Broadband In Kenya: Small Businesses, Big Pipes

**free flow thoughts on Broadband in general and the advent of SEACOM cable in Kenya**

The 3 SAT3 countries of South Africa, Egypt and Senegal could be said to have fibre optic connections to the rest of the world or what others may call ‘true broadband’, the rest of the countries in Africa have to contend with VSAT connections or have their internet traffic routed through the above named SAT3 countries.

In the case of Kenya, fibre has been laid by companies such as Kenya Data Networks for communication within the country. The problem has been connecting Kenya to the rest of the world. That is where the bottleneck has been. The government of Kenya has been laying cable in many parts of the country, so is just a matter of time before high speed internet access is made available to urban areas and even smaller towns.

Do note the VSAT connections can have broadband-like speeds, so what we should look at is the connection costs and amount of bandwidth available.
For example, an E1 line (equivalent to the American T1) of 2 Mbps to ISPs costs 4000 USD in Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, 7000 USD in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, 32,000 USD in Cameroon, 25,000 USD in SA.

In residential access Telkom Orange charges about 5990 Ksh (approx. 75 dollars) for home access line of 256 kpbs downloads and 128 kpbs uploads per month. Many people use the Huawei wireless modems E220, E160 particularly in Nairobi with the 3G connections, utilizing a pay-as-you-go plan. Kenyan readers, how much do you pay for your internet access? what kind of speed do you get? Do you have a preferred service provider?

By and large, broadband access is very expensive. There are also other projects like TEAMS and EASSY (Quasi-Govt. consortium: Telkom Kenya/Orange is a member, as is Safaricom and Econet) that plan to connect parts of Africa to the rest of the world by Fibre optic Cable. So far SEACOM has arrived first and the prospect of having more competition could result in the cost coming down. Though that may indeed take time. For now, companies herald the arrival of SEACOM’s fibre optic line because it would mean an increase in productivity for businesses that depend on the internet. For example, there is a young businessman in Nairobi with an IT outsourcing company, with his relatively decent connection, he still has to wait for more than 5 minutes to download a 26MB file. In a few months with the SEACOM cable reaching Nairobi, the same download could take less than a minute and he can move on to other tasks. He has employees who often have to upload files via ftp to servers in the US. With the faster speeds it will make their jobs that much easier. He is not even too concerned about the cost right now, the overarching benefit is well…broadband.

There are other factors such as open access, latency, and reliability, but talking about that would be tantamount to counting chicks before they hatch no?

As always, feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments or via twitter if you prefer to be pithy.

Monday September 22nd – One Web Day

If you celebrate Earth Day, spend a lot of time on the internet be it for work or play…It only fits that you’d participate in One Web Day. Makes even more sense if you experience withdrawal symptoms when your internet service goes down, or you find yourself doing ‘broadband over breakfast’ multiple times a week.

http://www.onewebday.org/

Earth Day was the model when I founded OneWebDay in 2006, says Susan Crawford, a professor of law specializing in Internet issues at the University of Michigan. In 1969, one man asked the people to do what their elected representatives would not: take the future of the environment into their own hands.By 1972, the United States had a federal agency devoted to protecting the environment, the E.P.A., and today a worldwide citizens movement has put the environment front and center politically. According to Crawford, peoples lives now are as dependent on the Internet as they are on the basics like roads, energy supplies and running water. We can no longer take that for granted and we must advocate for the Internet politically, and support its vitality personally.

The Internet has also become the means by which citizens around the world build movements to hold their elected leaders accountable and support those who represent their interests; it is also increasingly the medium through which citizens interact with their governments. The theme of this year’s OneWebDay is online participation in democracy, coinciding with the U.S. elections.

The online hub for OneWebDay 2008 is www.onewebday.org. There, anyone can: plan or find out about activities in their community; learn ten things individuals can do to support the web; contribute their own stories; read posts from 100 OneWebDay ambassadors; and learn about Internet advocacy groups.

I know its late notice, but perhaps the good folks at Skunkworks can organize something in Nairobi so we can be on the map too? More info on how to get things going on this link. There is a list of 10 things you can do for the web, one of the first is to use a standards compliant web browser like Firefox or Opera. Who is still using IE and why? I grit my teeth each time I am forced to use it.
Grab the button for your blog/site here.

