Let Me Upgrade you…

I finally upgraded this blog to WordPress Version 2.7.1. Initially I was worried about the theme not working with the new version, but seems like my apprehension wa

s unfounded.

I activated several plugins: Notably..

Tweet this so you can get your tweet on

Mobile press to make viewing my blog on your phone that much more pleasurable. This plugin was created by the good folks at Younique, a social marketing company out of South Africa. @Tylerreed good stuff man. Mobile press works beautifully on Opera and Iphone. I would highly recommend it. Do let me know if you encounter any problem on other mobile browsers.

Contact form in the About page

– I am still trying to figure out how to use Zemanta to deal bring in ‘related’ links for posts.

Goodies for you:
A wallpaper that my talented relative Jepchumba designed, click on this image to download it from flickr.

Wallpaper. Please feel free to download!

Link to Beyonce’s video. I shamelessly borrowed the title for this blogpost. Needless to say, the video has bsolutely nothing to do with upgrading wordpress blogs 🙂

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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.

Africa popping up in Trend Watch

Now this is positively surprising, though not to many Africa-watchers…
Africa is hot for business now, and its popping up in Time Mag’s trend watch. Great to see that ideas espoused at TEDGlobal Arusha 2007 are reaching the ‘center’ from the fringes.

It’s great to see Time magazine present some trends that are not obvious, well-worn, are already over. They take a chance in this list of ‘10 Ideas Changing The World Right Now.‘ The line up includes not your usual suspects. With any list like this, there is no telling which are likely, but they are at least plausible. Two extra points for a positive African scenario. The ten trends are featured in the pic below; details at the link.

Picture 38

(Via KK Lifestream.)

In the back of my mind I couldn’t help but wonder…what of the global economic crisis? Wouldn’t that put a dent in this positive outlook? Oz has a great run down of how the global crisis affects Africa.

Blurb:

1. A slump in external demand affects exports and remittances.
2. A slump in external demand lowers commodity prices. Oil producing nations such as Nigeria are particularly vulnerable.
3. Lack of credit is stifling capital inflows and trade finance in the more advanced markets like Nigeria, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
4 The region is not immune to financial problems of its own. Credit has ballooned in many countries. Banks’ loan books are often concentrated in commodity-related industries.
5. Some retail investors borrowed heavily to punt on local stock markets.

You can also follow OZ on twitter.

Of Redesign & Afrigator 45 best in Africa

You might notice the snazzy new design, and the realignment of things on my blog, I just completed the redirection of the RSS feeds on Feedburner, so please note the new RSS feed link. The old feed link should redirect to the new one, but in case it does not, please just re-subscribe.

If you ever need to redirect feed links, check out this post for the short instructions.

The theme of the blog is based on Firebug, it was customized and given the ‘Mweshi treatment’ by the talented designer Mulumba.

I switched hosting companies from Locomotive Media, which was actually powered by wind, to Dreamhost. I racked my brain quite a bit about this, but the fact that Dreamhost offsets its carbon emissions made my decision easier. Granted I would prefer to use a data center that actually uses renewable energy like I did before, Dreamhost offers a very good deal and gobs of space for further growth.

It is quite an honor for me that my blog is on the list of Top 45 Female African bloggers, I am so excited! The email Lester sent had a really cool picture that captures my excitement. Yay! to blogging, and here’s to a relaunch of Afromusing. Thanks for the honor AfriGator, and thanks to Mweshi for helping me switch hosts. Cheers!

Picture 1.png

Noon Solar Bag

This bag looks very nice. Its like the BMW/mac book Air of solar bags; beautiful, but just a tad out of reach for this blogger, as it is definitely quite expensive. Doesn’t hurt to gawk a bit though…
Noon Solar bag

You can view more bags here.
Hat tip whiteafrican!
PS: My thoughts are with Kenya as always…the GV special coverage page for Kenya is back up.
Amnesty International is appealing for action today to protest Human rights violations in Kenya. You can find more information and details on how to participate.

Tag: My Week In Media

Shashank of ‘Somewhere in Nairobi’ tagged me in the meme that is ‘My week in Media’. Some of the longtime readers of this blog might know that I have a healthy appreciation, perhaps a sort of admiration of journalists around the world. Its probably because I just want a Thuraya Satellite phone like the ones they often carry with them.
Shashank’s blog is one of my favorites, i remember laughing hard at the post God and Warlords’ – i.e comb through his archives. You can read the pieces that appear in McClatchy newspapers here.
Sara Nics, who is a journalism trainer in Nairobi spoke with John Keating about the challenges of reporting on conflict. It gives you a glimpse on the situation the Kenyan media find themselves, the problem of media credibility the internal struggle with editors beholden to owners close to the politicians, and the changes in workplace interaction.
I think Journalist-bloggers like Shashank, Rob Crilly, Sara Nics, Nick Wadhams, vigilante journalist etc, fill an important gap for Kenyan readers and bloggers who want the news straight up, and perhaps are not hamstrung by the current conflict, the way Kenyan journalists are. Reading the online editions of Nation media group and The Standard can be frustrating at times. They do not update their online editions as the news happens, and i often find myself checking BBC for latest information. By and large Kenya is a newspaper reading nation, but i do hope that one day we can also read more blogs by the noted Kenyan journalists to get their viewpoints and a glimpse ‘behind the scenes’ as they go about reporting.
Boy did i digress…o.k on to the tag.
What I’ve read:
The Best of Technology Writing 2007, edited by Steven Levy.
A quick review i did of it last year:
“Excellent collection of tech writing. The piece on Natalie Jeremijenko was fascinating, and Farhad Manjoo can make net neutrality debate and AT&T’s ‘corporate toll on the internet’ read like an engaging conversation he is having with you. Joshua Davis as usual is superb writing about the DARPA challenge in the Mojave desert. If i recall correctly, Sebastian Thrun’s team won the challenge this yr. A dose of humour from Phillip Smith with ‘The worst date ever for an Apple tech’. Dont read this book before going to bed, your brain will get all atwitter and you wont be able to nod off. Its a great book for long airplane rides, substitute all the magazines you carry with you with this wonderful anthology. You will likely smile, go ‘hmm’, and probably do a ‘thinking man’ pose ala’ Rodin”

Currently reading P.J. O’Rourke On The Wealth of Nations. Fave bit so far…”It was almost as though Smith, having proved that we can all have more money, then proved that money doesn’t buy happiness. And it doesn’t. It rents it.”

