend on Twitter Inc to help.

It is clear that something needs to happen, I don’t have all the answers but something needs to happen now..

🙂 and the crowd say…….. we have heard that before!

 

KECIRT 2

 

//

Kenic has a new CEO

Kenic, the organisation tasked with managing the .ke domain, has a new CEO. Who may or may not know anything about heading a registry and how to make .ke more stable and resilient. For background on Kenic, you can read more here.

Emma Marube has the difficult task of heading the troubled organisation, as the Communications Authority ponders whether to privatise the entity or retain the multistakeholder model but offer competition on the second level. For example, if someone wanted to provide .com.ke registry services, it may offer competition to .co.ke but at the same time muddle the waters.

We all wish the registry well and we hope that it will be more secure. Most people stopped complaining about perennial outages because…..what will you do? Accept and move on….

I asked for a bio, just to know more about her….. and this is what I got.

“Our acting CEO is Mrs. Emma Bokea Marube. Prior to the appointment, she has been KeNIC’s Finance and Planning Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Business Management (Finance and Banking) and CPA. (K) Emma has also headed Finance and Accounting in several organisations.”
I followed it up with questions on what she had in store for us and how she is planning to steer the registry to prestige and envy that it once enjoyed in Africa ICT circles.
I got no response.
So we can assume that the new CEO knows or doesn’t know what she is doing. Kenic board has the reputation of hiring people who have no clue about running a registry, so I wasn’t exactly surprised when I got no comment.
We can also assume that she is moonlighting….. if this bio on this site is to be believed.
Marube
Moving on…..
The registry now has 76 registrars, holding domains from 27 as the lowest to 4186 currently held by Safaricom and 4788 held by EAC Directory. The desire for lower costs has seen Safaricom selling the domain at sh 500, which includes hosting. Others are selling the domain for as high as sh 3000 per year.
Ends

Cyber Security report by TESPOK, Serianu is just shoddy

Last year, was the first time I read the Cyber Security report by TESPOK and Serianu, a security company. I remember thinking “why is this report so hollow?” but I thought it was because it was the first year and they didn’t have the materials.

You can imagine the question I asked this time round, when I read this report on TESPOK website. You can read my story for the IT World.

So, what are my issues with the report?

1. Shoddy, sketchy work

If you read the report, the point where you find the statistics, is the honey pot side, which is a security system put in place at TESPOK to capture data from all the ISPs peering or exchanging content at the Kenya Internet Exchange Point.

If you read the other information on areas such as banking, the data is devoid of any statistics or any information that can add value. They may just as well have given this desk research to a journalist and they probably would have come up with a better write up.

The intro is written by a guy from Equity bank, who could at least have alluded to all the fraud and security issues that security experts say Equity Bank is vulnerable to. Not to admit but all that marketing rubbish of how they have the systems in place, even though we know it is a lie.

Some of that info may not be disclosed by if you are security experts, you will have insiders who will indicate how much, say, every bank or at least the major banks are losing to cyber threats.

In short, that report could have been consolidated by the folks at TESPOK, either they are just lazy or they feel that partnering with Serianu given TESPOK more credibility, its an industry body, they needed Serianu to just compile?

 

2. Advertising for Serianu

If you read the report, it has several pages advertising what Serianu does and very minimal or none of what TESPOK does. Again, I ask, who needed who? If TESPOK just needed to advertise Serianu, don’t call it research, call it an advertorial or white paper or something.

 

3. Naming and shaming ISPs

The report talks about ISPs that are prone to malware, again, this is from the Honey pot. The report names the 20 ISPs but doesn’t give their names. When will they ever learn if the information is hidden?

I know that exposing an ISP’s cybersecurity vulnerability affects its bottom line but they will improve if consumers are able to know which ISPs are most secure. Its more like touting yourself as a researcher in media and corruption, then instead of naming the most corrupt media houses, you just give us number one to ten then present the percentages, how does that help us?

Yes, ISPs are members of TESPOK and do not want to be shamed but if you want the ISPs to take the research seriously, then name them, make use of the honey pot and forget these essays that we can google and download.

The closest I got to identifying the ISPs was in the publication of AS numbers for the IPs considered lethal. With the AS numbers I identified Access Kenya, JTL, Safaricom, among others as the culprits.

