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Wednesday, December 8, 2010


There was much trepidation today at Parkside Towers as Airtel (formerly Zain) IT department trooped to HR to pick up their new contracts.

In its true red colours, Airtel has outsourced almost everything starting with its engineers who were farmed out to Nokia-Siemens.

The IT guys who basically keep all the business intelligence data, configure new tariffs and keep track of new activations, ARPU spend etc etc are next.

Just like in India, they have been moved to IBM Business Services Kenya which set up shop in the country a couple of months back.

Effective, Jan 1, 2011, they will be employees of IBM not Airtel. While most are happy to be working for the Dow Jones featured company, there are fears as to the contract terms. Will they get the same benefits?

The Nokia-Siemens lot was lucky. When they moved, they capitalized on a clause in the contract calling for a two-month notice or compensation for the same period if either party (Zain or its employees) terminated the contract early.

So the engineers were given two month compensation.

According to sources, IT were told at a meeting that "terms would be comparable to what they were at Airtel."

The lot will however continue to operate from Parkside until further notice.

Airtel is trying to replicate its minutes factory model from India where it outsources everything except customer care.

The Kenyan outfit has so far managed to push subscriber numbers to just over 3million.


Many of the cool features on Microsoft's latest software releases have not yet been configured to Kenya. That figures because North America, Europe and Asia usually get new stuff in that order before Middle East and Africa versions are rolled out.

But there is one glaring one on Microsoft's Live Essentials that even prompted the local office to issue a challenge to Kenyan developers to come up with the application themselves.

It is called Locate My Phone. On Live Essentials, a personal computer cloud where you can back up stuff and files from your PC onto the internet and work on them elsewhere, there is also the provision of adding your phone so that your contacts and other stuff on your phone can be backed up on the cloud.

For North America users, this feature also has a Locate My Phone link where you click if you can't find your phone or if it is stolen.

Since it is disabled for Kenya, Louis Otieno (pictured), Microsoft East and Southern Africa General Manager, challenged local developers to come up with code that can achieve this and they can have it uploaded onto the Microsoft online portal, Marketplace and make money from it.

Essentially, it would probably be a simple program that uses a phone's GPS and interfaces with say Google Maps to point you to the exact position of the device.

The program could have additional features for disabling the phone or erasing sensitive information and all that.

This is not unlike vehicle tracking systems with mapping software like Geofence. In fact this software could easily be tinkered with to do achieve the same effect for the phone.

"We can port the application onto the cloud," Louis said.

To follow up developers can seek out Emmanuel Birech or Vincent at Microsoft Offices.


Microsoft Open Door, the software giant's road show, rolled into town this week after making stops in Mauritius and Nigeria.

In an era where the headlines are now hogged by Facebook, Google and Apple, the world's largest software maker feels it is no longer cool and to dent the myth, Louis Otieno and team broke out the fanciworks.

At the entrance to Onami restaurant at Westgate, Microsoft's much ballyhooed video game console Xbox Kinect was on display. Scribe Larry Madowo gave it a go and by the look of it, he would have been sweating bullets had he chosen to continue playing. The player has a sensor that takes in a persons dimensions when they stand in front of the TV screen and from there you control the game by moving your body, jumping, swaying, moving your arms and so on. The folks don't seem to have settled on a retail price but they are coming in from Dubai at about Sh30,000.

Inside the presentation area, Microsoft which seems to have woken up from monopoly induced arrogant slumber with the release of Windows 7 had some serious products.

First, there is Lync previously Office Communications Server.

This is proprietary software for business to integrate its communications. It's touted as a PBX replacement because you can make voice or video calls from PC to PC and even include people in the conversation by clicking on them from your contacts.

The software can work within companies, between different organizations and with individuals and is also available on Windows Mobile.

Windows Live Essentials a freely available download is an exciting piece of software for individual use. It's basically your own personal cloud. You get 25GB in the cloud where you can mirror your PC such that you can even work on it from anywhere with any browser.

You get to also include your various emails, office and personal such as gmail, yahoo and hotmail as well as connecting to all your social networks and you have it all on one screen. You can see who is logging in via LinkedIn or Facebook and also keep up with Messenger.

You can also upload your phone contacts and synchronize them automatically. For example if you have two phones you don't have to keep updating each with a new contact. As long as you add it to one phone it Live Essentials synchronizes it on your Skydrive (the 25GB) and also on your other phone.

There is also a feature on it called Locate my phone. It is only live in the US but Louis Otieno the CEO Microsoft East Africa issued a challenge to local developers to come up with an application to make it work here.

All in all, this was a great start for Microsoft and it looks like they have stuff you can use. Live Essentials especially is worth a try since its a free download although it works best with Windows Vista and above.