What I’ve watched
Not much telly, though i try to catch the Daily show and The Boondocks. A repeat of Gorillaz concert in Harlem on MHD channel has me transfixed each time. I watch all of it anytime its on. When i was in Kenya, I really enjoyed K24, and in happier times, couldn’t help but watch ‘Cobra Squad’ – I still want a t-shirt from that show.

What I’ve listened to:
Nothing new really, some of the ones i am digging are
Habib Koite’s Afriki it is probably one of my favourite CD’s from 2007.

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Don’t be fooled by the album cover a friend looked at it and worriedly asked “Is she a 3 year old?” nope. Her music was described in last month’s wired mag as “…feisty, airy crowd pleaser of Jazzy electro-pop”. I just think her sound is cool.

What I’ve surfed:
Mostly Kenyan news, through Standard, Nation Media, blogs – which are aggregated and displayed on the global voices special coverage page for Kenya. When things get heavy and i need a mental break, I canhasCheezburger, milk and cookies, Bongo music on You tube (Bongo is a genre of music from Kenya’s Neighbor Tanzania – melodic, and fun to listen to. check out Cinderella, and Na Wewe tu.)

I tag: KP, Mweshi and Ndesanjo

Odds and Ends – EOY

Odds and Ends
Before i head upcountry and not have much in the way of internet access here are a few observations.

In as much as the country is in the grip of elections with incendiary sms from phone to phone; and tribal tensions appear to be escalating, I noticed that there are messages promoting peace and unity during the elections; in likely places – church, and unlikely, sms messages confirming that a recharge of airtime is successful.

Church – Attended a service where the pastor called for one person from different parts of the country (rift-valley, coast, north eastern, western etc) to come to the front of the church. He also called for people from other parts of Africa and the rest of the world to join in. A lady from the netherlands was present i think… They held hands as he prayed for the country, reminding everyone that even after the elections, we will live together in peace.
SMS – When recharging safaricom airtime, the confirmation text reads something along the lines of
“The recharge is successful.Chagua amani zuia noma (choose peace, avoid violence/disturbance)”

The electoral commission of Kenya has done a good job of running ads promoting voter turnout. other organizatons such as Eric wainaina’s Umoja Pamoja also run ads appealing to young people to vote for young MP’s and progressive leaders.

KJ – John Kiarie is a popular performance artist who decided to get into the political game, running for the Dagoretti parliamentary seat on an ODM ticket. He has a facebook group and a website too. I think his run for parliament shows an interesting Intersection of art, politics and Tech. Many aspirants have websites and facebook groups too, but his is probably most interesting to watch because he is witty and really speaks for young kenyans. With his humour and style he is purported to have said – very rough translation

“Siku ya Kura nataka kusisikia Kiarie! Kiarie! Kiarie!, Mugo and Raila!, Raila!, Raila!, Kibaki” Alluding to the percentage/number of votes for the ODM candidate vs PNU come election day. I think he was courageous to take chance on young people despite the danger to his life (He was hospitalized last month after being attacked by people suspected to have been paid by his rivals)

There are huge billboards everywhere you look, the most numerous being those of President Kibaki in a nice suit, blue background and the words “Kazi iendelee” I have seen a couple ‘Adopt a light’s with ads for Kalonzo. Paper posters are pasted on electricity poles, telephone poles, kiosk doors and even trees. Some have been ripped off and new posters placed, it does not look good 🙁 There is a general feeling of disorganization, which can be felt from the moment you get off the plane. (see Josiah Mugambi’s post, KP’s woes with luggage, and Shashank’s post on parking) things just seem off. Its disconcerting because in June when I was here…I loved how efficiently the luggage was handled, and the CBD was just nice. Once this election is over i hope Nairobi can revert back to the beautiful city it was.

NTV has been posting clips from the news, so for diaspora kenyans wanting to stay in the loop, do check it out. Uploading a video is a tortourous task, so i wont even try.

Happened to watch the new TV channel K24 ‘All Kenyan All the Time’. I liked it alot, the styling for the intro shows Kenyan people in different areas, usual day to day task such as a woman washing clothes, a woman on a boda boda etc. It appears its focus will be on local content (writing this offline so cant check for more info, GIYF though). Jeff Koinange interviewed the Director of Kenya Wildlife Service, Kipngetich about the work he does. Excellent, engaging and more so, quite pertinent. The talked abit about the Amboseli ownership drama, which i have to dig for more info on..there is some ownership dispute i think Director Kipngetich laid out the strategy for KWS; it included focus on people and Ecology. Kipngetich is an impressive guy, and just from talking to a diverse cross section of Kenyans, most of them agree that he is doing an excellent job at KWS – He will probably help KWS reposition itself in a manner that will maximize the tourism dollars and increase growth in that industry.

Thank you for reading my blog – I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season, a stupendous year ahead and…wimax. Santa you hear that?!

*sorry i didn’t include all relevant links. (For NTV just search for tags, kenya, politics, ntv and you should be all set)

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.