 

4. Role of KE CERT

I think the best statement was towards the end, when the report says there is a need for a strong CERT in Kenya, this was like a kick to the CCK and their dismal efforts, which you can read on their website.

 

Of course this is just my opinion…….you can read the report and be the judge.

TESPOK now wants to manage KENIC

About a week ago, I received a press release, which I guess was widely circulated. It was from the Telecommunications Service Providers of Kenya, commonly known as TESPOK.  It was sent by the Access Kenya PR machine, maybe because Kris Senanu, Access Kenya MD is the chair of TESPOK.

Since then, a lot has been said and you can read John Walu’s blog in the nation online and if you are new to matters KENIC and domain names in Africa, you can read some posts I have done over the years.

Back to TESPOK, their concern was that the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) soon to be Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) had not consulted them on the idea of commercialising the .ke domain. The release was responding to a story appearing in the papers to that effect.

Kris Senanu, TESPOK Chair

Kris Senanu, TESPOK Chair

Now, TESPOK sits on the KENIC board, the release clearly indicates that it is one of the founding stakeholders and at the height of the crises at KENIC board, TESPOK gladly took over the technical functions at KENIC. It may well be that TESPOK didn’t want the disruption of services for .ke owners but it may also be that TESPOK was comfortable with the status.There was even a proposal for revenue sharing for performance of technical function.

At the point when it emerged that the new law would change the structure of KENIC, I expected TESPOK to be more vocal and to be the leading light, but maybe its just me, maybe they started the debate earlier.

When I got the release, my first reaction was: What changed at the KENIC board? The balance has been altered.

Then I got to the last segment of the release…. boom….

“Unfortunately, over the last five years interference of CCK, now CAK, in the day to day operations of KENIC has seen the organization experience unprecedented turnover of both Board and staff; with 5 CEO changes. The functions of KENIC have continued to be delivered because TESPOK maintained its commitment to the local industry as per the ICANN Agreement to provide technical and logistical support to the .ke manager.  It is important for CCK/CAK to give the .ke ccTLD manager the opportunity to deliver on agreed key deliverables that have not been met in the last five years. Commercialization is not a solution to meeting the identified and agreed industry gaps within the local internet community.

 TESPOK has both the technical and administrative resources necessary to continue as a sole guarantor of the ccTLD if and when CAK pulls out. It has provided such support in the past. This will evidently lead to consolidating the Internet technical community shared resources under one umbrella body; a move very similar to, the consolidation of the various government agencies handling government ICT deployment and implementation under the Kenya ICT Authority. The scenario would then consolidate KENIC (the .ke manager), KIXP (Africa’s fastest growing Internet Exchange Point) and I-CSIRT (Internet Computer Security Incident Response Team) under the TESPOK stewardship.”

 

The last para is where the weight is, TESPOK wants to handle the .ke registry. It is very clear that they have outlined their capacity. Please note, it says TESPOK can continue as the sole guarantor of the ccTLD, (.KE) and not of KENIC.

Technical capacity? But, KIXP was recently moved to the Liquid Telecom data centre, does it mean the KENIC registry will be moved there too?

There is a registrar organisation known as DRAKE that is represented in the KENIC board, are they ok with this? (Aly Hussein used to be the representative, now I have no idea how to get to the new rep, if you know, please help me 🙂

I am told of  battles of supremacy between DRAKE and TESPOK over who is the industry voice and who is king. There are some who think that registries like .ke thrive because of registrars example Nominet in the UK, while others feel the role of ISPs is vital.

It depends on which camp you are because there are arguments that ISPs have shifted from domain and hosting business and left it to smaller players who make it their core business.

There is no doubt that the KENIC story is convoluted and the decision for CCK to leave KENIC board and be replaced by the ICT Authority doesn’t make much sense. It is the same government, CCK and ICTA are brothers or sisters, whatever they want to do they can, let us not kid ourselves.

CCK says it has extended the comments on the new law by a week and when the time comes for the application process, I wonder whether TESPOK will put in a separate bid or will seek to protect KENIC and have it continue with the functions.

Time will tell…….

