I have been meaning to write this post for a long time, I have become such a bad blogger-blame it on pursuit of money. So, when Safaricom invited me for a journalists training, I decided to hold until I saw what was on offer; it could have been indoctrination or just plain training, whatever it is/was, its better than companies that whine and offer nothing in return.

Now you know the post is going to be long and winding; the short version is; organizations need to invest in execs who can answer all questions-tech or not, before complaining that journalists are uninformed. Its easy to give all the marketing info, but is that all you can do? Do the CTOs and CIOs have time to respond to technical questions?

I am the kind that gets offended when people claim that journalists are ignorant or uninformed; while they just sit back and offer nothing or better still, they have never been misquoted. I admire those who come to me and say, hey I think you erred in this and that because there is this new aspect that you didn’t consider. In my writing, I have benefitted from techies who dedicated their time to improve my knowledge; I remember the days I didn’t know the difference between a node, POP and IXP and one of Kenya’s leading techies was kind enough to just explain the difference, in the days wikipedia was not as developed.

Yes, some writing is devoid of proper understanding but I wish some company execs would also invest in time for answering and understanding questions. There are so many times I am disappointed by shoddy answers or no answers at all. I like doing my homework and emailing questions because that way, no one will say that I misquoted them.

Get me right, I have been shocked by answers coming from companies such as MTN business, Safaricom and Access Kenya. Those have been times when respondents do not take time or just imagine that I don’t know what am talking about.

It may mean that Safaricom execs will not answer my questions again but just look at the Q&A below, which was in preparation for this story on lower bandwidth costs and growth of local content.

1. How much of Safaricom’s traffic is international?- Safaricom Does not Transmit any International IP traffic via KIXP (Safaricom Uses her own Global Internet carries for this traffic)

2. Are there plans to channel Mpesa transactions via KIXP?- For now no plans

3. Safaricom is planning to launch data center/cloud services, how is that expected to change the capacity at KIXP?-  This will not have any impact unless KIXP becomes a reseller of Safaricom Cloud Services

I must say that I felt insulted by the answers; q1 was asking for the percentage of Safaricom’s traffic that is local vs. international, but the respondent thought that I meant they use KIXP for their international transit, why would I do that.

Q2 is just a question that anyone would ask, why talk about hosting locally while Mpesa is hosted abroad? Am sure some of the downtimes have something to do with international transit issues. I am actually waiting for Safaricom to launch their cloud services and hear the plans for hosting Mpesa in their cloud. How will they guarantee me uptime while they depend on someone else infrastructure for Mpesa? I could be jumping the gun.

Q3 merely asked the respondent to give me all that marketing stuff like; we are expecting exponential growth where local and regional companies will leverage on our infrastructure to access content faster and not to be affected when the fiber optic cable connections are down etc…. Better still, the respondent would have talked of marketing efforts to reduce reliance on international transit because if anything, it affects their costs. I know in South Africa your internet is cheaper if you access locally hosted stuff, because the ISP doesn’t incur international transit costs.

So, I was mad after receiving the answers but I wasn’t sure what is worse; when I get no responses or when I get answers that do not seem to answer?

In the end, I said that it was good that Safaricom invests in training journalists but there is need for Safaricom top brass to get training on how to respond to questions. I know the company employs former journalists but what is the use if you can’t tap into their knowledge?

I know that in many cases, its hard to get the tech info because the CTO is the custodian of that info and may be busy handling more pressing issues but companies have a responsibility to give info, especially if they do not want the misinformation that they so complain about.

Internet Solutions and Seven Seas invest time in responding, I think IS is one of the few local companies that you can email questions and the CTO will take time to respond. I have never met the CEO of Seven Seas but when I sent questions on disaster recovery and cloud services, he sent very detailed answers and to some extent, educated me too. I find that I get such nice answers from execs I know but once in a while, I get surprised.

So, the next time as an exec you think of how misinformed journalists are, ask yourself, do I answer all the questions and does my company contribute to the knowledge pool?