Thursday, June 14, 2007

Budget 2007

I had a look at this years budget themed Vision 2030 -- Working Together, on the Path to Prosperity.

Things that I noted:
  • Target economic growth rate of 6.5-7% for the next financial year (interesting)
  • Target targets revenue collection of about 21% of GDP (meaning higher KRA targets)
  • Major privations to look forward to:
    • Telkom Kenya to an strategic partner (no mention of an IPO)
    • Additional Shares of KenGen to be sold to the public (but at the 'right price')
    • Part of Safaricom shares to be offered to the public
    • Part of the Government and NSSF shares in NBK will be sold to the public
I was particularly interested in what allocations would be made for infrastructure development - especially the road & rail network in the country:

The budgetary allocation to roads has been increased from KShs.42.5 billion in 2006/07 to KShs.62.1 billion in 2007/08, an increase of 46%.

Hope this goes some way in easing the infrastructure problem, though I suspect it will not be enough.

Another area of interest for me was on Business Environment, entrepreneurship and the ICT industry in Kenya

1 Billion KES was allocated to the TEAMS project - which aims to have a fiber optic submarine cable landed at Mombasa by next year

Telkom Kenya is undergoing privatization - this is a sleeping giant that will take the market by storm once it is awake.

The Government aims to develop and support an efficient ICT infrastructure that provides easy access to international and national network; establish legislative and regulatory framework for ICT development; and promote and ensure quality ICT education to provide a pool of world class professionals to meet the needs of local and global markets.

No details here really..and this is aimed at Business Process Outsourcing. I hope the plan is to make it as open as possible, and more importantly that in terms of content, software and education, we as a country are not just dependent on foreign companies and countries for our IT system and service needs, but are actively innovating - creating new products and services for the African continent. We also need to keep in mind that with BPO jobs, India among many Asian countries churn out a huge number of technology graduates, a good number of whom are highly skilled. We will need to greatly address ICT education policies and how they are implemented.

Business Licenses:
  • Originally - 1,325
  • Eliminated - 110
  • Simplified - 8
  • Hopes to eliminate - 205
  • Simplify - 371

I hope that with the various e-government projects underway that I am aware of, the process of starting a business can be done electronically, within a day. (it's possible :) )

Also of note: EAC Partner States will treated as resident investors on the NSE: 5% withholding tax applies to them, as well as the reserve amount of shares for local investors of which it is proposed to increase this from 25% to 40%.

My hope is that implementations on Infrastructure and Business Licenses are actually implemented.

I was hoping for a large budgetary allocation for Security as this is a key pillar of economic development.

I am glad that in the budget, the Minister has clearly recognized that we need to move to a knowledge economy.

Get a copy of the budget speech from the Treasury website

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

New MacBook Pro Unveiled

Apple yesterday unveiled updated editions of their MacBook Pro notebooks:

3 editions starting at $2000, $2500 and $2800 depending on where you are and your configurations. Minimum 2GB of memory, 120GB hard disk space for the $2000 model and 160 GB for the other two. NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics card with 128 MB memory for the $2000 model and 256 MB memory for the other two.

Oh and it's 1" thick.

I want :( - it's on my things to buy one day.

(I'll settle for 2.16Ghz MacBook though)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Why is my blog called The Alpha Quadrant?

My first ever Sci Fi TV series was Star Trek The Next Generation (TNG)

I've since watched Star Trek Voyager and Star Trek DS9 and Star Trek Enterprise

The Alpha Quadrant (in simple terms) is that part of the Milky Way where earth is located.

Hence the name - the alpha quadrant - from a uniquely kenyan perspective... :) now that there's only one Kenya in the Alpha Quadrant.

Talking Sci Fi, the Stargate series is my current favourite.

Why Should Open Source Software be used in schools

I came across this story, and in the light of Microsoft partnership with the Kenyan Govt, thought that a FOSS based platform is the way to go for Kenya and for Africa in general.

It is indeed a strange world when educators need to be convinced that sharing information, as opposed to concealing information, is a good thing. The advances in all of the arts and sciences, indeed the sum total of human knowledge, is the result of the open sharing of ideas, theories, studies and research. Yet throughout many school systems, the software in use on computers is closed and locked, making educators partners in the censorship of the foundational information of this new age. This software not only seeks to obscure how it works, but it also entraps the users' data within closed, proprietary formats which change on the whim of the vendor and which are protected by the bludgeon of the End User License Agreement. This entrapment of data is a strong, punitive incentive to purchase the latest version of the software, regardless of whether it suits the educational purposes better, thereby siphoning more of the school's limited resources away from the school's primary purpose. The use of such closed software in education may be justified only where no suitable open source solution exists.

Educators have been called upon throughout history to combat censorship imposed by various powers over the flow of information. The censorship being applied today comes in the form of licenses that lock away the tools to build the information age and laws that limit fair use in ways that are unprecedented in the modern era. The powers imposing this censorship attempt to create an artificial scarcity of information and the tools to work with that information to feed their greed. Where would education be today if, for example, the mechanism and idea of the Gutenberg press were not only hidden, but protected by threat of dire punishment under the law if anyone dared to attempt to "reverse engineer" it?

We are well into the beginnings of the Information Age. It stands to affect the people of the world at least as profoundly as the Industrial Age. It is time for the opening of the tools that will be needed to build this new age. Teaching our children to be passive purchasers of closed, proprietary solutions to problems is not enough. Constraining students to move the mouse within the confines of the instruction set of a few closed, proprietary programs merely cages those students and constrains our future.

Students should, at least, be given the opportunity to see how their new tools work. They should be given the opportunity to examine the inner workings of software. They should be given the opportunity to extend the functions of their tools, where they see or imagine possibilities. They should not be held back by locking the toolbox of the Information Age and told they must not peer inside, must not try to discover how it works, must not share their tools with others, must not use their tools without paying proper tribute to the software overlords, under penalty and punishment of law.

The rest of the article is here.