 

 

Ndemo to advise Kenyan president on ICT

After the General Elections this year, there was much anticipation regarding the ICT docket; some wondered whether the Bitange Ndemo, former Permanent Secretary in Info Comm would become the new Cabinet Secretary or he would continue his role as PS. Others thought he would go to the education ministry to implement the laptop project.

There are others who felt that there was need for new blood, that the ICT sector could benefit from someone with new ideas and momentum. Others felt that Ndemo already had his people and a new person would help with new alliances. Well, the alliances part has veterans, who support AGIP- Any Government In Power, so, whoever comes, they quickly line behind them.

After much politicking, it was clear that Ndemo was out and in was Fred Matiangi as the CS and another person was PS, where is this guy anyway? Depending on which side you were, there were tributes and jubilations.

Immediately after leaving, Ndemo got appointment to several places, most notable at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) among others. I guess it meant he had something to contribute.

 

Unknown

 

After several months, the president, deputy, his hangers on and advisors must have realised that they made a mistake by just letting the guy go. He was appointed as the ICT advisor. I am not sure who is senior between him and the CS but I think the government must have realized they need him somewhere.

“My role is short term leading a project on Police automation starting with activation of 999 and 112 which are operational now.  We have also developed a citizen engagement portal that will help the police to receive information from the public on incidents and any other matter relating to public security,” Ndemo said.

I am one of those hoping that the automation process will go well and that this year’s connected gov summit will have new practical materials to discuss and not just theories and disconnected stuff.

So, does he think he will have any impact?

“This will greatly contribute to ICT sector.  For a starter, the 24 hour call center has 60 agents using art of state CRM software.  Leveraging on the technology will enhance service delivery and secure our people.  We shall build data analytic capabilities within the country.  As you know we have so much data but until we convert it into information, it will never help us in decision making,” he added.

It may be a short term project but in the end, maybe the government can automate, one department at a time. We want to see results 🙂

 

Digital Migration; business opportunities

Now that the earlier post has addressed the background of whole digital migration, it is better to explore opportunities. It is good to care about public good but if there is a way to benefit, I say take it.

For background, a digitised signal can allow for up to ten TV channels (standard definition) to be broadcast, and a single analogue channel would require the whole frequency.

So, what are these opportunities?

1. Software development

One of the things that media owners will have to do is provide content in an encoded way and develop algorithms that can provide more space for the content. The developers will have to come up with innovative ways to squeeze more content within a single channel.

Payment of content will be per megabit and therefore the winners will be the companies that can squeeze more content within a smaller space (in simple terms) Western immigrants are probably ready with proposals and it would be nice if Kenyan developers are well versed with this technology and can provide the services. For instance, media owners will be looking for ways to utilize the bandwidth and pay less like in cases where  a TV broadcaster can decide to increase the compression and quality of most of its TV channels for a particular event, so as to make some extra space available for a bandwidth-hungry High Definition  broadcast of that specific occasion.

Because this is business, media owners will be looking for innovative ways to deliver with low operational expenses. If you can deliver this, then you are in business.

2. Content generators/distributors

I have argued in a previous post that content will be the winner. There will be companies whose business is to produce content e.g community theatres, schools, etc You have a choice to either distribute or sell this content or you can give it to another company to distribute it for you, think of the middle men.

For instance, we could decide as a village to produce a cooking show, then sell it to either the media houses or through an intermediary. It will depend on capital outlay and negotiation skills. If your core business is production, you can leave distribution to other companies that have sharks and vulture like characters to maximize the profits.

Remember, CCK says 60% has to be local content, where do you think the media will get this content? Lets get to work 🙂

3. Media personalities, owners etc

If one digital frequency can hold 10 standard channels, think of how many TV personalities and media owners we can have. There will be job opportunities and an expansion of the sector.

Some channels will be regurgitating old content but if you have unique content, you will have advertisers because the content will be hyperlocal and targeted. Even counties will need people to run their stations.

4. Digital Dividend allocations

The analogue frequencies will be allocated and if we are not careful, this will go to the old cartels. It is important to get on board with CCK discussions, yes, they take them to Karen where there are no Matatus but we got to try.

It will be important for CCK to set aside free frequencies for rural services and you will not be allocated if you were never part of it. Remember history is written by the victors and if you are not there, you may never know how allocation was done.