As African bloggers what do you think we should do on One Web Day(complementary to the 10 suggested ideas)? You know we need better internet Infrastructure like yesterday…

Ory’s Video on TED.com

crossposted on the Ushahidi blog

Ory Okolloh is not only a blogger, founder of Mzalendo.com, co-founder of Ushahidi and colleague, she is also an inspiration to all of us. Below is the video of her talk at TEDGlobal 2007 – Arusha Tanzania.

The making of an African Activist

Ory, we are sambazaing this whether you want to hide or not :-)

Memes, Markets and Africa

I’ve been on the road since late last month, and I am afraid this space has been left quite neglected. So if there are any remaining readers…heres to a comeback.

I had the chance to speak at TTI Vanguard early this month and my topic of discussion was Innovation in Africa[pdf pg 10 and 11]. I gave a brief overview of the tech landscape in Africa, and engaged mostly in conversations around what is happening now. Since then, the article ‘Inside Nairobi, the Next Palo Alto?’ by G. Pascal Zachary in the NY times became the 7th most emailed article in the NYT world business section, spurring some discussion around the theme of Innovation, ‘light tech’ and localization of technology in Kenya.

As we all know there is this persisting perception of Africa as this sort of backward mess. Ethan Zuckerman has been writing for a few years about ‘rebranding Africa’ and more recently he wrote about David Weinberger’s Ninja Gap. Do read the whole piece, the bit that is relevant to this post is in part…

Context matters, Galtung argues. If weâ??ve got a mental image of Africa as a backwards and technically retrograde place, weâ??re likely to miss stories about innovation in mobile commerce (see the lead story in issue 407â?¦) or success in venture capital. Galtungâ??s fifth maxim is closely linked to the idea of cognitive dissonance – itâ??s uncomfortable to attempt to resolve new information that conflicts with existing perceptions, beliefs and behaviors.

Well, its quite an experience to have an encounter with someone who clearly brings this cognitive dissonance to light…I wont go there though. Suffice to say Africa, we have a long way to go. The overarching meme about Africa is still one of poverty, corruption, despots, famine and stunning sunsets…yeah, you know. Oh perhaps the stunning sunsets meme is one I would totally agree to and actively propagate, but I digress.This is with no small thanks to foreign correspondents who cover African news with the aforementioned brushstrokes.

So, while we African bloggers and digerati wrestle with not quite so positive images of Africa, debate Aid Vs Trade, couple that with our current reality of immense potential that is muffled by worrisome politics, rising inflation, environmental degradation and many other factors; I am
trying to think of the bigger picture, a way to wrap my mind around things.

afrimeme_negative.jpg

Years ago, my friends’ mom told me about a ‘bad-good-shot’. When you swing that golf club and you know that you missed the green by considerable measure, yet the ball hits a tree and deflects onto a reasonable section of the course, then you get to make a better than expected shot. There are some projects and tech that arise out of challenges like dearth of broadband, and in reaction to the bad choices our leaders make. In Africa, we get some of those really bad shots, sometimes, something good arises out it and perhaps we can position ourselves for a much better shot at prosperity. I do not know if we can, but we can definitely aspire to it.

I think TEDGlobal Arusha had started that rebranding process, by bringing to Africa a mix of intellectuals, scientists, technologists…you name it; to experience an alternate African reality of sorts. Last monday, I was reminded by Sean to not underestimate the value in bringing prospective investors to Africa, so they can have a different context, and perhaps get over that ‘cognitive dissonance’. As I look back to TEDGlobal, I remember that I was in awe of my fellow Africans, I was inspired by them, and felt that we had just gotten to the ‘jumping off point’. I am still inspired by their talks as they are released on TED.com. Well, December 30th 2007 came, when the meme of ‘Kenya’s potential’ suffered quite a blow. It will take awhile to rebuild that confidence in my mind, let alone the minds of others. I think other countries in Africa have a positive meme attached to them and boy, am I envious. My Ghanaian friends, please guard the positive meme of Ghana with all you’ve got. As a Kenyan, and also as an African I still believe that we can redefine/ we are redefining what it means to be African.

afrimeme_positive.jpg

When it comes to markets and the potential in disruptive technology, I would strongly suggest you subscribe to Sean Park’s blog, and Bankelele’s too. These guys give you the meat and potatoes when it comes to evaluating not only the economics but the potential in mobile banking and other sectors of African/Kenyan economies. Because aspirations are well, good and awesome (really!), but at the end of the day, fundamentals of investing should always be rock solid.

