Kenya: How to get Safaricom 3G on your iPad

1. Get a new sim card. Do not cut it just yet.

2. Turn SIM PIN Request off (On Nokia E71 go to Settings, Phone, Security, Phone & Sim Card, PIN Request set to off)

3. Add credit *141 voucher number #

4. Purchase a data bundle by texting the word ‘Activate’ to the appropriate short code. i.e

safaricom data bundles

5. Text 450 to get the balance of the data bundle

6. Once you’ve added credit to the sim card, you are now ready to cut the regular SIM into a microSIM.
Instructions are on this link. You just need a pair of scissors and an exacto knife to trace out the microsim shape on the regular sim.

Safaricom & Ipad

At this stage, you can also create a regular sim template using the same instructions on Hijinks, as you will likely need it later.

7. Fit the microsim into the ipad tray, you might need to gently hammer the Microsim into the little ipad tray it so it lays flat. Insert the tray into the ipad slot.

8. You can put the new MicroSIM into the iPad and voila’! you are connected to Safaricom 3G.

Safaricom & Ipad

The tricky part now is how to recharge your account when you run out of credit. The fastest way is to MPESA your MicroSIM number, though that would mean you would be using the more expensive 8 kes per MB instead of the cheaper rates afforded by bundling. At this point, you can remove the MicroSim, fit it into a template created step 6, put into a regular phone, add credit and text ‘activate’ for the appropriate short code and for the bundle you prefer.


On the iphone, you can use the SIM applications to check your MPESA and Safaricom credit balance, that is not currently possible on the ipad. You can view and even send the request for balances, but there isn’t a mechanism to display the response from Safaricom. I am hoping someone can come up with a solution for this, if you know how, please comment or get in touch.

Update with info from @69mb
Re: Topping up, its possible from a postpaid line to topup a prepaid line with a data bundle from the *200# menu. So if you’ve got a postpaid line / a friend with one you can mpesa their bill for the bundle. Sucks this isn’t also on the *100#

Update 2: Safaricom has MicroSims available. Via @blongwe and @whiteafrican. Yet to find out whether topping up issue is easier on the special MicroSIMs.

PS: Rates on Orange look better, here is a grid (thanks Charles!)

Orange rates

\o/ Data Gathering With Mobile Phones

For those in the African technology space, the challenges of gathering data from the field in areas that are not quite ‘on-the-grid’ are apparent. Let me just keep it short by saying ‘Houston, we have a power problem’. Charging laptops when you are off-grid is not easy, but if you have a Nokia E71 that can stay for 3 days without needing a re-charge…well, you get the idea.

Last October I excitedly proclaimed just how much I loved Nokia because they had a data gathering app for E71’s, which they were making available for NGO’s to test out. Please forgive me for not blogging about it. but you can find more info on the mobile active wiki, or watch this 2 minute you-tube clip on tracking the Dengue fever in Brazil.

This brings me to the latest news from FrontlineSMS. FrontlineSMS forms provides a killer functionality of basically using SMS as the data carrying pigeon. This is how it works. The person running the FrontlineSMS hub creates forms with questions for the person in the field to fill in with information. The field agent only needs to have downloaded the forms client from, this will work on any Java enabled phone, which is preety much a whole lotta phones. They can then receive a form from the hub via sms, fill it in and send it back again via SMS. Hmm I like my data-pigeon metaphor! This eliminates the need for a GPRS connection. If the person is entering the data at a place with no mobile signal, the information is still saved in ‘offline’ mode until the phone has a mobile signal. I do have to point out that with \o/ forms you do not require an E71 or high end PDA like with the Nokia data gathering tool. I still heart Nokia, and would highly recommend the E71 if you need a smartphone.


Read more about it over at Ken’s blog, Erik’s thoughts on the Ushahidi blog and Jon Thompson’s coverage on Aid Worker Daily.

This functionality adds more fuel to the mobile => Cloud paradigm that I feel will redefine the participation and engagement with communities in rural areas. Once the information gets back to the hub, it can sync with a web app like Ushahidi or any other web enabled implementation that takes input from the Frontline SMS hub. The pretty graphs and visualizations are best presented on the web IMO. Personally, I am looking forward to using FrontlineSMS \o/ forms to plan a kick-ass tree planting party!

PS: For \o/ users in Kenya, do note that FrontlineSMS works with the Safaricom E220 modem. If it works with the new USB stick version E160? kindly leave a comment.

