Category Archives: Google

Idea Exchange: TED Global, Richard Branson, Student Opportunities

The 2011 Africa Awards ceremony take place in Nairobi on December 8 and reward entreprenual excellence & efforts. This year the odds are strong that the winners of the total $400,000 of funding prizes won’t be Kenyans as the nominees shortlisted are soleRebels, – Ethiopia, Unique Solutions – Gambia, Expand Technology – Mauritius, Chocolate City Group , FASMicro, and Pepperoni Foods (3 from Nigeria) Cellular Systems International – Senegal, Victoria Seeds – Uganda, Securico – Zimbabwe and InvesteQ – Kenya.

The Awards are held in conjunction with Convergence Africa also in Nairobi on the same day and which features Richard Branson among other speakers and leaders.

Africa Leadership Academy: The world famous school in South Africa is taking on the next crop of students leaders. Application details are online and the Deadline is 12 December 2011.

Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund: Has a new round of financing for renewable energy and climate adaptation technologies. It is aimed at for-profit companies with eligible projects in the East Africa region and Funding will be in the form of grants and repayable grants of between US$ 250,000 to US$ 1.5 million. Details here.

Google Photography Prize: Google + is seeking photographs submitted in ten categories (main ly by university students). More details.

NetFund: Identify individuals, educational or community institutions with project, initiatives or campaigns that contributes towards environmental management and are worthy of an award. Details here and deadline is January 30 2012.

Reuters Business News Workshop Fellowships: This is a five-day course in London next year, that is open to as journalists or regular contributors to print, broadcast or online media organizations. D/L November 25 (Found at Yipe)

TEDGlobal 2012 takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland in June 2012 with 50-plus speakers and performers from all over the world. See registration details.


Australia Awards: The Government of Australia has scholarships to Kenyans in priority development sectors. They include masters levels (D/L Feb 28) and short term professional development (D/L 16 December). More details here.

Chevening Scholarships: The Chevening Scholarship Programme for Kenya 2012-13 is now open for applications. It facilitates post graduate study program in the UK available for up to 12 months or for short courses or research. details here and the deadline is Jan. 23, 2012.

CNBC Africa: Top Trader is a new reality television show that will in 2012 follow the trials and tribulations of Africa’s top amateur traders> The competition is now open to public; there are more details on CNBC Top Trader and the D/L is Jan 21.

FiveByTwenty program of the Coca Cola company to create five million women entrepreneurs in the coca cola ecosystem by 2020. The pilot had 100 young women trained in Nairobi in financial & distribution training and become sales partners and more are invited to apply to coca cola 5 BY 20 technoserve as producers, suppliers, farmers (project nurture) etc. if they meet some criteria.

Google Africa Internships: This is a continuation of their summer internship program, now open for new applicants, and more Google Internship details can be found at the Africa blog.

Pasha: Latest round of funding from the Kenya ICT Board. Details here and D/L is Dec 3.

CNNMultiChoice African Journalist 2012 Awards. Details here and D/L is Jan 26.

Urban Inflation Index: September 2011

One year after the euphoria of a new constitution, the direction of the economy is uncertain as seen in the weakening Kenya shilling, tangles in implementation of the constitution, and rising food prices. It has been a year of some price controls in the fuel, and possibly in the food sector whose parliamentary price control bill was signed into law last week by the President.

Comparing prices to six months ago and last year. On to the index

Gotten Cheaper: Nothing really.

About the same:

Communication: All Kenya’s mobile phone companies have call rates of about Kshs 3 shillings ($0.03) per minute to call across networks. It is unclear what will happen with call rates, as the smallest company in the market, Yu, launched free daytime phone calls, Airtel Kenya lost a CEO, and Safaricom has indicated that they may raise their call rates, as has happened in Uganda with MTN . The real battle is in data, where prices have not really dropped but companies are offering more speeds for less. The market here is divided between the companies with 3G (Orange & Safaricom) who compete on speed, and those without 3G(Airtel & Yu) who offer cheap internet rates of about Kshs 50 (~$0.5) per day for unlimited use.