So there is the perception problem, but that can be tackled by hard data. Speaking of market data, AfriMonitor launched earlier this month.

AfriMonitor

It will be a great resource as the bid to rebrand Africa continues. Various conferences will be happening throughout the year, and will be invaluable in bringing together many of you who see this alternate African technological reality. I am still bummed that I did not make it to Barcamp Nairobi in June, but I am making every effort to make sure I do not miss the next one. Last but not least, I just want to salute Wilfred Mworia, all the geeks and volunteers at Ushahidi, Josiah Mugambi, Dorcas Muthoni of Linux chix Africa, Riyaz, all the Skunkworks geeks, Kasahorow crew, JAB, techies in Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and other African countries. Here is to not just the next Palo Alto, but the next Nairobi, Accra, Abuja, Capetown, Johannesburg, Lusaka etc.

Thank you Hash for the cool graphics, they are based on one I found on Memehuffer

Just-A-Band Interview Part II – Animation

This is the last part of the JAB interview, the first is here. It was fun reading JAB’s responses, and I hope you enjoy this last bit. Before we get to that, here is one more pic of the trio.

Dan,Blinky,Jim.jpg

Iwinyo Piny & Animation in general.

The chicken or the egg question: Which came first? The animation or the music?

BILL(Blinky): The music. We used to jam in campus. And that’s where everything else spun off from.

JIM: The music came first, definitely. As always, it was a random happenstance (our music usually is). Then Dan went, “We could do a cartoon…”, and here we are.

DAN: The music was there first, but I can remember some occasions when the animation influenced the song, especially the lyrics, coz there was supposed to be more words that would have made it clearly a song about a girl, but when we talked about the video concept allowing for a broader interpretation, the lyrics were trashed (after which one station told us they couldn’t play our song coz it didn’t have any lyrics! Haha!).

Progression.jpg

What is your animation history?

DAN: I did this one month crash course in animation right before starting Uni, and when I met Jim and Blinky I talked trash about how we could do these huge animated videos, even though I had never actually done anything… So we started Iwinyo, and I was thoroughly humbled. I guess it came out OK, though. It was a learning experience.

JIM: If there ever was a time that we had internal fights, it was during the Iwinyo phase. I think we’re over that now.

DAN: Or at least we’ve figured out some “Constructive Anger Management Techniques.”

JIM: I have absolutely no idea what he means…

DAN: *blink*

(Does rendering take forever?)

Rendering? That depends on what programs/methods you’re using… As the 2D guy, I lack the patience that the 3D guys develop whilst waiting for the goodies to iva[ripen].

I personally really like animation because of the freedom it allows you in terms of following your ideas. And I like 2D for its much more human feel, 3D can be kinda plastic. I really hate how long it takes to make, though. I see Jimmy dropping live action videos and photography projects like bunnies…

I taught animation and cartooning a bit and I work as a freelance animator to pay them bills, and so I’m all up on Kenyan animation, where it could go, what stories we could tell… but that’s a long story.

JIM: Photography and video are somewhat more immediate, which makes me look hard-working. It’s just that projects get finished real quick.

What kind of software do you use to create the animation? and is uploading videos onto YouTube (from Kenya) as torturous task as I experienced or do you have a secret high speed bunker where we can mooch off of justabandwidth?

JIM: Adobe Flash and Adobe AfterEffects.

DAN: Drawings for the 2D are done on paper, and scanned or redrawn on comp. For the next animated video we’re doing, for the track called FunkyFineBeautiful, we have a new collaborator who kicks butt at 3DS Max. As for the uploading, we mooch off our friends’ high speed connections…

OldManSketch.jpg

Your YouTube tag is justabandwidth which is very cool. Could one presume that you are total geeks?