When I met Ken during the Plan International workshop in Kenya, he said something that I cant help but pass along.
“Do not ask for permission, ask for forgiveness” Keep doing whatever it is you love to do, and do not be afraid to try something new. I think Tonee and I co-opted that for our new-years motto. Seriously though, if you have ideas for using \o/ in your work, check out Ken and his team have built a very useful data gathering tool that could give your project even more reach. Plus, the folks in the forums are super-nice. Really.

South Africa: State of The Mobile Web

SA_image.png Via ICT4D on Twitter

The Opera Mini mobile browser is gaining popularity even in my household (ahem Nokia E71), and the latest numbers from the State of the mobile web indicate the stats for SA. I did not find any stats on Kenyan usage, i suspect its still not a ‘critical mass’ to warrant inclusion in SMW. Would be curious if anyone has mobile web stats from Kenya, please share, because Tim Berners Lee said so!

Download SMW PDF here and read a summary with highlights and pretty graphs here.

From the report:

In 2008, we saw strong growth in Opera Mini usage all over the world, in both developed and developing countries. Social networks and search engines were competitive, as Opera Mini users determined their preferences.

emphasis is mine
I would not be surprised if traffic from the developing world eclipses that of the developed world in the coming years. If over 80% of BBC mobile site’s traffic comes from Africa…we are likely to see more dominance of mobile web usage by my fellow Africans.
I heard this bbc stat last year and cant for the life of me find the document it was mentioned in. Halp?!

Snapshot: South Africa (# of unique users)
Top 10 sites in South Africa (# of unique users)




4) (up from 5)

5) (down from 4)




9) (up from 10)

10) (back on the list)

Top social networks in 2008 South Africa
Facebook was the preferred social networking site for South Africans in 2008.

Web site Growth rate in 2008 (users) 187.48% 66.44% 189.98% 59.84%

I am shocked, who are these people using hi5?!!
It is quite likely that the stats for Kenya would indicate Facebook as the top site, would love to see how Zuqka is fairing on. @kahenya i am sure the TOS for Zuqka would definitely trump FB’s current heavy handedness?

Lets talk about phones baby! …

Lets talk about you and me! Got your attention you Salt and Pepa loving peeps?O.k. Its been awhile since I mused on mobiles, but this is as good a time as any to get back to my ‘wag of the finger’ ‘tip of the hat’ thing…Indulge me.

First, I have been accused of hating on the Iphone a bit too much and being a Nokia fan girl. Those accusing me of this may be on to something. Here is why. I have previously wagged my finger at Apple for tying their beautiful device to a crappy provider like AT&T and ranted about my misgivings with the 1st gen Iphone.You see, i have had first hand experience with this monstrosity of a telco named AT&T. When I became blinded by the 3G speeds and the GPS on the new Iphone, i succumbed to the hype, the hipster call of duty and got the 16GB model of Iphone. First, the process of activating the phone at the Apple store did not go well, plus the ‘genius’ who was assigned to me was saying rather daft things like ‘i am required by Apple and AT & T to ask you whether you will be traveling out of the continental US’ and some other drivel all culminating in her telling me that I would have to get my phone activated by AT&T. After this that and the other, i finally got the phone activated and after even more drama that i shall save you the pain of reading and weeping, i was able to port my old phone number from T-Mobile. Let me just warn anyone reading this. Learn from my ginormous error people, do NOT for a moment think of switching from T-mobile to AT&T not even for the Jesus phone, Buddha phone or ‘There-is-no-deity’ phone. T-mobile is a far better company to deal with than AT&T, so save yourself the headache. I am glad to be back in the T-mobile fold thank you very much. Lets not even talk about unlocking your phone so you can use it when you travel, that would just be rehashing my old rant on this very point. Again, i learned first hand why I have unkind words for AT&T. In order for you to get decent rates when roaming, you have to sign up for a monthly roaming service where you pay an addition $5.99 so you can save a few cents on a pre-existing exorbitant roaming charge. So if you were to receive calls in say…Finland, if you had the roaming service it would cost you $1.19 per minute, if not, it would be $1.99 per minute or something close to that. Same applies if someone leaves you voicemail. You would still get charged at the roaming rate. T-mobile does not charge you a ‘roaming service’ fee. Data roaming is also very expensive. Do not dare get lost and use your Iphone maps for directions. You will flail, cry and quite likely faint when you receive your bill.

