Kenyans and the social media

and they are many!

and they are many!

It is said that Kenyans are allergic to change given that they will take a long time before they adopt some new technology. However, I believe once they see a reason for adoption they embrace the  new technology in masses.  On the top 10 visited sites in Kenya according to Alexa Facebook comes first, YouTube 5th, Twitter 8th and Linkedin 10th. This clearly shows that Kenyans love social media. The twittersphere over and over has been coming up with TTs ranging from #someonetellcnn to ones like #KOTagainstMPsBonus and so many more.

Social media has therefore helped in improving the freedom of speech and has allowed many Kenyans to express their thoughts and be heard. Politicians are being taken to tasked on the social media, people are asking harder questions and the good thing is that one is able to interact directly with the people in question.

However, there are cases where people are using social media for the wrong reasons. Insults are being hurled left right and center. Some people are intolerant to other people’s views and instead of arguing it out like grown people they choose to insult people with divergent views. This is particularly dangerous as we are heading towards the general election. If not used properly the social media can be used to spread propaganda and incite people against each other.

Social ProBeing a country most of complainers and not doers ( I am not exempt) I was happy when I came across an initiative by the name Social Pro Clubs. According to Muthuri Kinyamu, business director at Social Edge Africa,

The core objective of these clubs is to teach, educate, create awareness and impart knowledge & skills of various disciplines of social media and platforms to the university students to unlock the massive potential on social media. The faculty will also benefit from these clubs as they’ll learn how to create and share digital content in various formats with the students across various platforms as well as help them embrace new media and integrate it to teaching.

The initiative targets university students. SocialPro clubs will provide a platform that boosts collaboration because all universities have computer labs, students can also access wifi connections through their laptops and mobile phones too so we just need to inspire students to look beyond ‘just being friends’ on Facebook to doing business and seeking partners through social media!

DR. Bitange Ndemo; the PS at the ministry will be the chief guest among other invited guest speakers at the launch of the social media clubs on the 25th of October at the University of Nairobi, School of Business before the pilot phase in four universities in November.
As we approach the March 2013 social media will play a big role in this election, as it might be misused by politicians or people with selfish interests and agenda to incite Kenyans and spread propaganda. We witnessed Twitter handles that called for killing of Christians in the recent riots in Mombasa recently so this inspired the SPC organizing committee to conceptualize and spearhead a sensitization campaign dubbed “AM A SOCIALPRO” that educates people on the ethical & professional ways of engaging online as well as promote responsible us of social media for society good. This campaign will run concurrently with the activities in these universities all the way until March 2013 and will heavily involve the media and SocialPRO ambassadors who will be announced at a later date.

So what are you waiting for? Be a “SOCIALPRO


Startup Weekend Nairobi is here


This is NAIROBI’S first, Startup Weekend, but the event occurs all over the world throughout the year. The event will be held the weekend of 24th -26th of February 2012 at the Nailab in Nairobi and more info is at Registration is open until the 21st  of February 2012. Tickets cost 2050 per participant for the 3 days. Continue reading

A few thoughts on G-Kenya 2.0

A section of the crowd at G-Kenya 2.0 during a break

A section of the crowd at G-Kenya 2.0 during a break

The Venue

This time round Google chose not to use Strathmore like last year. The event was held at Westgate Shopping Mall. They hired all the Nu Media cinema halls (4 in total) and each hall had a separate agenda. This was far much better than last year where we sat in one hall the whole time. You had the option of going for your topic of interest. I apologies in advance for not providing the full names for all presenters, everything was going so fast so I could not get every detail.

The Welcome Address by Linda

The power connection was proving to be a problem but finally Linda was able to welcome developers to this year’s iteration of GKenya.

Linda started off by informing the audience that a recent research had established that there 10.2 million internet users in Kenya. This accounts for 25% of the total population which is pretty impressive in Africa.

The key enablers for this are

  • Reduced cost of mobile devices
  • Cheaper data bundles
  • Speed and ease of access
  • Online government services such as KRA pin registration

The key trends established so far are

  • Social networks – a majority o f the people online spend their time on Facebook and Twitter
  • Search, email and general browsing
  • Entertainment
  • Shopping companion
  • Local content

Linda then went ahead and reminded the audience of Google’s strategy in Africa which is to get users online by developing an accessible, relevant, and sustainable Internet ecosystem. Google wants to make the internet an integral part of African life. To do this Google needs to overcome three main obstacles; accessibility, relevance and sustainability. In Kenya they have approached these challenges as follows

  1. Accessibility – Google are running a pilot project which aims to bring down the cost of broadband internet. The project named WaziWifi has been piloted around the Junction area.
  2. Relevance
    • Getting Kenyan businesses online –
    • Assisted towards the launch of the Open Data Portal –
    • Mapping efforts aimed at keeping map information relevant and detailed as possible
  3. Sustainability
    • Working with KIE to train primary and secondary school teachers so that they can introduce the internet to the students as early as possible
    • Academic scholarships
    • Developer outreach such as the just concluded Google Android Developer challenge

Before stepping off the stage Linda introduced the rest of the Googlers. I was not able to capture all their names but they were from all over the world from Tel Aviv, Ghana, Paris, Nairobi, and London to Dakar.

