About Juliana Rotich

African, Kenyan, Global citizen, Co-Founder of Ushahidi & Mobisoko, TED Senior Fellow. Cosmic girl.

Snake Light: Solar powered LED by Faludi Design & Thoughts on Design ‘For Africa’

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I came across this solar powered LED lamp via worldchanging author, product designer Jeremy Faludi. It definitely has an interesting design…wondering why the weird shape? Pictures from his site speak louder than words. First, 3 words “Usable form factor”.

Would be interested in your thoughts on this product. Would you use it? Do you like the design? Is it practical?

What follows are some tangentially related thoughts, just so I am clear, I am not attributing what follows below to the above product. Just thinking through the idea of design ‘for Africa’.

One of the things that came up during a spirited discussion of the solar powered computer and the OLPC laptop many moons ago, was the question of relevant  products, and  whether these products that are labeled ‘for Africa’ smack of designing down. Maitha asked (in swahili) Don’t Africans deserve products made of high quality – in reference to the OLPC that is currently available for purchase. Granted at the time, maitha was looking at the bulky nature of linux for the OLPC, and the product was still being designed (with myriad challenges to overcome). I have not gotten my hands on and XO but when i do, i would like to revisit some of the issues raised. Particularly (perhaps i am simplifying, but) is the OLPC a good quality product that is relevant for African children? Atanu Dey of Deeshaa.org looked at the OLPC in context of education in India (I need to reacquaint myself with his arguments…I had been following the OLPC dev, then sorta lost track somewhere).
Wired had a profile of the OLPC designer Yves Behar, which I am rereading now, I just recall that he did do some nifty things to get OLPC to be what it is today.So, please chime in with your examples of products you think smack of ‘designing down’ and those that you think are ‘just right’.

My entries for the ‘just right’ category are
mysoldius solar charger for mobile phone and IPOD (blogged about here)
Bogo solar flashlight (blogged about here)
These are based on positive feedback from my dear uncle who absolutely finds function and convenience in using the above products.

Organic Farmers Market – NBI Dec 15th

***Please note that the event is for December 15th. and not dec 8th. Thanks.
The latest Globalvoices environment post is on conservation efforts in Zambia, South Africa and D.R Congo. It also includes some links from Phil in Kenya and Mr. SSerwanga in Uganda, writing about carbon footprints and land rights respectively.

While I was writing that roundup I came across the Kenya Organic Agricultural Network. They’ve got an excellent event planned for Saturday December Dec 15th .
You can find more details here. I sure hope the Kwani folks make it there, because that would be just wonderful. A combination of great organic food, music, poetry and exhibits showing renewable energy services in Kenya! Excuse me while I figure out a way to teleport myself there.
Check out what is planned…

Farmers Market and Regional Trade Fair
This area will consist of 25-25 tents (10 x 10 ft and 25 x 25ft), where local organic
farmers and retailers will display and sell their produce and products, including at
least one tent devoted to information about organic food and farming run by the
Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) and its members. Partners from East
Africa and beyond will be invited to give the market international flavour, offer
consumers a wide variety of choice and help stimulate regional trade.
Green Christmas Shopping
Purveyors of other types of environmentally friendly products and services will be
invited to exhibit at the market: natural health and beauty products, green crafts,
renewable energy services, recycled products, ecotourism, etc.
Organic Catering
Bridges Restaurant will provide fully organic catering services at reasonable prices.
Kamsitu Msituni
This nursery and garden centre will sell a variety of indigenous and useful exotic
trees, as well as organic gardening inputs such as compost and natural pest control
Art Gallery
An art gallery will display and sell paintings and sculptures, focusing on smaller,
lower priced pieces to make art more accessible to the public.
Solar Cinema
A 50-seat cinema tent with projector or TV powered by solar PV will show
environment-themed films and documentaries for free. A solar cinema at an
Arboretum event in June 2007 featured the Academy Award-winning documentary
An Inconvenient Truth. Other films will be solicited from UNEP, KIFF/Alliance
Francaise and ZIFF.

Also from the same site, you can download the Bio Safety Bill, which I don’t know if its been passed or deffered till after the elections.