BILL: We seem to attract an intelligent crowd…I prefer to be on my computer than at a party…

DAN: Haha! Ms Interviewer, it’s like you know us! :P Yes, at least two of us are total geeks (the other one is in denial).

JIM: As in?

DAN: As in, whilst some of us spend all day turning pale indoors with computers and pencils as our only companions, others manage to maintain some kind of engagement with the outside world. Game recognize game, by the way, so should we assume that [Ms. Interviewer] is also the “bookish type”?

JIM: So all that nonsense about Bill preferring to be at the computer is a lie. He’s the most outgoing chap. I think it’s strange how it’s never been cool to be a geek (only for a brief moment, when Pharrell and company emerged, then he sold out and became cool)? I mean, everyone else has had their moment in the spotlight; the skaters, the punks, the thugs, the gay boys and girls (heady times, the 80s), the Goths…I feel disenfranchised.

I am a total geek. I did every geek thing a human being can possibly do; the braces, the spectacles, being bad at sports (except swimming, for some strange reason), being good at computers, going to cinemas to actually watch movies instead of making out at the back, actually using my library card, studying IT in college etc. If there are types of geeks, I guess I’m the finally-at-ease-with-it kind of geek.

BLINKY: You should see my primary school pictures… then you wouldn’t talk like that… I only go for parties because…

DAN: Geeks are so cool nowadays. The days of warrior kings and sportsmen politicians are gone! Now it’s like, “Bow Before My Fearsome Intellect!”

I found the use of pictures in the video quite interesting, what is the name of the street at [1:08] of Iwinyo Piny? (I have taken pics of that street but can’t remember the name for the life of me??! What of the one at [1:33] placemark?

JIM: That would be Kenyatta Avenue – one of the cuter streets in town. 1:33 is the street that connects City Market to Koinange Street, I have no idea what it’s called; but it’s very textured.

Have you guys ever been jacked? There is a depiction in your video, of a guy being mugged and his shoes being taken. Was this a form of commentary on the crime problem in Nairobi?

DAN: Not recently. :) As a young person living in Nai, I think you just have to get jacked at some point. We added that bit in the video just for laughs (the video has had a lot of very cool interpretations by people and I’m always scared of telling people what we were thinking as we made it coz it’s so underwhelming… When we’re coming up with images most of the time it’s just like, hey, this would look cool! And then sometimes it comes with its own deeper meaning…)!

JIM: Incidentally, I lost my phone on Friday, and two weeks before I lost my ID and elector’s card. And I also lost my wallet the other day (in a bank!) – I’ve been on a roll. The bank called me the other day to say they’d found my stuff lying around in the banking hall. Thankfully, all those incidents weren’t the mugging kind; they were the pickpocket kind (sigh) – which is slightly more embarrassing because it makes people think you have no sense of self-awareness whatsoever.

In 2004, it was more of a problem than it is now, which is not to say that it doesn’t happen anymore. People actually wear gold chains and earrings and watches on the street these days, because cases of mugging have decreased. Pickpockets still rule, damn them all to Eternal Hell. As for making commentary, I remember Daniel just thought it’d be funny. Does that count?

BLINKY: I used to live in Eastleigh, It was hard to keep your new shoes, coz at one point, I was sneaker jacked, and it wasn’t funny.

I found out about your band through the blog Sukuma Kenya. What are your thoughts on blogging? How do you feel about your own blogs so far?

Old Man Hairy Alternatives.jpg
DAN: I had never heard of that blog before today, but I looked and I thought it was kind of surprising to see Iwinyo right in the middle of a lot of politics! Haha!

I think the Net in general has really helped get the word out, Facebook and YouTube and such. Blogging has really helped add a more personal vibe to everything (especially the band blog, I think the other blogs are more like manifestos of some sort but the band’s blog is just goofing around…). I think it really helps to have an online presence as it allows you to present your stuff the way you would want it done, not in a control freak kind of way, just in the sense that, for example, I doubt that we could find a media house that would indulge our fake bio.

JIM: Except for the very cool people at Kwani Trust who just slapped it onto their site as is. Sukuma Kenya? That’s so cool. I didn’t even know that exists. Say hi to them. Blogging feels a bit self-indulgent sometimes – I use my blog to provide alternative material about the process of making pictures, and the mental stuff that happens before and after. Sometimes people ask me tough questions, and I ask everyone what they think – then I plagiarize the answers I receive and generally look smarter.