Another communication developments that, in a way, lower the cost of business include the launch last week at G-Kenya of GKBO, which encompasses free website creation tool, domain registration, and site hosting for small companies by Google in Kenya.

Utilities: The bill on pre-paid electricity is still at about Kshs 2,000 ($21) per month, and getting about 30 – 35 units per buy via M-Pesa. However that is expected to go up after notice was issued for rates to go up 22% per kwh unit. So what alternatives are there? In a somewhat timely move, Samsung launched the NC215, a solar powered netbook laptop last week. It gives 1 hour of power for every 2 hours of charge in the sun, has a 15-hour battery life, and is able to charge other devices by USB even when it is off.

Also got a gift of a solar phone charger (T2126 Hemera from Hirsch) that works quite well; it takes about 12 hours to charge in the Sun or 2 hours via USB, has a flash light and can charge a variety of phone models.

But when you look at the rapid advances in laptop batteries and cell phone batteries over the lasts decade, you get the feeling that there has been a lag in the pace of solar devices, and that more solar based solutions and advances should be emphasized.

More Expensive

Fuel: A litre of petrol fuel, which is regulated by the Government, now costs 117.75 (~$5.6 per gallon) in Nairobi. Regulated fuel has proven to be more expensive than unregulated fuel, and while this can be attributed to the weaker shilling and fluctuating oil prices, the formula used to arrive at the price remains vague, and the limit on margins (stipulated buying and selling price of petrol, diesel, kerosene in each town) appears to have hurt small oil industry companies, more than large ones. However, among the listed companies, Kenol appears to have weathered the regulatory regime better than Total, by having diverse operations in other countries in East and Central Africa that remain unregulated.

Staple Food: Maize flour, which is used to make Ugali that is eaten by a majority of Kenyans daily. A 2kg bag which cost Kshs. 80 six months ago, and Kshs 65 a year ago, is now Kshs 119, the highest it has been in the short history of this index.

Other food item: Sugar : A 2 kg. Mumias pack which has hovered at about Kshs 200 for the last years, now costs Kshs. 385 (90% more than last year) and . The sugar sector has really gone full circle causing many to questions its relevance, recurring shortages shortage (why all factories close at the same month for maintenance), why sugar is grown in a food producing area and how many items we can consume without having to use sugar as a sweetener e.g. tea without sugar, or use of honey as a substitute.

Foreign Exchange: 1 US$ equals Kshs 95.6 compared (now 96.8) to Kshs 80.8 a year ago (and 83 in June 2011) – a loss of almost 20% in a year. It’s unclear of this has been a concern to the Central Bank which has made other confusing policy moves as related to interest rates at a time of mounting government debt and their laxity has enabled banks to spot and take advantage of an arbitrage opportunities to trade with government money.

Beer/Entertainment: A bottle of Tusker beer is Kshs 180 ($1.9) (at a local pub) a slight increase from compared to Kshs. 170 a year ago. However beer has become out of reach for many poorer Kenyan who have resorted to drinking unsafe local brews, which in some unfortunate cases have resulted in blindness or even death.

NSE Goes Android

The Nairobi Stock Exchange now has a free Android app. Developed by Verviant, it is rather basic (download page), but show’s the the equity day’s prices changes, and summary of some announcements. Still, it’s a good start, and should be a work in process, and maybe investors will be able to track their portfolio’s (still empty) and drill down to read more comprehensive announcements, and bond prices too.

The Exchange probably needs to address the issue of large PDf statement that companies fax in their announcements and which the NSE scans to their site – and replace these with some basic documents that they can upload to the main and mobile site.

Another NSE geared app is the Rich app (from the Nokia Ovi Store), that is however designed for the Nokia E-7.

E-Government Moment: Part I

Parliamentary Transcripts: This week the, the National Council for Law Reporting – [NCLR, a state corporation charged with publishing the law and judicial opinions of the High court and Court of appeal) in partnership with Google Kenya launched digital versions of the Kenya Parliamentary debates – or Hansards dating back to 1960. These are the official records of debates in Parliament and enables historians, scholars, researchers, students, and citizens to read up on mundane debates and historic moments – such as January 15 2008, when parliament was re-constituted for the election of a speaker and the swearing-in of new members, with a lot of unprecedented procedural side-shows.