The Keynote by Nelson

The welcome address pretty much covered most of the keynote. Nelson pointed out that Africa’s GDP is going steadily up mainly due to the increase in population with the effect of increasing mobile penetration.

Nelson the expounded on the points raised during the welcoming speech. To improve internet access Google has taken the following measures

  • Created three direct links between Africa and the rest of the world. These cables have landed in West Africa (Nigeria), Southern Africa (South Africa) and Eastern Africa (Kenya).
  • Google caches – Several countries in Africa now have Google caches which have helped improve loading speeds
  • University access program – under this program Google has improved bandwidth amounts for selected universities
  • Wi-Fi trials (WaziWifi) geared towards addressing the “last mile”

Towards achieving relevant products Google has done the following

  • Helped attain the Open Data portal as stated earlier
  • Bringing local content online – you will now find local businesses appearing in search, maps have been improved and you can get details about these businesses
  • Getting Kenyan Businesses Online – Google is providing a free website builder. The site works both on desktop and mobile without any tweaking
  • Products such as Google Trader, Google Baraza, Chrome OS and Google+

The winners of the Android Developer Challenge for the SubSaharan region were then announced. Among the winners were two Kenyans and one Nigerian. Way to go Kenyan developers!!!! The winning applications were

  • Afrinolly (Nigeria) – movie listing for African movies. You can view trailers of the same movies.
  • Olalashe (Kenya) – Olalashe means brother in Maasai. This application enables a person to track crime
  • Shoppers Delight (Kenya) – This application enables a person to do price comparison for various commodities in various supermarkets. You can also compare brands, nutritional content e.t.c

I think you can find the applications on Android Market Place, I haven’t tried yet but I am very interested in Shoppers Delight. Each of the winners walked away with 25,000 US Dollars (approximately 2.3 million Kenya shillings).

Innovation @ Google – Ahmed Hamzawi

To me this was far the most interesting session the whole day. Ahmed took the audience through the five principles Google use which has separated them from their competitors. The five principles are

1. Innovation is not perfection

Focus on what is the best for the user, learn quickly –> publish early then perfect over time, dog fooding (test internally), fail fast, fail gracefully (be able to revert to older versions).

2. Hire the right people

Attract top talent, create a culture of innovation

3. Ideas come from anywhere

Acquisitions (Google has been doing a lot), employees —> the concept of 20% time whereby you use 20% of your time to work on any project you want to

4. Flattening the management structure

No need to have four vice presidents, x directors e.t.c. A lean structure is used by Google

5. Share everything

You have an idea? Share with the rest of your colleagues. Good ideas tend to aggregate to the top while bad ones sink to the bottom of the pile

Hanging out with some of my classmates during the break

Hanging out with some of my classmates during the break

The Snacks, Lunch and the afternoon session

With that we went for the coffee break. Pete’s Coffee was in the house and I loved the snacks offered 🙂 After the snack I proceeded to the Google App Engine room. The session was more hands on and we actually got our hands dirty coding.

For lunch we were given vouchers worth a thousand shillings valid anywhere within the Westgate Shopping Mall. The first thing that crossed my mind was to head to Uchumi to get myself a few kilos of sugar (now that sugar is so expensive!) but unfortunately some of my friends didn’t get vouchers. We headed to Galitos for Pizza and soda. Abel and Charles you now owe me lunch now that I “bought” you guys pizza 🙂 I don’t know if it was a coincidence or part of the plan that the event fell on “Terrific Tuesday” but the timing could have not been better.

With my stomach full I headed to the Android room. I was so sure I was going to sleep but the session was pretty interesting. We did a simple Android application though the internet connection was so faulty I could not even download the resource file containing the images we were using. After the Android session was a demo on how to use the YouTube API. At this point I went outside to connect with some of my long lost friends and so I missed it entirely.

Entrepreneurs and Developers Panel

The panel was composed of

  • Kariuki from Zege Technologies
  • Samuel Kamochu from Sakanya Network (@kamochu)
  • Ahmed Hamzawi from Google
  • Kirubi Onesmus from Mobile Interactive
  • David Lamayan
  • Lina from Books To Schools (@g33kmate)

I could totally relate with the panel as it consisted of very young people who have already made a mark in their respective fields. For once there were people I know personally and so I guess by “Modus Ponens” or “association” I am actually going somewhere.

The questions asked by the moderator were as follows

  • How do you know when you have a good idea?

