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Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Big Blue clearly didn't come here to sleep. It keeps inking them. Let's tick them. Airtel, Safaricom, Central Bank of Kenya and now, The Kenya Petroleum Refineries.

IBM has announced that it has signed with KPRL to provide a solution to increase productivity and efficiency of the companies operations.

This system called Maximo asset management software, "will allow KPRL to manage, measure and track the life cycle of its oil processing equipment such as pipes, heat exchangers, pumps, valves, boilers, furnaces, compressors, tanks and turbines."

No mention of blackouts though. KPRL has typically wrought havoc on the petroleum market especially around Christmas with its breakdowns which it attributes to power failures from fellow Energy parastatal Kenya Power. 

Apparently, the catalysts that kick in the process of refining Super/Petrol take up to six days to bring the process back online. 

Of course IBM has also been providing servers to CBK through Symphony for sometime though the last contract was based on the four day cheque clearance system.

With the introduction of cheque truncation, no word yet on what system the reserve bank is using.

And Airtel are currently overworking IBM Kenya's business services team. Tasked with offering business support services to Airtel Africa, the Kenyan team has been especially under pressure given the cut throat competition in the market.

Basically, the former Airtel business intelligence team was ported over to IBM just like IT went to Nokia Siemens.

But things have been hectic with all the departments from sales and marketing to different directors making different requests and terming them all urgent.

Things have eased somewhat with Safaricom increasing their tariffs forcing people to make more of their calls on Airtel. As a result, revenues are looking up.

Enter Safaricom and M-PESA. IBM runs M-PESA operations on behalf of Vodafone after it took over from the company that developed the platform for Vodafone in the first place, Sagentia.

Despite the company issuing two white papers on how money transfer services should be run it seems the platform is yet to get there.

The outage the other day was blamed on lack of connectivity between Safaricom and its M-PESA data center in Germany.

IBM, we were told were working full out to solve the problem.

Indeed they did.

Looking forward it is likely that Big Blue will eye more and more of the business services opportunities that will arise in the region particularly in e-government.

The company is among those slated to take up space on the proposed ICT City in Konza along with Samsung and a host of other companies and universities.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Muthoka to boot Mobicom? AndyForwarders calls CMC EGM

Mobicom's Paul Ndung'u (left)
It seems the battle over CMC motors is just beginning. Now Andy Forwarders CEO Peter Muthoka has called for an Extra-ordinary General Meeting of CMC shareholders with the agenda being to remove a number of directors including: Paul Ndung'u and Joel Kibe (chairman) both men associated with Mobicom, Andrew Hamilton, and Billy Lay (current MD).

At the EGM to be held at Bomas of Kenya on Monday 21, November, Andy Forwarders will seek to have Mark Ole Karbolo who has chaired East Africa Portland Cement, Professor Francis Mwihuri Njeru of JKUAT and Peter Mbuthia Gachuhi of law firm Kaplan & Stratton to replace them.

Apparently, Muthoka wants Ashok Shah of APA Insurance who is sitting on 12.5 per cent shareholding to back him and probably some proxies of some of the guys who may not like the Mobicom duo.

Muthoka has about 24 per cent shareholding putting him in prime position to stage this move.

Nothing is known of his recent woes. Just recently, one of his bank accounts at Family Bank was to be frozen with Sh180million as investigations continue. We will update on what happened on that front but for now the battle lines are set.


UPDATE: We called Paul Ndung'u and he says he has just landed in the country but he says he had seen that mail earlier so it is only now that Muthoka and co have decided to send it to shareholders. He didn't sound ruffled: "Let's talk tomorrow," he said.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


It's confirmed. Nokia and Microsoft will show the first Windows Phone from the Finnish giant next week. After taking a battering from Apple and Samsung with fast rising Sony Ericsson also eating into the smartphone segment, Nokia is looking to rebound with its Windows based phones. On Tuesday, Nokia staff here refused to say anything regarding the Windows phone. "Stephen Elop (Nokia CEO) sent each of of us an email warning us not to say anything,"  a senior local manager said. 

One man Elop cannot gag though is his former boss at Microsoft, Steve Ballmer. Speaking on a wide range of issues, Ballmer today confirmed that Nokia will indeed show some Windows phones next week. 