We used to run an underground arts-and-culture type web magazine thing a few years ago, it was called LabelRevolution, and the thing we enjoyed the most was the community feel of the site. So we try to be very inclusive about everything we’re doing, because that’s how we make our music. The only reason we’ve come this far (admittedly, not THAT far but…) is because we make people feel like this is something anyone could do. Whether that’s true is another matter entirely.

BLINKY: I blog sparingly of late because I tend to expose myself a lot in my writing, I’m trying to find a method of detaching myself when I do. I don’t want to have the whole world know about me.

I would like to thank JAB for sending me the images from their initial storyboard, as it gives us a glimpse into their lovely animation work. The image on the left is one that shows the progression of sketching the old man’s hair.

Keep an eye on the Just-A-Band Blog, Kenyanimation Blog, and Jim’s blog for more updates. Jim will post another AfriGadget soon. (I wont reveal what it is, but it will definitely be ingenious). Thanks guys!

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Interview with Just-a-Band on Kenyan Animation and Music Part I

I was listless, down out depressed, with chicken, egg and crossing of roads questions weighing on my mind; when my fingers as if they had a series of self-cordinating nanobots, tipitty tapped their way onto a blog called Sukuma Kenya. There, I found a pebble shaped like a play button on a retro CD player encased in a rectangle of sorts with a cryptic ‘You Tube’ logo on the bottom right. I touched the pebble. Holyhaberdashery! I touched it!

My fellow Africans, that is how i came to make an interweb acquaintance with Just-A-Band. JAB is defining Kenyan animation and Kenyan techno music with aplomb, piercing wit and style…what follows is the result of smoke signals encoded with morse code and for some strange reason, un-encrypted. Enjoy it, or the chicken gets it. Wait, the egg gets it! oh what the hell…something will get it.

Just A Band is composed of?
BLINKY: Jim, Dan and Blinky.
Jim, Dan, Blinky.jpg
JIM: There’s also our various alter egos – so that’s 2,303 of us in total.
Is the blog Kenya Animation also part of Just-a-Band?
DAN: Kenyanimation isn’t actually a Just A Band project, but I work as an animator, and I put up my JAB animation projects there. That blog was set up to bring together animators and animation fans who are from/work in Kenya, just to show people that there actually is such a thing as Kenyan animation, and hopefully be a launching point for bigger local projects, which haven’t had a chance so far coz people don’t really know that a scene exists! The other guys on the list (filterene, Bint Ali, Achoko, Majiqmud) are my collaborators on that project.

You band bio is so creative. It reads like a great fantasy graphic novel; have you guys thought of making one? When can we get our hands on it? In the CD liner notes – any fun stuff to look for?
BLINKY: Hmm…it just may happen, really haven’t thought about it. The bio was kinda influenced by (at least I thought) by a George Clinton album cover, it had a really long narrative detailing the bands overindulgence on drugs and stuff till it sounded surreal. We get to introduce the gang that contributed to the album’s final sound in the Scratch To Reveal CD liner notes, very fresh cats if you ask me.
DAN: Actually, the bio came about because we thought that the real story makes for a pretty dull read. I still have the notebook page where we start off, “In 2003, three young men met…”
JIM: Now that you mention it, the fantasy graphic novel does sound cool. I think of our bio as a parallel story that’ll run alongside the much more drab reality – we plan to update it each time we do something new.
The liner notes on Scratch To Reveal are slightly nonstandard. The cool thing about being unsigned is that there are no marketing-types breathing over your shoulder, urging you to standardize your output. It was actually Dan’s idea to do the liner notes in a different way – I’m ashamed to say I was one of the people who asked, “Do WHAT?”, but once we tried it out, it actually felt much more relaxed and true to the way the music was made.
DAN: We’d been talking about expanding on this story from time to time, on certain projects. The liner notes on Scratch To Reveal are just us being overwhelmed by actually making an album, and our collaborators and such. But later this year we’ll probably do another project, maybe an EP (Just A Band meets The Sinister Synthesizer!) that will expand on the Bio story and if it gets printed, as opposed to just going online, you’ll get a bunch of cool liner notes and art and stuff… :)
I saw that Daft Punk made a movie! Electroma! (Two if you count the one that went with Discovery – Interstella 5555) and I can sooooo see Just A Band doing some Psychedelic 88-minute Experience (at some point). But first things first, we have an album to push (I think one of the reasons we get so psyched up for JAB stuff is coz it could go so many ways, it’s always exciting to sit and plan out projects…)!

