Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Dr Ndemo @ Skunkworks

The PS for Information and Communication did a talk at the 4th Aug meeting at Telposta towers 4th floor. There was also Joe Mucheru (Google Lead, EA) and Bret Bullington, a VC working in the Silicon Valley.

Quite an interesting talk and discussion thereafter, with lots of challenging and thought provoking remarks from Dr Ndemo.

Some highlights that stood out for me:

Digital Villages - data gathering at sub-location level (this could mean several hundreds, thousands of DVs) - such information would range from education levels, to types of soil, vegetation, population, sicknesses, and potential applications are numerous (would avoid such generalizations as 'my constituency performs poorly because we are marginalized' and would instead allow for facts to be presented). Solutions for social problems too, and entrepreneurial opportunities. Incidentally, the first Digital Village was at Kagundo and despite no training offered there, soon afterwards, there were people lining up to fill in PSC forms downloaded online.

Local Content - 'We are through with (creating) infrastructure, we now need content'
The Freedom of Information Bill when passed into law, will allow a lot more Government information to be available (online)
Information on product pricing - how many times have you spent time looking for a particular product all over from shop to shop while you could conceivably do that from a single website.
Examination questions (KCPE, KCSE, CPA etc)
Bible in local languages
A kenyan 'youtube'for local music, videos - lots of user generated content - can be used especially to preserve local languages, cultures, history, stories (e.g. Lwanda Magere).
There will be lots of opportunity for local music/video/movies/advertising especially when digital terrestrial television becomes mainstream (think a capacity of several hundred channels to choose from).

'What is wrong with us'
This was quite challenging - Kenya is hosting AGOA. There are 6000 items which can be exported to USA duty free. How many of us can name 5 of these without reference.
Vietname despite being a smaller country than Kenya last year had more exports to the USA under a similar agreement to AGOA than the whole of Sub Saharan Africa.

'Productivity' and 'Break even' (and probably many other ideals) are not in our language. We need to measure our productivity, track our progress, use technology (ICT's) to improve our productivity (as a nation).

Collect Data -> Information/Knowledge -> Analyze Information -> Intervention


The Government won't make you rich.

There's lots of opportunity in educational content

Every problem is an opportunity.


Some more summary I missed out (thanks to S Ndungu )

We can add a few summaries
[pls pardon any misquotation, there was alot of info passed and im drawing this frm memory] :

-There was a promise by Alex Gakuru/ICT board for support of IT community through a 3 stage funding by the World Bank

1) training for a 1000 software managers - to be determined by a criteria
2) provision for 1,000,000 laptops to kenyans - to be determined by criteria
3) i cannot remember the third point - but it has to do with support of IT/ICT/Development projects [which I would assume includes the support for content generation for local use]

DR. Ndemo

-The digital villages did not take off as expected. The youth despite the urgency to create jobs did not respond to calls for training and taking up ownership/running of the digital villages

[the northern part of kenya (that claims to be marginalised) - only 8 participants showed up --- 8 participants !!]

-One of the reasons for digital villages was to make available "content" for kenyans through gathering of grassroots statistics like population, facts, economic dynamics - etc - In turn, due to support for electric self sufficiency of these digital villages [solar, wind, etc] - the owners can garner income thru:
mobile charging, photocopying, printing government documents [like P3s, job applications for government], hosting workshops,
folks can call thru Voip to distant relatives, cyber cafe services - and etc etc

(thru such services, the digital village provides justice, reduces corruption, collects information, makes business, creates youth employment)

-The current events for building infrastructure like the fibre is inline with the vision 2030 for Kenya. The government cannot help you set up an enterprise - it can only enable you to do so thru such projects as fibre, and creation of friendly policies that protect your intellectual property, enables your work [eg software] to have value, etc etc

-The vision 2030 covers 3 main pillars - aside from the popular 'economic' renaissance

->economic pillar
->social pillar - equity [not the 'members' bank] but equal opportunity for all
->political pillar-politics to be issue based, politicians to take risks and not fear lack of re-elections
-example - politics based on popularisms e.g passing the "maternity leave for men" bill make politicians popular but affect our economy...


-Dr Ndemo talked about preachers appearing on our own version of 'youtube' so that those of us in diaspora can catch up with home sermons. This also includes those who pretend to work in the office and love the gospel - they can catch up with more constructive episodes online.

-The provision of local and accurate videos online for example traditional dances that can be sold to those studying culture. This can be sold !
I know of a Kenyan studying in Japan a few months ago who was hired by a kindergarten school to show the kids an 'african dance'. [pics on facebook]
He found a kikoi in a crafts shop that had maasai patterns. Then he and a friend performed an 'isikuti' dance in maasai attire.
But how could they ever know the difference ? The kids were quite happy to see an 'African dance'.

-We can also throw Kamaru and Mike Rua, Sukuma Bin Ongwaro etc on our own version of youtube and charge subscription for those in 'diaspora' - think USD. 5 dollars for 1000 kenyans for a period = USD 5000 dollars.

-In summary the world needs our content - and we need our content

-Digitising of government information and putting it online for easy availability. This alone can create numerous jobs and revenue.