When people who are not your family or friends understand and appreciate it. As the originator we always think our ideas are the best and our friends fear hurting our feelings so they will never say the truth. Ahmed uses what he calls the “mother test” (Reminds me of the “Cleaner Lady Test” but that is a story for another day). If his mother can understand what the idea is then it is a good idea.

  • How do you differentiate an idea which has already been implemented?

The general conclusion was that you have to find your competitive advantage. What are you doing that the others haven’t done?

  • How do you build momentum, get resources and funding?

Most of the initial funding is from you. How do you expect people to fund your idea yet you haven’t even put your own money into it? You have to believe in your idea before you can convince others to.

  • How do you know when to stop coding and show the product to people?

This is something many developers do; we always say that we are going to add just one more feature then release it then one feature becomes two and so on and so forth. Kamochu was of the opinion that as soon as you have the fundamental functionalities working, you need to release the project. This had been discussed earlier by Ahmed during his speech on innovation @ Google; publish early then perfect over time.

  • How do you make sure you don’t starve while doing your million-dollar idea?

You don’t need to make money straight away from your million-dollar idea. Do side jobs and utilize tools that make this easier so that you will still have time for your main project. Doing websites still gives a person some cash. Lina outsources projects to colleagues and at the end of the day she is still able to make some cash.

  • How do you get customers?

Most people would want to do a big splash when launching but as Kariuki aptly put it a big splash means that if you fail it is going to be a big fail. Kamochu pointed out that most start ups don’t have that kind of money to do a big splash. What they did is they started with a small focus group then expanded. With this you are also able to fix bugs without negatively affecting acceptance.

Ahmed informed the audience that before you launch you need to know your target market and your platform (Ovi Store, Android Market Place e.t.c.). You should use catchy descriptions and name to describe your application to increase the chances of discovery. You also need to create a website that captures what your product does, be active on forums and make use of social media.

  • How do you know when you have succeeded?

Customer satisfaction is one of the measures to successes. Ahmed went further and identified other metrics used to measure success; sign ups per day, rate of growth, number of requests for enhancements, amount of time spent by users on the application, how many times a user comes back (7 day, 30 day measure).

  • How do you deal with failure?

Most people don’t like admitting failure but sometimes ideas just never take off as expected. Lina attributed this mainly to the fact that as developers we do applications for ourselves. The general verdict for this was that you just need to let go, count your losses and think of another idea. This might sound harsh but there is no point retrying something you have already seen that it is not working. Failure is a very good teacher so you will actually learn from it.

Parting Shot

The event was far much better than last year; I learned more and networked more and can’t wait for the next one. They should however get a reliable internet connection next time and plan ahead on power issues as there were so many disruptions. Some of the developers also did not get vouchers yet they registered for the event and there were issues with the t-shirts. At the end of it all it was a day well spent.

SCOSIT Meet up – 7th June 2011

Hey guys we will be having our second meeting of the semester on Tuesday 7th June 2011. We will be focusing on mobile health solutions available in the current market. For that we have two presentations to demonstrate this. Both are in the Pivot25 top 25 and will be doing their presentations at the end of this week.

Date: Tuesday 7th May 2011

Venue: Hall 7 Room 19

Time: 7:30 p.m to 8:30 p.m

Theme: M-Health Solutions


1. M-Chanjo -An application that creates a centralized registry for children who should be in an immunization program, creates SMS reminders as a way of creating awareness and reminding patients of scheduled appointments, and manages patients’ appointments through an automated system.

2. M-ARVs – An application that runs in the background of a mobile phone and reminds users to take Anti Retro Viral drugs at critical times for people living with HIV and AIDS

2. Google Ambassador Program

4. Enlightening sessions

Please remember to tag along a friend and at least one fresher. Miss it,miss out.

Mobile Monday with Dealfish: What you missed

For the first time ever I was at the *iHub before the event started. You probably are wondering which event in particular I am talking about; let me enlighten you. On Monday the 21st of March I was at the iHub for Mobile Monday. This was the first Momoke event for this month and most likely the last. The presentations for the day were

  • M-order – a social mobile ordering application
  • Flix – a mobile and social media movie guide
  • Mocality – free online directory in Kenya (Unfortunately they didn’t make it in time to present)
  • Dealfish (main presentation) – free classifieds site

Continue reading

Mobile Monday with Microsoft: How it went down

Vincent Mugambi talking about Imagine Cup

Vincent Mugambi talking about Imagine Cup

(All photos courtesy of Njogu James, the photogenic guy as you will come to see below)

On the 21st of February 2011 I was at the *iHub_ for Mobile Monday with Microsoft. I know there are some guys who were not able to make it there and so I decided to do a small write up covering what happened. I arrived at the *iHub_ a bit late so I missed the introductory remarks made by John Wesonga who is part of the Mobile Monday Kenya team. He invited Jessica the *iHub manager to the floor. Jessica talked briefly about the *iHub and then introduced mLab and the mLab team which is comprised of John and Bernard (sorry I didn’t get their full names). Continue reading