Timing will be key. Apple is still riding the momentum of its iPhone 4S which has already done 4million devices sold over the weekend of the launch. Samsung after waiting for a respectable period since Steve Jobs death has now released the Samsung Galaxy Nexus running on Google's Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) OS.

So Nokia's announcement along with the heft of Microsoft whose Windows platform still runs 75 per cent of the computers used in the world is likely to be a big deal.

On why you might want to buy Windows phones instead of an Apple iPhone, Ballmer told Forbes that, "Your information is front and center, not a sea of icons."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blackberry offers free Apps to compensate users

From Me 2 U
We took part in a conference call with Patrick Spence, Managing Director Global Sales and Regional Marketing at RIM.

RIM is offering free premium apps to its customers to compensate them for the recent outage.

Spence says the Apps are worth about USD100 (Sh10,000). He says a switch failed and the backup switch did not kick in leading to massive backlog.

RIM it seems moves 22 terabytes of data on its network every month.

"That caused a situation where we had to catch up," Spence told conference participants made up of ICT journalists from South Africa and Kenya.

The Apps will be available from this week to December.

Spence says the Apps chosen were picked based on downloading trends.

Apps available include:

  • SIMS 3 - Electronic Arts
  • Bejeweled - Electronic Arts
  • N.O.V.A. - Gameloft
  • Texas Hold’em Poker 2 - Gameloft
  • Bubble Bash 2 - Gameloft
  • Photo Editor Ultimate - Ice Cold Apps
  • Pro -
  • iSpeech Translator Pro -
  • Drive Enterprise -
  • Nobex Radio™ Premium - Nobex
  • Shazam Encore - Shazam
  • Vlingo Plus: Virtual Assistant - Vlingo

Monday, October 3, 2011

Where's the Tandaa shortlist? Kenya ICT Board asks for time

Scribes, bloggers, developers et al this year have an eagle eye trained on the process of awarding the Tandaa applications development grants particularly for integrity and transparency.

While the Board said it would issue the list of shortlisted applicants by end of September, yesterday it said it would do so by October 10.

No explanation were given in this one line response from Kaburo Kobia, the project manager of local digital content when asked for the update.

"We are a week behind the review. We will announce on Oct 10."

However, the board went ahead and updated its Tandaa website:

Greetings! ,  

The review of proposals received for the Tandaa Digital Content Grant is still on going. We had hoped to announced the shortlist at the end of September, but we are yet to complete the review of the 795 proposals received.

The good news is that we are only a few days away from completing the review of the first phase of the Call for Proposals.

As such, we will announce the shortlist in a week's time on October 10.

We appreciate your patience. We are committed to ensuring that every proposal is reviewed adequately.   

The following response was also posted on Twitter.

the shortlist will be realised in a weeks time .please keep checking our website and newsletters


Being late by a week is fine and understandable but the Board must be cognizant of the apprehension and suspicion that some developers already have about the process. In particular, it has been accused of either engaging in favouritism or not being transparent in how it chooses its judges for these contests. Complaints have been made that the same clique of people is seeing playing different roles at different times from judges, to speakers to award recipients. This should not happen in a field that thrives on disorder and randomness and innovation.

You cannot have an IT industry that is ordered and sequenced and mid wifed by the same people like say the legal profession where young lawyers learn at the knees of the older counsel.

IT is an industry that by its very nature is disruptive! It is an industry where you stop for lunch, you become someone else's lunch.

You sleep like Infoseek, Yahoo comes along and dethrones you. You sleep like Yahoo, Google snaps you up. Like Nokia, Apple and so on. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on form the next wave of innovators.

In short, what we expect is freshness and disruption. We don't want to see the same people pitching different apps as if there aren't  any more innovators out there.

For its sake and for the sake of the Tandaa Grants, which incidentally, are public funds, should be quick to announce the short list of applicants and the list of those who will judge entries to determine final winners.

Friday, September 30, 2011


TKL CEO Ghossein
There is a cable that runs the length and breadth of this country; the National Optic Fiber Backbone Infrastructure (NOFBI) and it is owned by the Government of Kenya. It goes to the remotest of locations where private cable operators like Kenya Data Networks and Jamii Telecom would not venture.