The publication of the Hansards on Google books radically changes the ease with which information on parliament is obtained. The Business Daily has an article on the challenges of obtaining Hansards previously. “Until Thursday, they were only available to the public in hard copy at a fee after a visit to Parliament’s library. One also needed to have prior knowledge of the year and month in which that issue was discussed and the edition of the Hansard in which it was recorded.”

Now about 2,000 editions of the Hansard comprising 134,000 pages have been converted into 8.5 GB of data on Google books and is indexed and searchable, while still in magazine style & original font of the current Hansards for easy accurate browsing & navigation.

Government Bible: Also, two months ago, (in April 2011), the same partnership resulted in the publication on Google Books of over 100 years of the Kenya gazette. This is the ‘bible’ of the Government with gems of information such as government appointments, issuance of land title deeds, proposed land use updates, mergers, anti-corruption reports, notices of intent to acquire private land, inheritance of estates of deceased persons, bankruptcy orders, winding up & de-registration of societies and companies, applications mining, broadcasting, aviation, communication licenses etc. The collection has indexed over 190,000 pages of Gazettes from 1899 to 2011.

Summary: While concerns have been raised about the ability of foreign bodies like the World Bank and Google to get access to data, the end product is world-class and unprecedented on the continent. In addition the cost for each of these to the taxpayer has been marginal – at about Kshs. 2 million ($25,000). There are no restrictions on the use of the content on Google books which can be linked and shared with a single click and will be available on an API for more adaptations.

Shared Technology Opportunities in Kenya Government

One of the platforms that the Kenya ICT Board is spearheading a shared services platform/master plan for the Government.

They have studied the concept in the US, Australia and at large computer companies. They also appointed a consultant firm, Accenture, to carry out an assessment, and this week Accenture released a report this week on shared services (back-office functions) use at various government levels.

The findings were rather harsh and included:

  •  GoK is not well-positioned to support Vision 2030 through its platform, and for all the talk, IT spending is not a priority in government.
  • Low level of staff, low ability to execute projects.
  • Lack of standard process automation across government arms, few processes are automated – still heavy manual work, and use of outdated technology.
  • Kenya spends 70% of IT funds on hardware (which can go out of date quite fast), with very little spent on people and software. This is below world standard which Accenture defined as near – 20% spent on hardware, 40% people, 19% software, and 20% outsourcing.
  • Most IT projects are developed with silos within the different ministries or local authorities even within ministries and even if the current 80 large ongoing tech projects were completed, this would not lead to share services, e.g. because databases cannot talk to each other

Nevertheless, Accenture had bright spots & recommendations:

  • The low-level little process automation presents a lot of opportunity for the private sector to work with GoK in shared services.
  • Best practices can be driven by a single entity.
  • The shared service goals can be achieved not by increasing current IT expenditure, but by refocusing it on items like automation and standardization.
  • By developing IT career paths, the Government can have access to the better people in IT.
  • Accenture mapped out some current government process like obtaining a birth certificate and getting a passport – to the deal target scenario using shared services approach.
  • The cloud can be used to leapfrog other governments – i.e. enable citizens to use mobile phone and access services without visiting a government office.
  • There are other opportunities for the private sector to develop end user services, applications, architecture, and capabilities.

Other Comments

  • Information & Communications PS Bitange Ndemo said they had set out to fulfil a Presidential target to digitize four processes by this June 2011 – and mentioned the judiciary, land ministry and state law office (also Google Books has digitally archived the Government Bible – with 100 years of the Kenya Gazette now online)
  • Office of the President Administrative Secretary Sam Mwale it is government policy to share services and asked that more services be translated to Kiswahili which is understood by the majority of Kenyans. He also said that for shared services to work, it was important to demonstrate to government staff that the services work, that they are in charge and they have not lost their jobs.
  • Catherine Gitau, the Director of E-Government, said government departments will have to share infrastructure, services, and must also share data (Article 35 of the new Kenya Constitution notes that the state shall publish and publicize any important information affecting the nation, and every citizen has the right to information held by the state)