Random Post: Out of Tea & Iphone ramblings

Image from forota (one of my favorite photographers, check out his other shots)

Tragedy is…running out of Kenyan tea. What to do? Get some English breakfast tea from the local grocery store and dream of pushing a cart in Nakumatt soon. This diaspora life sucks, especially when the weather becomes surly.

Reasons why I am resisting the urge to get an Iphone
1. In the US it means switching to AT&T. I am happy with T-mobile and I am not switching to a network that has less than stellar coverage (just my opinion, the last time i tried AT&T I was in college and couldn’t get signal around my Uni, which was smack in the middle of the city) An aside, why isn’t there a text message plan or package that includes international text msgs? Gosh its 2007 and didn’t Friedman say the world is flat? Why aren’t service plans getting cheaper in the US? As a consumer I don’t really see much competition in that arena…prices are just about the same across the board and It wouldn’t make much sense to get the Iphone without the data plan anyway.

2. I would want my Iphone unlocked, free and ready to roam to Kenya or any other place in the world with a GSM network…which is pretty much the whole world. I do not shy away from tinkering with phones, but I don’t think I want to brick an expensive bit of tech then go through a 19 step recovery process
. If it was 5 steps sorta like the grief process, I might reconsider…NOT! Even if you sign a contract with AT&T and ask for unlock codes when you are travelling, something that carriers do for you without batting an eye…not happening, not possible, no way Jose, *hapana (not to be confused with the amazing Bryan Habana!).
I think I would be wiling to pay extra to have an Iphone that i could use in any network though.

3. Why buy it when it doesn’t have 3G capability now, and when tested against the RAZR and even the T-mobile sidekick much favored by rappers and a certain Hilton progeny, took forever to open a page in a download race? (To be fair, the comments indicate that it may be faster than reported, but everyone has a reality distortion field around them). Oh as with apple products that are shape shifting, paradigm blasting, fat burning and calorie free there are always rumors. The rumor/confirmed fact masquerading as a rumor is that the Iphone in 2008 will actually have 3G capability and on the horizon the Iphone could even be Wimax capable.

4. The wi-fi capability is nice, but when traveling, good luck finding open networks that wont charge you an arm, a leg and kidney to connect. Special offenders – some airports like O’Hare in Chicago. I do not like paying for wi-fi esp. when its almost 10 bucks for just a few hours. Perhaps i should try Fon again.

Via 69Mb:The Iphone is Kenya bound in November apparently, which network will it be chained to and how much will the data plan for that be? Not clear from the BDAfrica article, probably in the 5000Ksh range like the Blackberries? Carrier specific phones are not a good idea in Kenya, I enjoyed the freedom to pick which carrier i would go with depending on their rates, and I think the Kenyan consumers and all consumers for that matter need to be able to make the best choice of data plans regardless of the hardware.

All this…and i still ogle at the thing each time I see it! Ok, that is the end of my little screed for today.

Btw, Liz Henry is tweeting the ‘She’s Geeky’ UnConference.

DMKW – Diary of a Mad Kenyan Woman is back!!!!!!!!

Blogged with Flock

Quick notes

Just a note of thanks to all the African bloggers who joined in Blog Action day. I learned so much from all the posts, and i hope you find something in the globalvoices roundup that resonates with you.

Via muti and Justin Hartman on twitter
Press freedom in South Africa is under threat:

I write this having just heard that the editor of this newspaper, Mondli Makhanya, and its head of investigations, Jocelyn Maker, will be arrested this week. Their crime is that they published a story alleging that the Minister of Health, Dr Manto Tshabalala- Msimang, screamed at hospital staff and drank huge amounts of booze while in hospital for a shoulder operation.

The minister, the custodian of our nationâ??s health, has denied none of these allegations. This newspaper also published allegations that Tshabalala- Msimang was a drunk and a thief. This story has not been refuted by the minister nor any other government official.

A Jaiku channel has been set up with updates on this developing story. You can read more about it here.


I am not that much of a politico 😉 but I realize the important link between democracy and free press. Being from Kenya where there’s always a tussle between the govt and the press, I can totally empathize with our fellow Africans in SA, and truly hope this gets sorted without members of the press being thrown in jail. Plus, bloggers are an opinionated bunch just like journalists, if they arrest a journalist one day, what’s to prevent govt’s from arresting bloggers?