It is run by Telkom Kenya but it carries very little traffic simply because it is unreliable and has too much downtime. Right now, efforts are underway to change the way it is managed and even suggestions of splitting management of different sections and handing it to different players has been floated.

Telkom Kenya which got the deal to run the cable mostly because when it was laid it used to terminate at TKL's offices in different towns as the company was then state-owned.

TKL was to avail the capacity to other operators at a given costs as government wanted it to be affordable.

That however has proved to be unsustainable as TKL claims the money it gets is not enough for it to operate and maintain NOGBI.

Government is pissed. Language coming from top officers in the Ministry of Information and Communication suggests Telkom may just get the boot.

TKL claims it has come to an understanding with other operators where they will share the maintenance costs and TKL will run and maintain the cable and also sign Service Level Agreements but the government is not buying it.

Telkom insiders claim government misunderstands the issue but government claims TKL have messed up and it is time to figure out how to throw them out.

"They are messing. They have messed. I think we'll have to take it (NOFBI) away from them," a source at the Ministry said.

Watchers of all this unfold like Safaricom say they have no strong feelings about the issue. "Between KDN, Kenya Power and Jamii there is enough cable in the country," one Safaricom exec said. "What Mickhael (Telkom CEO) should do is just tell the government, pay me nothing, just give me the cable, let me run it and I'll even pay you."

AccessKenya on the other hand prefers a sort of consortium to be formed to run NOFBI.

Either way, this is an important resource that should not be wasted. Particularly, when counties come into place, some of them could decide to build fiber to home and connect to NOFBI bringing high speed internet access to their citizens.

Not only would this promote growth, it would also thwart telecoms efforts to charge an arm and a leg for data access on the maddeningly, unscrupulous premise that; "We have to recover our costs."

Of course you have to recover your cost of investment but who said it should happen in two years? Should apartment rents be charged at Sh200,000 so that the building owner can recoup his investment? What happens after he recoups? Is he or the telecom going to offer the service for free or at cost since they have recouped their costs?

Nairobitech thinks NOFBI should be placed in the hands of the entity that safeguards such a utility best and promotes last mile projects best.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dorothy Ooko to Google EA? Nokia's spokesperson says Sayonara.

Ooko at the iHub
Is Dorothy Ooko leaving Nokia for Google? The Nokia spokesperson for East, Central and Southern Africa and the public face of the handset vendor for many years wrote us an email yesterday saying she was moving on but did not say to where.

Here's the text of the email:

Dear friends, partners and collaborators,

One of my greatest passions is the continent of Africa and being able to provide services that transform the lives of its people. I am glad to have been able to do this at Nokia.

However after almost 5 years at Nokia it is time for me to move on. I am still privileged that l will be able to continue doing what l am passionate about in a different company and serving the people of Africa.

Thank you all for all your support and cooperation while at Nokia. I sincerely hope we will continue to work together as l turn the page to begin another chapter in my life.

My number will remain the same. I will send you an update of my work email once I have it.

Many thanks and kind regards

The Google Angle
Contacted by phone, Dorothy would not say where she was moving to promising to update us in about a week or two's time.
"I'm not saying anything," Ooko told us when we tried to get her to confirm on phone that she was indeed moving to Google.
But Nairobitech can almost authoritatively conclude that it is Google she is moving to.
For starters, the company has been looking for a Communications Officer for the last year or so. A number of PR types and Business/ICT scribes have been interviewed and given regrets by the Google Africa Comms, Julia Taylor.
Secondly, we spotted Dorothy at the Google G Kenya 2011 event two weeks ago. That is very strange given that Google is trying to grow its Android Apps store at the same time Nokia is trying to grow Ovi Store.
She was quite keen to know how the press sessions could have been improved but we didn't pick up on it then.
She says she has been serving notice and had to wait for GM Ken Oyolla to come back to the country to inform his staff before she made public her departure.
Nairobitech learnt that Ooko will still be in the technology field and since Google has been looking hard for a Comms Officer and Dorothy fits the bill/ She is also fluent in French and knows the region like the back of her hand, it seems like an effortless transition.
She will be one of several additions Google has made at its Kenyan office including the appointment of Olga Arara from Safaricom as country head.
For those interested, Oooko's position at Nokia is open and they are searching for a replacement. Break out your  CVs.
We welcome Dorothy to Google and congratulate her on the move.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Small men can play, talk and sound big when they go online. They may have to ease back into their normal lives once authorities start to call their bluffs. The government is putting together what is by all accounts a cyber-prowling team with mandate to monitor the online space for cyber-attacks (hackers), personal attacks, child pornography and "Material that is offensive with regard to the law." Pause there: Mzalendo Kibunjia has been talking about holding people responsible for what they say online either on Facebook, Twitter and the like and the response has mainly been to scoff at him.

