Category Archives: skunkworks

Education Moment

Google hosted the latest skunkworks where the debate was how to design a better computer science curriculum. Present were a team from the Google EngEDU (Engineering Education) which works with campuses to mould student skills that will enable them to adapt to a work environment at Google, and through continuous learning within Google that feeds back into universities through training.

Present was a nice mix of professionals, programmers, coders, Google, who were ex-students of Nairobi, Kenyatta, JKUAT, Strathmore and other foreign universities.

So what ails the Kenyan computing curriculum?
– Universities are large factories, that focus on quantity (of students) not quality (of learning) to support their income streams
– Lecturers are lazy (don’t want to teach new concepts or learn new developments), instead they spend more time outside, on more lucrative consultancies
– Students are programmed to (cram) pass exams, obtain degrees and gain employment. Few are inspired to learn outside, or become developers. They accept poor learning, without challenge, and will riot over food but not poor lectures
– Engineering/ computer science curriculums are static, have not changed in years. It is difficult to change the curriculum as it involves all departments of university, and even consultation with the Government (for public universities)
– There is little research and publishing at universities
– There was an unresolved debate of why JKUAT is a ‘better’ institution for technology programs than Nairobi University which has more resources and ‘better’ lecturers

What can be done?
– Teach children more computer/programming skills (in high school) before university
– Universities should be encouraged to compete more with each other
– Corporations should establish mentorship programs
– More programming languages should be taught, even at schools e.g. python, .net, ruby, java, not just C++ and Visual Basic.
– Engineering students remain highly employable in other sectors like accounts and audit

What else is happening?
– Google now has a director for education for Africa (A sign of better things to come)
– South Africa has signed up to link with TEAMS (submarine cable), and Governments now recognize that skills shortage is the next critical area to address after bandwidth
– Google will be working with Strathmore, Nairobi, JKUAT and with other universities on design of better computer science curriculum.

elsewhere

Safaricom University: the latest Safaricom Options magazine talks about a corporate learning & development initiative the company has with Moi University that began in October 2006. Safaricom helps design the electrical engineering curriculum at the University to produce competent engineers with skills that are useable by Safaricom, with the top performing telecommunication bachelor of engineering students, currently in first and second year, eligible to be offered attachment places at Safaricom. The collaboration is next targeting a master’s telecommunications program (to be based in Nairobi). More on Moi and JKUAT collaborations.

Universities need Change: A very timely post this week from Gukira on the difficulty of doing research from a technological standpoint at Nairobi University. For one who is used to the research recourses available at a US university, Kenyan universities are rather close-minded about IT access to research students’ e.g.

– Internet resources are lamentably bad
– Printing costs are exorbitant.
– Could not get into the library could not even apply to get into the library
– Faculty members teach ridiculously high loads
Read more

Multimedia University: The Government has gazetted the establishment of the Multimedia University College of Kenya, formerly Kenya College of Communications Technology (KCCT)

Multimedia Cows: Over the weekend, I heard about Michigan State University research program with Maasai pastoralists – where they used GPS to track the movement of cattle and their grazing patterns to help pastoralists find pasture for their cattle easier, and by having to walk shorter distances.

University Blog: Diary of a Kenyan Campus Girl is a great read about university life by a female student studying computer science at JKUAT.

Kutwa Friday: Everything Must Go

It’s been a while since the last Kutwa post. Here’s a rundown of things, most from the daily papers and various sites that have piled up

Banking: Co-Operative bank are deep into the marketing program for their October 20 listing at the Nairobi Stock Exchange. They may also venture into mortgage finance
– Barclays and Standard Chartered will both offer mobile messaging services to their customers
– Rand Merchant Bank (SA) plans to expand to Kenya
– Salary cards are coming to Kenya as FNDS3000 Corp which launched its payroll card program in South Africa and will follow into Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates and Qatar

What’s in a Name?
a step forward: Telkom Kenya is now Orange: more on their new site and products

will they have orange phone booths?

– Nyanza petroleum dealers is now called Auto Xpress
– Chloride exide is now Chloride Solar
– The naming rights for Nyayo national stadium are up for sale to a corporate bidder (will it be Safaricom or Zain Stadium?)
a step back
– A new name is recommended for the discredited electoral commission of Kenya
– Grand Regency is now Grand Laicos Hotel?!