5. Renting old media masts

With digital transmission, media owners will have to decide if to sell the infrastructure as scarp metal or rent it out to others who may find alternative uses. If you can find a way to make use of these masts, start polishing proposals for later on in the year when the dust settles.

 

6. Pay per view services

With the available bandwidth, this would be a chance to target disgruntled DSTV and local TV viewers fed up with repeated content and cheap shows from South America, Asia and India. Yes, there will be still space for them but if you can target livestreaming of movies and TV shows, there is a market.

Look at what Able Wireless has done- they have affordable streaming service. CCK doesn’t require licensing for such services.

 

If you have any other ways to make money with digital migration, please share, those are the only ones I could think about.

 

Digital Migration, the boring details

For the last 15 years, Kenya’s broadcast sector has enjoyed the benefits of liberalization; in the old times, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation had the monopoly but that changed around 1999. Capital Fm was the first Fm station in 1995 or thereabouts but it was not until four years later that the industry blew up.

That was probably the other time that the media aggressively engaged with the Communications Commission of Kenya and the then Kenya Posts and Telecommunication. That engagement resulted in allocations of a wide variety of frequencies, FM, Wimax, etc. This point will come out better in the later arguments in this article.

This recent engagement has had public implication, and has therefore had the public more engaged in knowing who will win the battle of attrition. I think both the media owners and CCK/ government are holding their position to see who will tire faster or who has the ability to go to the last mile. My bet is that the media owners are backed to a corner and they will either have to comply or come to a compromise for more time.

I have had no chance to write on the topic, I have left it to the experts but I think I can also add my voice to it.

First let us get some background.

Why do we need to migrate?

In the early 2000’s or so, there were discussions within the ITU, the oldest UN body, on addressing the shrinking spectrum in developed countries. After discussions, a resolution was reached and the deadline was adopted in 2006 at a meeting referred to as the Regional Radio communications Conference (RRC-06), and agreed by 101 nations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. This resolution was heavily pushed by EU and North America because they faced the major pressure to free up airwave spectrum but in Africa, we don’t have a  strong consumer electronics industries or consumer markets that would have put such pressure. Remember the argument of spectrum hoarding and the threat by CCK to cancel allocations? Anyway, as happens in many meetings, African countries committed to the 2015 deadline.

Because not all countries are equal, an exception was made, for countries that felt they could not meet the deadline. They had five more years within which to put their house in order. Latin America decided to take 2020 as their deadline, because they had no particular pressure in that sector.

The ITU has already extended the deadline for 34 African countries and you can read a story I did in 2010. Some of those countries are: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Togo, and Tunisia. The 2020 cut-off was also agreed for countries not at the 2006 conference: Benin, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Madagascar, Niger, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone and Somalia.

So why is Kenya stuck to the 2015 deadline?

Kenya has a very big name within the ITU, wants to keep pace with Southern African countries, which have migrated, wants to keep the bragging rights as the ICT capital of Africa and for those who don’t know, the folks at CCK are rated very highly and are frequently elected to top ITU posts, which means good returns in whatever direction. So, in arguing about a 2020 deadline, you can scuttle many career trajectories.

This is also good for our business, which will be argued in part two of this post.

The issue of content interference…..

One of the main arguments by media owners is that their content can be interfered with because Signet is owned  by government and PANG is Chinese, which has exhibited its obsession with controlling what goes out to the public.

But is this the real reason?

Let us agree that if the government wanted to knock any content off air, whether private or public, they have the ability to do so. Read about the Indian government ban on news in community radio stations.

The best practice would have been to go the US way, where the media owners are also content distributors, so there was no change per se in the American case. Kenyan media owners had the chance to apply for a signal distribution license but they self destructed because they could not agree on which media house had to own what percentage, some of the media owners felt they were bigger because they had more money, while others thought they should own a majority shareholding because they had more stations. In the end, there was no desire to put in a winning tender.

Should we blame the CCK for not awarding a license of the basis of a non-compliant tender? We complain about these things but when they are applied to us, it seems unfair. I am not privy to who was in the tender committee, that wasn’t important, bottom-line was that the tender documents were flawed, according to those evaluating.

Why are media owners bitter?