Dr. Ndemo talked of trying to do a research one day to find out the number of Internet users.
He was directed to a mountain of files [am sure you have a picture,,, the dust, the makonge strings, the musky odour] and he was told to look through those.
Now imagine if this was searchable through a computer database after categorising and serialising the documents [jobs].

-Registration of phone numbers - to identify a user to a number

-Product information online and pricing, aside from availability - eg for pharmacies, electronics etc.. this can save one alot of driving around.

-Exams, pass papers, research papers provision online, online assignments - you can charge per download [or per click :) ] thru deals with institutions like the university.
Students globally are always repeating the same things we did 15 years ago... why not charge for content provision.

-However, Dr Ndemo warned on pricing - charge cheaply and the masses can afford. ksh 2 X 1 million = 2 million.
-The problem with some content/services pricing is someone trying to pay their rent/car loan with a few big sales - this discourages buyers, and encourages piracy

-Digital TVs - provision of over 1000 channels . This provides a huge market for advertising. I was also thinking - what about building the database ?

-The AGOA issue is well covered by Josiah on his blog

-And yes its true - there is no native word for 'enterpreneur' or 'breaking even' or 'positive productivity' in our languages

-Example of some of our decisions : Policies such as land division are flawed. The farmers have subdivided their land so-o much that they are no longer viable to support food for the normal 1 year of crop production

-It took some of us 40 years to realize that coffee and tea are no longer profitable [think small scale farming] - we stick to various businesses that barely break - when in reality, their time has passed.

[google "the 5 stages of small business" - the last stage is not very good news for those of use with small businesses, but changes do happen and will happen - we need to change too]

Bret Bullington

Bret is from silicon valley and is on kenya for a while. Joe Mucheru called him a capital venturelist [who could actually fund/promote your ideas].

Bret's short speech advised us not to re-invent the wheel because most of the opportunities we are looking at now have been tried and tested in the USA since the advent of computers in the 70s, the internet bubble in the 80s and now the age of the portability.

We should look at what is working else where and try it here. [This reminds me that Japan began as copiers, now they are the leaders.]

He advised to borrow ideas and sell them in our own country. For example, he quoted two German brothers whose keeness [is there such a word?] is to 'borrow' new ideas and adapt them in Germany.
They took 'facebook' and tried to introduce it in Germany. A television company bought 'their' idea - and they moved on to fetch and adapt another,, and another,,,


And from Alex Gakuru:

Adding my contribution to this 'crowd-sourced' blog entry:-)

> -There was a promise by Alex Gakuru/ICT board for support of IT community
> through a 3 stage funding by the World Bank
> 1) training for a 1000 software managers - to be determined by a criteria

see below

> 2) provision for 1,000,000 laptops to kenyans - to be determined by criteria

I am a member (representing FOSS and ICt consumers) in
multi-stakeholder steering committee appointed by the PS that is
jangling with the 1 million laptops implementation
parameters/framework. Included also are hardware vendors(Intel and
HP), Microsoft, banks, universities, University students, World Bank,
telecommunication companies, ICT Village, community ICT development
organisation, among others, led by the Kenya ICT Board.

Polished detailed will be publicly announced once the committee
thrashes out the many surrounding issues. This is a Ministry of
Information and Communications initiative, being implemented by the
ICT Board with participation of diverse ICT stakeholders. Paul Kukubo
Chairs this committee.

> 3) i cannot remember the third point - but it has to do with support of
> IT/ICT/Development projects [which I would assume includes the support for
> content generation for local use]

Thanks for making time for skunkworks meeting...
We were pleased PS Ndemo found time to speak to us.

Kenya now has a grant US$ 3 million (Kshs 240 million)
over next 2 years from the World Bank.

Funds to be used for ICT incubation partner institutions
support. The partners include universities and institutions
that will provide incubator facilities (e.g.land/premises)
The ministry of Information, through Kenya ICT Board,
will facilitate the incubators with industry linkages and
promotion of those facilities

The second component Software Projects Management
Certification. Targeting 1,000 local software developers,
this will support them have internationally recognised
Software Development Standards-will attract business.

The third component will involve assistance on software
Intellectual Property protection e.g. patenting games,
animation, and other local patentable digital innovations.

PS reiterated, there are more local content development.
funds available at the ICT Board.

I asked for the governments plans on O3Bnetwork.com?on the
To assure connectivity throughout Kenya/far flung areas.
(Someone please contribute the response..)

Appreciated Multi Media University's continued support.
Venue was their courtesy donation to skunkworks.
ICT Board was thanked for sponsoring chai and mandazi.

Mr. Jotham Mwale represented MMU - gave vote of thanks.

I hope this illuminates further and that you can make
use of the opportunities presented.


Alex Gakuru


ental_tech said...

This was quite a challenge to all of us who have been waiting for the 'fiber' lets act now...

SamWaithaka said...

Thank you for capturing the insights. This is quite accurate

Anonymous said...

"Government won't make you rich?" The PS must be in the wrong ministry ;)

christiano kwena said...

yeah that is very true. However getting people to do the donkey work i.e. data collection and uploading is tough. Am on a horticulture field and also do Community outreach projects and will actively participate in uploading facts

fimbo said...

I agree with Bret Bullington, too much reinventing of the wheel going on.

Instead of doing all this top down management to get local hosting and content, the government should pass any saving to the consumers and entrepreneurs and let them run with it