Developments: A new 21 storey 5-star hotel in Nairobi to be situated next to Barclays plaza (and is a stones throw away from the former Grand Regency)
– Kenya anti corruption to build a new headquarters
– Two battery recycling factories will be set-up; one in Changamwe and one in Konza
– Ethacom international will set up an ethanol production plant in in Bungoma
– Nairobi City council is seeking 50 acres for a new cemetery

Airlines: There’s little reporting about a pending strike of Kenya Airways engineers; however K24 TV reported that this may affect plans of President Kibaki to fly to London next week as engineers were going slow on maintenance of his planned aircraft and also other repairs after another little reported aircraft incident.

[image: KQ 777]

Energy: Following last months electric shock it was pleasant to see my electricity bill drop from 2,600 to 1,800 shillings ($26). No thanks to KPLC though, as the savings came largely from taking cold showers that reduced consumption from 161 to 115 units . Meanwhile there was another increase in KPLC fuel cost from 769c/kwh to 778c/kwh this month.

popular item in supermarkets

– Why doesn’t the government owned National Oil Corp (NOCK) who are supposed to check against check the high petrol prices charged by oil marketers sell petrol at the Kshs. 100 per litre (~$6.4/gallon) price that Energy Ministry says is correct?

– An S-class with the fuel economy of a Toyota? Pity Merc drivers are not concerned about fuel economy

ICT: The Kenya government plans to set up an official blog by September this year to facilitate better communication between the government and the public. “The blog will allow the government to respond to everyday issues being raised by the citizens,” PS Bitange Ndemo told journalists in Nairobi. “More and more people are turning to the internet to read, write or say whatever they want to say and if such forums were properly utilized, especially during the election period, we would not have experienced the kind of problems we had in the country at the beginning of the year.” hat tip Xinhua News – China
– Also the Kenya Government will set up a $39 million venture capital fund
– Telkom /Orange makes peace with Safaricom
– Controversy about an outsourcing scholarship
– Outsourcing #1: Pioneer BPO Kencall will manage call center for Telkom/Orange
– Outsourcing #2: site stats here show that Mauritius (9%) has overtaken the UK (8%) to be the third highest source of traffic to bankelele – after Kenya (45%) and the US (17%) – but, upon closer scrutiny for true fans there, it turns out the readers actually Kenyan-based – but routed through Mauritius.

Opportunities: The Skunk Awards 2008 is your chance to recognize and reward the leaders in the various ICT fields in Kenya. Chosen by YOU, the real stakeholders in the Industry. Vote for ICT Company of The Year, Best ISP, Most Innovative ICT product, Best Local Website, Best Local eCommerce Website, Worst Local Website, Best Local WebHost, Most Open Sourced (is that a verb) Organization, Best Customer/User Support, Worst Customer/User Support, Best Training Institute, Most Promising ICT Startup, Best Paying Company, ICT Entrepreneur of the Year, Best Local Application, Most Transparent ICT Tendering Govt Branch, Most Successful Government ICT project, and Worst Government ICT project. Send in your nominations to skunkawards@gmail.com before Friday October 10th.
– Apply online to be an Acumen Fund Fellow 2009-2010. D/L is 20 October
– Take part in the Wildman Triathlon in Watamu on October 18.
Zebrajobs is a cool new job site that has some interesting opportunities in this past of the world

Other jobs: You can’t compete with Kenya’s largest employer, the Government of Kenya. Soon available at the Governments Public Service site will be jobs including at the Ministry of finance principal accountants – 26 posts, chief accountants – 64 posts accountant II – 320 posts!; at the ministry of energy (director of renewable energy, senior deputy director of renewable energy (engineering) , senior deputy director of renewable energy (biomass) ) ; at the Ministry of immigration – immigration officer II – 200 posts; at the ministry of fisheries, chief fisheries officers – 142 posts, fisheries officers – 78 posts; and at the Ministry of medical services – Nursing officers III – 686 posts, clinical officers III – 548 posts, medical lab technologists – 124 posts and Pharmaceutical technologists III – 100 posts. The application process involves a mix of new and old technology – you can download the forms online but applications must be sent in by snail mail (post office) to the to the secretary PSC p o box 30095-00100 Nairobi by 13th October. Thereafter applicants can check the status of application by sending an SMS!