Jim, Dan, Blinky.jpg
The album cover for your CD has an arresting image…is there a story behind it? Did the idea pop into your mind or was it an organic, incremental idea that morphed from something? What is your creative process?
JIM: This is definitely a morph – the original blurry concept was to have angry, cathartic energy of some kind on the cover; and cables. Cables are always cool. The images I have in my head always morph into something else by the time they’re finished. The final image ended up being something rather calm and contained – whilst retaining that arresting vibe you’ve mentioned. Of course, Lenny (the model) helped a lot – I chose him because he’s like visual play-dough and he likes to know what we’re aiming for visually. I explained the general idea to him – and played loud drum and bass and clashy electro during the shoot.
My creative process; I typically see the visual in my head – slightly foggy around the edges, but there nonetheless. Then I work to transform that foggy visual into something real. It feels like I’m cheating, sometimes, because all I’m doing is translating the sketch that’s already in my head. In the process of doing that translation, many things change (somewhat like a multi-branched sequence of little decisions on execution) and the final results usually surprise me just as much as anyone else.

I have only listened to one song from your newest album, is the music on Scratch To Reveal kind of in the vein of Iwinyo Piny or are there more varied sounds?

BLINKY: I’d describe the album as adventurous. We all bring different influences to the Just A Band table plus an unwillingness to stay within proscribed boundaries, I’m influenced by acoustic guitar stuff, funk, jazz, hip-hop and dance stuff, everyone else’s influences are evident all through the album.
DAN: The first single, Fly, is up on YouTube and is pretty different, a bit more aggressive and obviously scifi as opposed to Iwinyo’s flirtation with spacey sounds.
JIM: Somewhere towards the middle, the album reveals a softer core; comes back to earth, if you will. Some people have found this surprising because the overall look of the album says – electronic – so having pianos and strings in the middle could be a bit bewildering for some.