This pairing of a beautiful device with a crap company had me all worried when Apple announced that they would be making inroads into various parts of the world including Kenya. In the case of Kenya, Orange Telcom is the carrier of choice. Rebecca wrote about this in Network world August’08. Please be warned the following quote is plain and simple self promotion…But do I say?

Telkom Kenya will start selling the iPhone in Kenya next month after launching the Orange mobile phone service.
Orange entered into a contract with Apple that gave it the right to sell the iPhone in Kenya and the sale will commence once the service rolls out, said Njeri Rionge, chief commercial and marketing officer at Telkom.”My concern with the iPhone is the return to the old telecom hegemony where you are tied to one carrier because of a contract (since the telecom subsidizes the hardware), this system can be very annoying especially with the freedom that Kenyans have enjoyed in terms of their ability to switch carriers easily,” said Juliana Rotich, a Kenyan technologist.

Did you buy an Iphone in Kenya? What was your experience with Telkom like? Inquiring minds would like to know.
Ahem. moving along..

Second, the authoritarianism of the walled garden approach taken by Apple, particularly with DRMed songs on Itunes irks me to no end. I try to buy songs from Amazon MP3 store and would encourage all who believe in freedom, truth and chocolate to do the same. Yes hyperbolical of me, but dude, i wouldn’t want to be in your shoes when you use up your ‘authorizations’ from Apple because you switched between one too many computers/iphones. Lets not even talk about Apple yanking useful apps like Tether that would help you make the most out of that 3G data speed you are paying an arm, leg and pancreas on your Iphone data plan. Yes you can jailbreak it using Pawnage and get apps on cydia, but I digress.

All this brings me to my new device of choice.The Nokia E71, and my new device of drool and gadget lust, the N97


*cc licensed pic by JKE on flickr

Just so you know I am seriously getting rid of my Iphone. Yes, i will miss the nice lines and one touch ease of interfacing with the web, the sleek simplicity of apps like Twinkle, Brightkite and even FB for Iphone. I will be content with Twibble and locr. I never got comfortable typing on the Iphone, sometimes I still pine for my old Q with the wide QWERTY keyboard, so E71 with its slimmer frame is a good compromise. The E71 is a phone that truly gives you wings…(sorry Redbull) You can travel with it, stick a local sim card and get talking, emailing, fringing, tagging photos with locr, mapping your way with the super fast GPS all the while having the freedom of having whatever blinking ringtone you want on it. I know you do not care, but I am indulging today aren’t I? My current ringtone is the song Gongo Aso by 9ice. I have the freedom to change it Moloko’s ‘Fun for me’ or Morcheeba’s Enjoy The Ride (Silver Saver Mix). Try doing that on the Iphone…you would have to pay Apple to create a simple ringtone?!! When Wired’s gadget lab proclaimed this phone ‘Best of Test’ I wholeheartedly agreed then and still do. On the podcast I think the guy said ‘This phone is not for everyone. It is for people who want a higher level engagement with their phone’ I haven’t even touched on the barcode reader! You know what, just head on over to Juergen’s for a complete rundown of E71 awesomeness if you haven’t already.

The Nokia N97


CC licensed pic by Inky on flickr

From the looks of it, this could be THE phone that combines the best of ALL worlds, at least while the Morph concept phone remains just that. A concept.The N97 has a full QWERTY keyboard, touch screen, Micro SD slot and generous memory – 32GB onboard memory, you can add 16GB on the Micro SD card slot. For more spec-goodies see the Data_Sheet_Nokia N97.pdf. I care about the 32GB memory because if you truly want an Ipod replacement such that you would have one device to rule them all, and have access to your substantial collection of music, space matters. If for some odd reason you’d want to listen to Longomba’s ‘Vuta Pumzi’ while you recall the good times circa 2005-’06, or early 2000s Kenyan rap that sounds rather bad right now, yet at the time you were bobbing your head going…’oh this is nice’ well you’d have the freedom to. Wings from Nokia i tell ya. Wiiings! Caveat: The N97 does not have a flashlight. Readers of this blog know that i have this thing for Nokia phones with flashlights, and believe that it is The.Best.Feature.Ever! so on this one point, i am going to ding the N97 just a peg. If someone can hack the Dual LED camera flash to act like a flashlight when i type a combination of keys…well it is quite possible that I would sign over an IOU stating my infinite adoration to the person who hacks this. Yes oh yes, BET ON NOKIA.