Well we can tell you that as we speak, a team is quietly being assembled and trained within the inner confines of the Communications Commission of Kenya headquarters on Waiyaki Way. The equipment and systems to carry out the monitoring is being shipped in and CCK is working with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to train the cyber-defenders and install the systems.

The official name of the team is the Computer Incident Response Team (CIRT) and it is expected to start work by December, well ahead of the coming general elections.

Besides monitoring irresponsible comments and hackers online it will also monitor electronic transactions.

Right now there are four guys deployed to form the core of the team but it will be expanded.

CCK Acting Director-General, Francis Wangusi, confirmed that the team is undergoing training and a budget for it has been set aside.

The team will coordinate with other national CIRTs so that even those people posting abroad can be brought to book.

Of course mischievous characters can evade this by using sites like, or use of tors or encryption   and even connecting through VPNs but from the sound of it, it seems as if the body will have NSA-type powers of surveillance and be able to carry out things like deep packet inspection and information extraction or force service providers to furnish it with user data.

CIRT will also sit at the apex of other CIRTs based within telecoms and banks as well as other industries where they will coordinate threat analysis and incidence response mechanisms.

It is not clear how this will sit with the protection of privacy online but clearly a debate is set to arise.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Okia Chinaman! Counterfeit Nokia's seized

Over 11,000 fake Nokia items have been seized in shops in the CBD. The Anti-Counterfeit Agency, ACA, along with Nokia staff, raided Sky Building along Luthuli Avenue, Nairobi for dealing with fake Nokia products. A Chinese owner was found at his residence where he assembles parts to make fake Nokia products.

Specifically, the raid netted 2071 counterfeit Nokia handsets (enclosed in boxes complete accessories), 330 separate earpieces and 9084 pieces of batteries.

Kenya Bureau of Standards staff and Kenya Police also took part in the raid. It is expected that these raids will continue. If they anywhere as diligent and concerted as those carried out by the Music Copyright Society of Kenya or Microsoft, then we could see these fake items begin to disappear from shops. But the impending switching off of bogus handsets from mobile telephone networks is expected to deal the back-breaking blow of this industry.

ACA seems to have found some footing at last after dithering about for sometime. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Oceanic oils raided for illegal telecoms activity

It turns out, that the Safaricom/CCK/Orange sting operation was targeted at an illegal Gateways services provider. The culprit can now be identified as Oceanic Oils of Jubilee House, CBD. Equipment was confiscated from the premises where Oceanic is accused of  setting up intelligent SIM servers in the name of GSM Gateways or simply put Gateways. These Gateways have the capacity to transit and terminate international minutes to any telecom network. In the industry, these servers have also been referred to SIM boxes.

The providers of these boxes are now providing very advanced features such as SIM Allocation and SIM Protection. The boxes also include SIM cards storage capacity with capability to store up to 416 SIM cards which can be increased to about 496 SIMs. They do not discriminate on prepaid or postpaid SIM cards, since the boxes can select the most appropriate SIM card according to how it has been programmed such as credit availability, type of service, country, and operator targeted for termination.

To perform this business; one needs a Gateway Licence from CCK. In this case of raid, Oceanic Oil has been terminating international traffic without the requisite licence from CCK. This action contravenes the regulations.

The motivation of this activity is to avoid paying the licence fee to the commission hence denying the commission its rightful licence fees. Besides the licence fees, the government also loses tax money that they would have otherwise collected from the operators. Besides these losses, the quality of these calls terminated are of poor quality this affecting quality of service provided by the operators.