– Dyer & Blair: Database administrator, network specialist systems administrator. Apply through Manpower Associates by 26/9
– Econet wireless rolling out in Nairobi Mombasa Kisumu Eldoret (when?) is hiring head of field operations, field operations engineers, manager – RF optimization, RF Planning & optimization engineers, Manager base station sub systems, BSS engineers Regional managers – passive infrastructure . Apply to techrecruit@econet.co.ke by 29/9
Equity Bank is hiring credit officers, and debt recovery officers
– Genghis capital: head of stockbroking, head or research securities dealers. Apply by 10/10 to the head of HR at 9959-00100 Nairobi
– Gulf African bank: Area sales manager, manager product development (housing) credit administration manager, head of audit – apply to recruitment@gulfafricanbank.com by 22/9
– HLB ashvir: audit seniors audit manager – apply to audit@hlbashvir.com by 20/9
– KCB branch managers, Business bankers- apply to recruitment@kcbco.ke by 28/9

Safaricom @ NSE Day 8

Deals: 5,620
Turnover: Kshs 883.5 million [$14 million]
Average price 7.84
Closing 7.80 (no change)
High 7.90
Low 7.70
Last 7.90
Volume 112.6 million shares

Commentary: We are still below the 8 pivot, which is key. The pull back was very shallow and confirms underlying muscularity. Foreign buying and selling is now in balance. Courtesy of Rich.Co.Ke [NSE data vendor]

All Safaricom, all the time?
Meanwhile AKS [Rich.co.ke] has a Nairobi Star column and in February this year, started a running NSE portfolio 2008 with Equity, Access Kenya, Athi River Mining, and Sasini. This week, he retired the portfolio – cashed in a 50% gain to throw everything into Safaricom!

Mainstream blogging
stuff I used to post about and need to get back after IPO rush

Meet the bloggers: The Nairobi barcamp is now set for June 21 and is shaping up to be one of the biggest ever with a packed day planned

Meet the money: Two opportunities for bloggers to meet the e-government, BPO, and Kenya ICT Board officials on 19th and 21st of June. first come, first served

Safaricom IPO Allocation Part II

From a discussion in the skunkworks group forums: Taking up on concerns about e-government in the IPO application process, the same site now offers investors tracking their applications a chance to check how many shares they will get. (I checked and for retail investors, like me, the 22% application appears to be in order)

However the skunkworks group users raised concerns that anyone (not just applicants) could tweak ID and CDS numbers and look up other people’s applications – and beyond that – box numbers, phone numbers, e-mail, amounts applied for, where their refunds will go, etc.

update 1 [SITE TAKEN DOWN NOW – 5PM NAIROBI TIME]

update 2 CHECK BALANCES VIA PHONE SMS
There was an advert in the Saturday (7/6) newspapers, advising investors to confirm their allocations via mobile phone SMS; send an SMS with CDS and ID numbers ( “CDS___*ID ____*”)to 2732 on Safaricom or Celtel [cost is Kshs. 10 per message] I tried but got an error message, i.e one of my numbers was wrong!

Update 3 CHECK BALANCES VIA PHONE SMS
There was an advert in the Sunday (8/6) newspapers, advising investors to confirm their allocations via mobile phone SMS; send an SMS with CDS and ID numbers ( “CDS___*ID ____*”)to 4009 on Safaricom or Celtel [cost is free/unknown] I tried and got an answer SIX HOURS later, same balance as the e-mail – 22%

Kutwa Tuesday

Revelations Chapter 11, verse 1 and 2: Hats off to the business daily for their exposes of the downfall of Francis Thuo stockbrokers. It is an anomaly that brokers don’t have to publish their accounts, oversee each others lapses and gallantly bail each other out, and that white collar crime is something only the faint hearted fail at (they even raided the stockbroker after the company died. I guess the customers of Nyaga stockbrokers will be paid off now that the investor compensation fund is padded with millions from the Safaricom IPO

Thai is good: Kenya Airways will double its service from Nairobi to Bangkok to six flights a week to cope with growing demand – and four will connect to Hong Kong and two to Guangzhou, China. Also msafiri reports that they will get a replacement 737-800 in October, to replace the one which crashed last May a- and another two 737-800 this year. I think they should reduced European flights and focus on Asia and Africa

Kenyan snub: There’s no Kenyan presence in the final list of sustainable banking award nominees of the FT/IFC. Earlier, only Equity Bank and Vodafone/Safaricom forBanking at the Bottom of the Pyramid were in but they probably canceled each other out.

ICT watchdog: an initiative formulated at skunkworks forum in March forum has come to fruition with news that the members will form a website to monitor the quality of ICT service in Kenya.

love your sponsors: Mama Mikes have a new venture – Channel Safari to market tourism in Kenya and were featured in the featured in the business daily