On a lighter note: Here is a clip from the segment ‘Bulls Eye’ on NTV (Nation TV) Kenya. Elections in Kenya can be hilarious, and weird. ‘The pentagon?!’, day of thunder? and I dont even want to relive the whole Raila driving to parliament in a hummer. Sigh*

The Flow of Flotsam

I was wondering what to write about for blog action day…Deforestation? possible land grabbing in Kenya? The need for recycling bins in apartment communities? the politics of climate change…many options to choose from. I happened watch wired science tonight, and they had a fascinating yet disturbing segment on ‘the garbage patch’. A flowing mass of garbage that goes with the currents spanning several oceans. Cargo that ended up in the seas, such as 80,000 pairs of Nike shoes gave the researchers some information about the flow of trash. Weirdly, a left shoe would end up on one shore and the right shoe on an entirely different shore. Intrigued? Below is the video from PBS.

As its mentioned in the video, perhaps if we see the sheer amount of plastic that is ending up in oceans and inside the bodies of countless birds and animals, we just might think twice about how we dispose of our plastic bottles.

Habib Koite of Mali has a beautiful song that captures feelings of concern about the environment and industrialization. Can we keep chugging along on the path to the new African Century without wrecking our environment?
Listen/download ‘Kumbin’.

3 days to go: Blog Action Day, Join in and plant a tree!

On Monday October 15th, bloggers will be writing about one topic for one day…the environment. My idea for this day is to appeal to my fellow African bloggers to help make this a fun day in the African blogosphere. The idea is to make it even more special by not only talking about the environment, but by doing something, one thing. So please,

– Plant a tree
– Take a picture or have someone take a picture of you planting the tree
– Please post on your blog

I will be checking the African blogs starting on Sunday, to compile a feature for global voices online.
– Please leave a comment if you will be participating (though you don’t have to, you can tag your post with Africa + Blog Action Day)
Pass the idea along. If we can get one blogger from each country featured on Afrigator, Kenyaunlimited, Amatomu, mashada blogs etc planting a tree, we would really appreciate it.

*Incentive for the first Kenyan blogger to commit to participating: Airtime for you purchased through mamamikes!

Solar traffic lights in Capetown + Other news bits

Via Carbon Copy
Capetown is using solar powered traffic lights to buttress it from expected power cuts. As Rory points out, its a great start to making solar power more commonplace. I would love to see pictures of the traffic lights…this is a blatant hint to our South African friends at WebAddicts. Implementation of solar tech such as this makes so much sense, here’s hoping more countries see the example and follow suit. Just imagine a whole street in (_______insert African country of your choice) with solar powered streetlights. Warms your heart yeah?

In case you have not heard, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala has been appointed as managing director of the world bank! For brevity’s sake, i will just say that her appointment is laudable, in part because it signals a new direction for the world bank and how it views developing countries. Please watch the talk she gave at TED Global in Arusha to see how she tied together the issues of aid, trade and African self-determinism. I hope she will be given a chance to reshape the terms of world bank’s relationship to the developing world in a way that is beneficial to Africa, and continues to shape Africa’s next chapter “A healthy, smiling, beautiful Africa”.

Speaking of the world bank and its policies in Africa, according to the Guardian, the world bank is accused of razing congo forests, thereby endangering the pygmies. I feel a bit bad using the word pygmy, because they have names that I would much rather use such as ‘The Lega’. Several years ago i went to the Nelson Atkins museum in Kansas city for an exhibition named ‘The Art of the Lega’. It was an eye opener for me because the explanations for the pieces gave me a glimpse into their society. One of the tenets i remember was the idea of peace as a fabric of society; the Lega people have a pacifist culture which was expressed in the way they chose to fashion tools – with smooth edges, eschewing sharp points. Since that exhibition and when reading stories about the Congo war and its adverse effects on the people there, I wonder if we need to rethink how we address a community that we know little about other than their stature. Stepping back to the story about the world bank making recommendations to the DRC govt about industrial logging being beneficial to the DRC, did anyone listen to the local community about how best the forest can be used to truly benefit people?

For more on Art of the Lega, the companion book to the exhibition is available on Amazon.