Pictures of the raid will be uploaded soon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


A fake phones seller in the CBD is about to be hit in the next 15 minutes by an assorted team of Government agents, CCK, Safaricom and Orange. The agreed time for the operation as of last night is 9:30AM. The owner of the shop (we cannot reveal the name or location at this time in order not to tip them off) is said to be a notorious seller of counterfeit handsets. CCK has issued a deadline for telecom operators to switch off all those using these "grey" handsets and Safaricom says that by looking at its database, it has about 800,000 such users.  The Anti-Counterfeit Agency, which is likely to be part of this morning's sting operation, has claimed in the past it needs to be trained before it can carry out raids. Blogger Robert Alai was on their case recently telling them they needed no training to walk down Tom Mboya street and see the number of counterfeit dealers operating there.

Not so said the ACA. We need a complainant. Apparently, unless a handset vendor complains to them that their phones are being counterfeited, the ACA has no powers under the current law to act creatively and proactively. It is a reactionary body.

Today is expected to be one of many sting operations to come. 

To check if your phone is genuine, get your IMEI number by pressing *#06# on your mobile phone.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

CMC saga - Mobicom men gun for Muthoka

Ousted CMC Chair Peter Muthoka
Is Peter Muthoka's gig up? After barely warming the seat he took over from Jeremiah Kiereini as CMC Chairman, Muthoka was muscled out and by all indications flung out into the streets. Joel Kibe, CEO of Mobicom replaced him as chair. His MD, Bill Lay, formerly of General Motors, even called a press conference the other day and basically called Muthoka an embezzler who was hitting the firm for millions in opaque transactions. Muthoka is also the MD of Andy Forwarders, a logistics firm (think DHL, Transami, Siginon Freight etc). Andy Forwarders has exclusive contract to handle CMC's logistics including shipping imports, clearing and forwarding (and that includes the Passat's the government bought).

After getting the mighty boot from the other directors, followed by the damaging press conference, Muthoka hit back with press ads where he promised the matter would not end there.

Basically, besides milking CMC through exclusive contracts that he had given himself, Muthoka is also accused of overcharging CMC in clearance fees at the Port. Bill Lay claimed that when he was MD at GM, Muthoka used to charge him a third of what he charges CMC basically implying Andy Forwarders was inflating the bills.

Muthoka claimed he gives CMC serious business by buying trucks for his business from the firm. CMC is the vendor of heavy commercial vehicles like Nissan Diesel (UD). But according to management, Muthoka was buying the trucks at under quoted prices.

His logistics contract was cancelled.

Muthoka says he will not take it lying down although he hasn't been taking phone calls. By any measure, the man has formidable resourcefulness. CMC was not his only contract, otherwise he would not have shaken President Kibaki's hand at KICC when Kenya Revenue Authority was was issuing certificates and trophies for best taxpayers in the country.

He also does business with Safaricom and EABL. For starters, it seems he is a good man to do a favour for. Reports claim the man routinely hands over brand new Range Rovers to win business. It is said that at Treasury one lady found herself the proud owner of the said vehicle after the Passat deal was inked. Two guys at one of the two companies named above also received Range Rovers while at one of them, a briefcase full of cash was enough to secure business.

At EABL both DHL and Transami were booted and Andy Forwarders given the logistics contract.

At the last meeting where he ran out of aces, Muthoka is said to have threatened Bill Lay.

Enter Mobicom: Unfortunately for Muthoka, in this latest battle he seems to have come up against a formidable and implacable foe. The Mobicom duo; chairman Paul Ndung'u and chief executive Joel Kibe. Mobicom has an interesting story behind it but the long and short of it is that Ndung'u has promised to deal with Muthoka completely. To finish him. This puts Muthoka, who is said to also do business for Moi in some places, in a sticky situation. The forces ranged against him may call upon influence from highest echelons in the land. Mobicome has also made a lot of money first as the biggest Safaricom dealer for about 10 years (it's now a Super dealer for Orange) as well as running SMS lottos like Shinda Smart which raked in hundreds of millions.

Given that Muthoka is not that well liked by those who've met and dealt with him, many palms must be rubbing with glee across the business world. So the question must be asked, Is Peter Muthoka's gig up? It may perhaps, be early to draw the curtains but one thing is for sure; It is unlikely that Andy Forwarders will make the cut for best taxpayers in its category this year.