I am looking forward to being in a country where i can switch mobile companies vuka/unvuka as I darn well please. Kenya, see you in a bit.

Remote Mobile Hack for Water Pumps

Via Jan Chipchase

Farmers were tired of waking up at odd hours to irrigate their farms, so one of them created a mobile app that allows remote control of water pumps
Jan notes that there is a commercial version, called Nano Ganesh.

The impact of this, particularly when combined with cheap and reliable services like Village Connection should not be underestimated.

Indeed. This hack reminded me of the brilliant Morris Mbetsa from Kenya who made an anti theft device that is controlled remotely via mobile phone. When the technology platform allows for people to write localized applications, amazing things happen. This is another reason I like the Nokia S60, because it allows for anyone to create hacks such as this. Now that is transformative technology.

I am currently reading Jonathan Zittrain’s book ‘The future of the Internet and how to stop it’ In the first few chapters he mentions ‘generativity’ and how it is part of the internet. To paraphrase, it is the ability for 3rd parties to create and innovate on top of a platform. In light of the S60 Nokia platform and the open source nature of the Symbian and Android…perhaps the mobile world is set to have platforms that encourage innovation around the world. Just like the story from India and Kenya are interesting, I think there is definitely more to come.

PS: I am currently at Mobile Active 08 ; a conference bringing together many of the people using mobiles for social change. You can follow the proceedings on

Nokia Takes on Apple’s Digital Music Dominance

Nokia Could Loosen Apple’s Grip On Digital Music:

For years, Microsoft and others have attempted without much success to shake Appleâ??s tight grip on the digital music scene. From subscription services to the Zune, companies have searched for the winning alternative to the iTunes, iPod bundle. Analysts now believe Finlandâ??s Nokia may have a good shot of chipping away at Apple dominance.

More than 80 percent of people would pay for Nokia’s Comes with Music service – particularly when it feels like they are getting tunes for free. Nokia says it will launch the handsets Oct. 17 in Britain.

Strategy Analytics said cost and selection trump brand – even ones so tightly woven as Apple, iPod and iTunes.

Nokia Comes With Music effectively bundles a year subscription of music downloads (PC and mobile) into the price of a handset, analyst Pitesh Patel told Cult of Mac.

Patel said Nokia – the largest handset maker – could overwhelm Apple’s iPhone.

Nokia’s strong distribution and handset marketshare means that it currently sells more music playing devices than Apple, the Strategy Analytics wireless analyst said.


It turns out that brand is irrelevant,said Patel.

(Via Cult of Mac.)

I often tell my friends to ‘Bet on Nokia’, and it seems like this is another reason to continue to do just that. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, though I would expect Nokia to continue its world dominance, and expansion in emerging markets. If Nokia can grab some of the Digital music market share, even better.
Why am I rooting for Nokia over Apple? Because Apple, with its DRM and charging 99cents to create a ringtone( and only from songs bought on itunes) smacks of authoritarianism. Let alone the complete handset lockdown of the Iphone, with threats to turn it into an ibrick if you unlock the device then install a sw update. Sigh* With Nokia, you get an unlocked phone that affords you much freedom. You can use whatever song you want as the ringtone (at least that is the case with the E71), you can use your phone as modem, tether it to your laptop. This is particularly important when you are not in broadband rich areas, but are in a wireless-signal-rich locale.
Speaking of the E71 do check out JKE’s series of E71 reviews. 1 mobile blogging, 2, 3 pics , 4, and stay tuned because the man is not done reviewing this phone.

I often have to remind myself to buy music from the Amazon mp3 store instead of Itunes, because I believe DRM (Digital Rights Management) that Itunes still saddles on music is just plain wrong-headed. I am not about to be left in a lurch like the Yahoos who bought tunes from the Yahoo store (forgive me…I couldn’t resist!) To be fair, Itunes does provide DRM free music, but good luck finding the ‘itunes plus’ versions of the songs you want.
So in conclusion…AFM recommends you Bet on Nokia and buy your music on Amazon mp3 download/or other DRM free service. You do reserve the right to ogle at Iphones, but only John Oliver, Anthony Bourdain and Joseph Kabila reserve the right to be awesome. 🙂