I see Daft Punk is an influence on your music; what are your thoughts on the Gorillaz? Would you work with Damon Albarn if he asked? What other types of music/musicians do you gravitate towards? Graphically speaking… which animators do you like? Cartoons? Which ones??
BLINKY: I know for a fact that [Albarn] did some stuff with Fela Kuti’s band mates on a trip to Nigeria, so we wouldn’t be the first African peeps he’s working with, but I’d be absolutely down for it! I’m currently jazzed by Citizen Cope, Raphael Saadiq, Lupe Fiasco, John Mayer, Jamiroquai, St. Germaine, Van Hunt, Foreign Exchange, Bob Sinclair and Asa. I’m abit out of my waters with the animation vibes, though I like Aaron McGruder of The Boondocks fame.
DAN: DEFINITELY we’d collabo with Albarn (right after we regain consciousness)… Every project he does is SO DIFFERENT, from the Mali Music albums to Blur to Gorillaz…very much the kind of thing that we hope to do, as well.
I have a HUGE crush (creatively, hehe) on Björk. She pushes boundaries both musically and visually, stretches your imagination… We are all influenced by Parliament Funkadelic and their many spinoffs –
JIM: Are we? I just think that George Clinton guy had cool outfits. So, maybe visually.
BLINKY: George Clinton is cool!
DAN: I think they’re our spiritual ancestors in the genre of musical Black scifi! We like old funk bands, Jamiroquai, Basement Jaxx, Jaga Jazzist, acid jazz, French House, Van Hunt and a lot of neo-soul artists, rock dudes like RHCP and Incubus, Madlib, Timbaland and the Neptunes (N*E*R*D was one of those moments of WTF is this??), a lot of stuff. I like comical old ska, garage rock like the White Stripes and The Hives and these new dancey rock bands like Franz Ferdinand. But I think the best music is the stuff you can’t really describe…
Graphically, I’m very much into manga and anime, in terms of the stories, culture, even the shortcuts they take to meet their crazy deadlines! A random list of favourites: Samurai Champloo, Mind Game, Triplets of Belleville, Studio Ghibli films, Satoshi Kon’s work, Genndy Tartakovsky, Jamie Hewlett’s Gorillaz work is really well designed and moves so fluidly, The Boondocks. Ralph Bakshi’s confrontational movies from the 70s are a huge creative inspiration for what I’d like to do in animation in future.
There’s an animation director called Koji Morimoto (he did the Beyond segment in The Animatrix), he makes my eyes water. Also off The Animatrix, the World Record segment was done by another new fave, Takeshi Koike, who is actually a celeb in Japan! How interesting, celebrity animators… I would like to go study at the feet of Moebius, the French comic book artist. And a lot of movies and books (I may be a bit of a junkie). We also keep an eye on the graphic design and motion graphics scene, and that’s always a visual overload.
JIM: Daft Punk’s Discovery was one of those albums that really excited me (and it still does). Frankly, I like the visual detail of the Gorillaz more than their music. In fact, I really don’t think I like their music. But I like the way they work so hard on the supplementary material that helps you form an opinion about a band, the back story, the promos. I like people like Madonna and Björk for putting in extra effort and really being in control of their image and sound, and giving people some fantasy to believe in – however slightly.
When I was a kid, I loved the musicians who went beyond the music and created lush record covers, and placed their music in some kind of fantasy literary context. Or even the people who explored themes other than the usual “love, girls and sex”. I love the way the disco dudes touched the sky and went beyond to other planets. Why confine yourself to dull old Mother Earth?
These days it’s “Hi. I’m X and I have a great body. You want to have sex with me. I also sing.” or the other equally drab approach: “Hi. I’m exceptionally gifted. I will numb you into submission with my technical wizardry. I will now play the Euclidian scale with my teeth.”
I think Europeans are better at it than the Americans (with the exception of people like Madonna, as mentioned above). Americans are very literal about their music – Band X fits into this genre and you shouldn’t ask where they’re from or why they’re doing this. Europeans are very cool about alter egos and costumes and silly things like that.

From your Kenyanimation blog, it appears you are working on another project – Two Countries; will it be a CD & animation type thing? When can we expect to hear of a premiere?
DAN: So, when we started off with Kenyanimation (which is not a Just A Band project, actually) we wanted to actually make something under this new group. The idea for this short animated movie was lying around in someone’s sketchbook, so we decided to make that. It’s kind of like a Gado cartoon come to life, political commentary vibes, but with a bit of Tom and Jerry thrown in, and (hopefully) a Just A Band score (as in, a proper “classical” score, which would be a new thing for the band).
The project has stalled for a bit as people get more involved with their various hustles, but we’ll get it back on track soon, and as it’s just a short, it could be done by year’s end. As for how we’ll put it out, I’m not sure yet but maybe we’ll try some festival screenings and so forth.

Do you perform live shows? If so, where can we catch you guys?
BLINKY: Coming soon to an area near you.
DAN: We’re actually working on the live shows now, figuring out venues and instrumentalists, and all the cool fun stuff like projections, or not. We will be unveiling the whole shebang in August. Details will be on the site/YouTube/Facebook.
JIM: We’re working on making it something interesting – because I am skeptical that Kenyans would be OK with sitting around for several hours watching a bunch of geeks fiddling with guitars. So pom-pom’s, dancing, makeup, lights, psychedelic footage and action – on a shoestring budget, as always.

*To order the CD ‘Scratch To Reveal’ send an email to jab [at] just-a-band[dot]com, they will personally ‘hawk’ it over to you. For us online folks, they will have their music on itunes or calabash soon…
**Part II will be posted as soon as you thaw from the JAB burst of ice cold freshness. It will have more questions about the animated video

‘Iwinyo Piny’.

Andrew Mwenda arrested by Ugandan Officials

Update:04/28/2008 “Andrew is out of jail on Bond, he has to report to the police tomorrow.”
Thanks for the good news Emeka

This piece of news via the TED blog is terribly worrisome. Andrew Mwenda, arguably Africa’s most refreshing intellectual and journalist, has been arrested by Ugandan officials. More here.