Internet Governance Forum comes to Kenya

So you already know that Kenya is now one of the hosts of the internet's root servers. These are servers that hold the basic lists of top level domains. Connected together, these servers form the internet. The root server based near YMCA was set up by the ICANN. Anyway, the Sixth Annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) conference is scheduled to take place in Nairobi Kenya from 27-30 September 2011 at the United Nations Office in Gigiri, Nairobi (UNON). The issues to be discussed include:

What role are mobile networks playing in providing Internet access to citizens and what needs to be put in place to promote mobile Internet and enhance local content development?
Cyber security and Privacy: What policies are required to increase and improve co-operation in this area to ensure that strategies are consistent with policies that protect society while advancing innovation, growth and development?
·         Cloud Computing: What is cloud computing and what are the critical issues in determining the pace and level of development of the cloud?
·         Other thematic areas such the concept of creation of “Knowledge Societies” in cyberspace, content generation, guarding Internet freedom, preserving linguistic diversity, particularly promotion of multilingualism in cyberspace as a commitment toward supporting the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity adopted in 2010 and the Recommendation on the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace adopted in 2005.

 Activities on these dates:

  • 26th September 2011- High level Ministerial Meeting at UNON
Cocktail & Launch of GSMA Report at Tribe Hotel
  • 27th September 2011 – Opening Session at UNON
  • 28th September 2011- Business Round Table at  Tribe Hotel (2-4)
-Cloud Computing Research at UNON
  • 29th September 2011 –IHUB Visit
  • 30th September 2011- Public Lecture at KICC (9-12) 
Khweza consulting of Nairobi is making the arrangements for scribes wishing to attend.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

SEO:Search Engine Optimization - Google vs. FB, Twitter

There is a global industry built around this line: Google does not smile. The industry is called SEO or Search Engine Optimization.

In basic terms, if you are a news site, a marketing site, a website or whatever site online, your presence depends on how easily people can find you.

To find things online, most people, turn to Google and Google turns to its humongous index of web pages and returns results based on its rankings.

Depending on the words a person types in Google Search, Google decides which pages are most relevant and gives the results in terms of relevance.

The more relevant the page, the higher up in the results it shows.

Because websites want to be ranked high, they in turn engage in what is called Search Engine Optimization i.e. they optimize themselves for Google and other search engines.

They do this by employing the use of KEY WORDS that Google looks for.

Hence the saying: Google does not smile. If you are a newssite, writing snazzy, funny or catchy headlines takes you nowhere with Google unless you include keywords.

It is for this reason that newspapers carry different headlines online for the same story in the print edition.

Additionally, it is important to note that Google only reads the first six words and anything after is ignored - it therefore makes sense for you to put important information at the beginning.

However, there is also evidence that SEO may not be the main deal in times to come.

The Entry of Facebook and Twitter into the picture is changing all this. Increasingly, people are coming onto websites not from Google but from Facebook after reading friends updates and following the links or from Twitter.

It then makes sense for you to have an interesting update to your website if you want people to share and read it.

Looking at the Kenyan landscape, there is much yet to be done in the way of optimizing websites and increasing their presence online.

According to, the only Kenyan website among the top ten sites visited by Kenyans is Daily Nation's, which comes in at number 10. The 15-year old website comes behind such relative newcomers as Google, Facebook, youtube, Gmail and others.

Of course the site has built a community over the years including in the diaspora that religiously visits it but NMG has also been first out of the gate in adopting technologies as they come.

It implemented a Facebook page and got into Twitter ahead of such venerable names as The Economist which is belatedly making a push into social media to drive traffic to its site.

AS a result, the Nation's updates on Facebook draw hundreds of comments indicating an engagement with its readers that only serves to solidify its relationship with them.

In fact it may be said that the one chink in the Nation's armour has been its slowness in implementing a properly focused mobile website. The largest online newspaper site, The New York Times and the number two and three respectively, The Daily Mail and The Guardian, all have mobile formatted sites that fit on the screen of the small devices.

Conventional sites tend to have frames and heavy graphics that are not optimal for the phone.