The media owners feel bitter because they have made immense investments and now, they will have to look for other things to do with the passive infrastructure like masts, radios etc. My suggestion is that they should offer broadband services or lease them to companies in those areas that can offer internet services.

Currently, the media owners club is for those with money to pay for frequencies, lay the infrastructure and sustain it. This is a massive investment for the big boys and girls. Digital broadcasting will change all that and allow even people with small money to be media owners. This is not good for media owners, it is good for the rest of us.

Content the new competition

Now that infrastructure and big capital outlay is no longer the main competition point, content will have to be. People will be drawn to stations because they talk to them and address their needs. For instance, during the boycott by Royal Media, Nation and Standard groups, we had to watch K24. My mother is a Citizen fan but she had no idea why they were off air, she switched to the next station; K24. At that time, it was an agricultural show, where farmers share their experiences.

It was the first time that mum shushed us. There was a guy talking about strawberry farming and she wanted to learn one thing; how to deal with the insects and birds that had tormented her and her strawberries. She learnt that the home remedy was to mix charcoal remnants with the soil and put a net to protect the fruits. She was so impressed and said that every week, she will be tuning.

Now, its not a glamorous example but for that day, K24 won a new viewer because the content addressed my mother’s needs. Now, apply this to the many other areas that content has been lacking.

Part two…… Business opportunities.

 

CCK puts plans underway for Kenic dissolution, 5th CEO in six years fired

It seems that any CEO who takes over at Kenic will have to budget for a year tops, thats sad but true. If you do not have background on Kenic, the .ke registrar and its shenanigans, you can read most of the stuff here.

Earlier this month, Kenic fired Anthony Wambugu, the CEO who took over about a year ago. I tried to ask the reasons why he was fired and I must say that I cant publish them without appearing to be hitting below the belt. The reasons are founded, because when I asked Anthony he alluded there was an element of truth but they are also very personal. They are the kind that someone is fired and no one wants to talk about it.

So, What is wrong with Kenic?

There is nothing wrong with Kenic, it had turnover of Ksh 30m last year and this year the numbers have surpassed Ksh 35 million. Given that they fired the “expensive” employees and replaced them with cheaper, more affordable ones, you can imagine the profits.

The problem is with the Communications Commission of Kenya, they want to control everything, and the areas you want them to control, they don’t, think about it, we have been demanding better service from mobile and internet service providers, what does CCK do, they are busy traveling from one hotel to another and issuing press releases on how they now want everyone to host their sites locally (you can insert your own expletive or other word here) and wonder what business they have dictating where you  host. You can read more about how CCK wants more sites hosted locally and then after you are done you can read this post I did last year of CCK hosting its site abroad.

Maybe the reasons are unfounded, CCK has the public interest at heart in wanting to depart from international standards and license a top level domain registrar, to do that, you have to first kill Kenic as it is today, no matter how profitable it is, because we must know who is the boss. You can read an article I did on the dissolution of Kenic  and another one explaining the process they would have to go through at ICANN and IANA to change both the administrative and technical contact, you can read this article that delves into the history on Kenic.

The Katundu factor

Michael Katundu is probably the oldest board member at Kenic and for some reason he seems to either be the scapegoat or the source of  all the mess at Kenic. You talk to people and they point at him.

My question, how about the other board members, are they marionettes, puppets or members of an orchestra out to follow directives from Katundu. From the website, they still identify Anthony Wambugu as the CEO.

Seriously, look at the list of board members, can they all be acting at the behest of one man?

The current Board members and their representative organizations, are:

  • Dr. Jimmy Macharia – Kenya Education Network (KENET) -Chairperson
  • Kris Senanu – Telecommunications Services Providers Association of Kenya (TESPOK) – Vice-Chairperson
  • Michael Katundu – Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK)
  • Francis Wangusi -Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK)
  • Rose Maghas – Domain Registrars Association of Kenya (DRAKE)
  • Charles Nduati – Kenya Private Sector Association (KEPSA)
  • Abraham Ondeng – Ministry of Information and Communication (MOIC)
  • Anthony Wambugu- CEO Kenya Network Information Center(KeNIC)

Now, I may not know much about the goings on at Kenic but, something doesn’t add up. Let us wait and see what policy fall in place.

🙂