This is utter injustice, and i am not even sure where to begin. For now, highlighting it on this blog seems to be one way, please highlight it on yours too, and I am sure some initiatives and online campaigns are being organized. Keep an eye on the TED blog for Updates.

Below is a picture i took of him last year at TEDGlobal. He is the one in the middle with glasses,looking at the Mamamikes remittance site, and speaking with Segeni.
Mama Mikes Demo

Shindana Kuunda – Google East Africa Gadget Competition


Google announced a competition for students in East Africa to build gadgets (as in software). I am blogging this here just in case the skunkworks crew hadn’t seen this already. The competition is open to university students in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Burundi.

The deadline for this is March 17th; so if you have some great ideas, you can still submit them for consideration. The categories/types of software gadgets and apps that they are looking for include:
(1) Best Gadget UI
(2) Best Local Content Gadget (Most Locally Useful Gadget)
(3) Best Education Specific Gadget
(4) Best Procrastination Gadget
(5) Most Technically Sophisticated Gadget
(6) Gadget Most Likely to Get International Traffic
(7) Best Social Gadget

What the winners get:
“Six students will be awarded prizes. Five students will receive a $350 USD stipend and 1 student will receive a $600 stipend. All winners will receive a Google t shirt, pen, and notebook valuing $7 USD (£13).”

- More Information on the contest
- Rules and fine print

Other Info: Hash’s post on Google moving in East Africa. It is no wonder that one of the categories is ‘Best local content gadget’. I think that the market for localized, useful and contextualized software is huge. When you have African developers creating applications for use in their own communities…I would say “prepare to be amazed”. I am really looking forward to seeing the ideas and applications that come out of this competition.

Hat Tip Think >>Innovate

Wind Energy Resources & RE News Tidbits

Via Leonardo Energy,
The Wind Turbine buyers guide [PDF]: “The article discusses small wind system components, wind turbine basics, and understanding the ratings. It also shows photos of the small wind turbines and lists several specifications for each.”

Via AfriWea
GVEP International receives a 2 million pound grant for a project in East Africa. GVEP’s role is, according to their site

… providing financial support, capacity building and technical assistance to energy SMEs in developing countries. Using funding from the Russian Government, GVEP intends to set up two Regional Funds in West and East Africa to build local energy supply chains and grow economic development from the bottom up.

The list of other organizations in Africa receiving grants from Europe aid can be found here. [PDF]. Some of the organizations in Kenya on the list include:
Kenya Arid Land Development Focus – Renewable energy in Wajir
Kenya Tana and Athi rivers Development Authority – Community based mini hydropower development in upper tana river basin
Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) – Up scaling the smaller biogas Plants

Via BBC
“The Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus has announced plans to invest $234m (£115m) in solar energy. Archbishop Chrysostomos II said the church would build a factory that would make photo-voltaic panels to capture the sun’s energy.” – Now that is a faith based initiative i could get behind.

Fun from The Daily show with Jon Stewart: An awesome lampoon of the Cape Wind project in Nantucket. Big wigs don’t want it because it will presumably ruin their long range view from their mansions.

AIDS and the abstinence debate in Uganda – Video

We truly live in a small world. Its no wonder Frontline on PBS has a tag line of ‘stories from a small planet’. This short video [8:35] is one that explores how religion,
priest
sex,
Abstinence billboard
AID, and politics interplay between Uganda and the US.
The strategy of ABC – Abstinence, Be Faithful and Condoms had been successful in reducing the AIDs infection rate, but a reversal of that strategy by President Yoweri Museveni perhaps directly or indirectly due to the strings that came with the aid money to combat aids appears to be counter productive. 1/3 of the 15 billion dollars allocated in PEPFAR – President’s [GW Bush] Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief be used to promote abstinence only programs around the world. That is 5 billion bucks.
You can join the discussion on the frontline page for the video. Particularly welcome are thoughts from the Ugandan blogosphere.

Images courtesy of Frontline World.

On July 26 there will be a video about baseball in Ghana – so do keep frontline world bookmarked.
(Thanks Charlotte for the heads up).