In any case, for web designers and PR agencies that need to shape their clients image online and marketing departments, it shall serve to keep all the above in mind to foster better client engagement.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

CHANNEL 2.0? Safaricom TV

Tech stuff happening here and there.....

Safaricom is already in its 2.0 phase and Bob Collymore is in New York for the Africa Investor Conference...he will be back there next month on an investor road trip when he and maybe Les Baillie will meet the likes of Morgan Stanley and other investment banks and hedge funds that invest in Safaricom.

Anyway, the main news is that Safaricom could be seriously considering entering the TV arena.

I posted here that Airtel is considering bring its Digital TV to Kenya to take on Naspers Group owned DsTV.

As we migrate from Analog to Digital TV the game will change of course because Multi-Choice, the Naspers subsidiary that runs DsTV will also be looking to enter the terrestrial TV transmission field. As we speak, the company is looking for a suitable name as DsTV denotes satellite transmission.

Airtel has said it will offer a cheaper content to compete with Multi-Choice's two content generators; Entertainment Media Network (MNET) and Supersport but given that we are still waiting for them to roll out 3G, that might be ambitious.

Enter Safaricom. Details are scanty but it all has to do with data and content which Safaricom wants to parlay into profits much in the same way it did with voice in its first decade.

What seems likely for now is that like media owners, Safaricom will apply for a digital channel and probably partner with one of two digital signal distributors, Signet a KBC subsidiary and another yet to be named licensee.

Digital TV is not just in Safaricom's interest to invest in, it is also a potentially dangerous opponent in the data field for one reason.

The technology we will adopt for digital TV (DVB-T2 or digital video broadcast generation 2) converts each frequency into 18 digital channels.

However, some of those channels, I believe they are two, are reserved for data transmission/internet.

With a TV set in almost every urban household these days, and the mandatory migration to DVB-T2, it means then that the perennial and vexing question of how to economically bridge the last mile to households will have been solved in one fell swoop.

Should another content provider/ISP seek to exploit this channel, they could be in every household and become the preferred internet service provider.

And then Safaricom 2.0 could become derailed.

Friday, January 14, 2011


AS has often been the case in Bitange Ndemo's stellar reign at the Ministry of Information, foes are never in short supply.

Whether it is telecom operators opposing regulations, media presenters raising ruckus over amendments to communications laws or sub-marine cable entrepreneurs fighting to get him out of office, Bitange Ndemo has always faced them down.

Enter his latest battle; this one pitting him against a familiar foe/nemesis - Media Moguls.

The issue this time revolves around the migration of TV broadcasting from using analog signals to digital ones. More specifically DVB-T2 (digital video broadcasting terrestrial - 2nd generation).

Media owners claim they are being screwed and have even gone to the extent of organizing for a meeting with Information Minister Samuel Poghisio to push their case against what they see as high handedness on Ndemo's part.

They claim that they have been submitting digital signals from their broadcasts for the trial phase of DVB in Kenya for free, only for those same signals to be resold to Kenyans through SMART TV.

They argue that SMART TV is reaping commercial benefits from their content.

That seems fair enough and in fact the media owners, as is their prerogative, have gone ahead and discontinued provision of these signals to the state broadcaster KBC - the sole licensed digital signal distributor in the country.


Enter Bitange Ndemo - "They don't want to see the future," says the PS.

In fact, the reason behind the media owners resistance, is not the publicly stated content dispute.

It has to do with, says the PS, selfishness and a need to monopolize frequencies in this country which Ndemo says he has refused to assent to.

You see, under the new DVB-T2 format, one analog frequency such as the one KTN, Kiss TV or NTV may be holding can yield up to 18 digital channels (four of them HD channels).

The only problem is that media owners, many of whom were irregularly allocated the frequencies in the first place, want to migrate with the frequencies to the digital world and the gazillion digital channels that come with them.

So each frequency owner could end up owning more than 15 digital channels to then peddle or speculate with.

NO WAY!!! Ndemo says.

Digital channels, will be allocated according to content. If you have content for five channels, you will get five channels.

If you have content for only one channel, that is what you get.

Every man who can come up with content, can have a channel pure and simple.

The Oligarchs are not happy. And so the battle continues!