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Friday, January 27, 2012


The Google Mocality saga has drawn its first casualties. Kenya country lead for Google, Olga Arara-Kimani formerly of Safaricom has been let go by the company. Also axed is a technical guy in Zurich. Company officials contacted said they will issue a statement once investigations are complete. The statement will come from Nelson Mattos, he of, "mortified" fame. It is not clear how Olga was picked for the fall but as one observer noted, sometimes a sacrificial lamb has to be found for the brand name to weather the storm.

 It is unfortunate as the Google getting businesses online that ended up causing so much mayhem was one of the first major projects Olga oversaw.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Google deserve to take the beating they are getting. Not because of the initial scandal where Mocality, an online business directory firm, called them out for using its database to telemarket its services under false pretense, but because of continuing to exhibit arrogance.

Stefan Magdalinski went to town with the allegations here: (Google, what were you thinking?) and clearly exhibited more tenacity and innovation than Google's staff or its alleged contract workers, Iridium Interactive, accused on Likechapaa and Tech Mtaa of being behind the fiasco.

Juliet Gateri, Business Manager, at Iridium, has denied any involvement.

Back to Google. They get a minus Google-, for one, allowing such a thing to happen, and two, for a weak and uninspiring response.

It is known that during a crisis in which you or your brand is adversely mentioned, you should seize charge and take control of the information flow. Basically, be the source of any new information regarding the issue.

Beyond a one paragraph apology that has been carried by the world press, Google has been quiet.

Bloggers have had a field day tearing into the search advertising giant while business and tech writers are busy researching pieces that will throw new light on the episode.

Businesses that had been contacted or have been part of the Kenya Businesses Online initiative, probably have a negative feeling about the initiative now and;

Government officials particularly the Ministry of Information and Communication, the Communications Commission of Kenya and Kenya ICT Board probably have more questions for Google than before. 

Truth be told, confidence in the firm is not at an all time high here. 

And yet, despite the feeling that only half or even less of the story has been told, the firm does not seem to be contributing to clarify the situation.

Neither has it demonstrated a social media action plan to engage inaccurate information appearing on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and so on.

In our opinion, it makes no commercial sense for Google to be engaged in soliciting business that generates Sh2000 per year.

Actually, Nairobitech was of the opinion that another player, KENIC, the Kenya Network Information Centre, the body charged with registering local domain names, should shed light on this matter as it seems more within its ambit. 

David Wambua, CEO, KeNIC promised on KICTANet that a thorough statement would forthcoming:

"Allow me to clarify that it is true that KeNIC does not deal directly with Registrants (end users) but does so through our accredited registrars which Google is not a part of.

Following the recent events, KeNIC will also be preparing a comprehensive statement that will shed more light to the issues that you have requested clarification on in the course of this week."

Google on the other hand, has made no such promises.

From a local perspective, the company has dropped the ball on this one.

From work we have done as consultants, we believe the correct way to handle this would have been as follows:

1. Seize the initiative - Even a simple search on their website, will show Google that the conversation regarding this issue is being driven by bloggers, the social media and the mainstream media. Google has not positioned itself to be the authoritative source of information as this story builds. They could, after of course cutting off the practice and apologizing to Mocality as well as initiating a settlement with the firm behind the scenes, issued a general statement.

Basically, Google needs to come up with a go-to person on this issue. Ideally, if they have a team working on  the crisis (including their local agency who can bring in fresh ideas), they should identify for example someone who will deal with the mainstream press (local and foreign). 

Dorothy Ooko, Comms for Google EA, ideally should be left to deal with local journalists and bloggers since she is quite familiar with them, is familiar with the industry and can establish rapport to control what is appearing on the blogs. Right now, everyone feels Google is too quiet.

Take for example this response on the Kenya ICT Action Network (Kictanet) by a lister.

"Google PR team are misjudging our intelligence with such a flimsy statement. Even a kid can read in between the lines."

Olga Arara, who is country head for Google, should issue periodic statements on what is happening with the investigations and what action Google has taken.

The EMEA head who said he was "mortified" by the revelations, and clearly whose name I can't recall, can deal with the BBCs and Guardians of this world.

2. Google must begin engaging on social media and the blogosphere in general. They are letting the conversation be ran from out there instead of inserting themselves in the middle, quickly rebutting any inaccuracies that are posted and generally setting up listening posts to see what is being said. (This is Google, finding stuff about themselves on the net shouldn't be too hard). Dorothy Ooko is on Twitter and so is Joe Mucheru, as well as the Google Localization manager Gikunda. They should be engaging. [And btw, Google should understand that we have no familiarity nor rapport with their regional, continental or global communications teams]. We will relate better to statements or information coming from the country or regional office not Dubai or London or California. The local teams have familiarity and have interacted with many of the journalists, bloggers, posters and government officials and can take conversations offline to explain the situation off-record.

The Google Africa blog should also be updated with this information. Right now there is no reference to this issue. There is a redeeming quality in saying you are sorry and letting people get the bad news from you not from others. You are telling them," Hey, we are sorry this happened, we are dealing with it." But without that, and with a posting about taking Ghanaian businesses online on the same page, one might be tempted to ask, "Do they know what is about to hit them or Is Mocality in Ghana?"

3. Internally, I expect Google to explain the situation thoroughly to its staff so that there is no confusion and since staff are locals who interact with the rest of us, it would be prudent to establish a semblance of a common line. Not a gag order but to set the record straight. I'm sure a social media policy exists

3. At some point, I would expect that Google would be pay a courtesy visit to the Ministry of Information and Communication, CCK, KICT Board as well as their partners at Safaricom to explain to them what happened, how they addressed it and to assure them that utmost care will be taken that nothing similar will take place.

Google has been working with a lot of government agencies to get their data online and some of them have expressed opposition. Give them no reason to fortify their position.

4. Going forward, I would expect that they will probably hold a sit down with tech journalists and bloggers say for a half day and go through all the issues that might be raised. The idea is that when you answer all the questions that have been asked, you effectively put an end to the story. Secondly, so many issues may be covered that one dominant angle appearing is almost impossible.

The company should establish a social media strategy here and in the region because clearly they have none. 

If need be, they can ask Nairobitech to design them one.

Monday, January 9, 2012

China TV (CCTV) to launch in Nairobi on Wednesday

There's a media blackout to this event. It is only open to Reuters and AP. China Central TV (CCTV) which has assembled a news team from raiding local media houses for talent launches in Nairobi on Wednesday.

Nairobi will be the African headquarters for the pan-African broadcaster that will run news 24/7.

Among the talent sourced locally are Beatrice Marshall, Samuel Kantai, Peter Wakaba, Terry Ann Chebet, Robert Soi and so on. Jemimah Mungai, a radio veteran will be the Managing Editor.

The station will broadcast from Westlands. No word on whether it has plans to ride on the digital signal that another Chinese company is putting together as the second licensed digital signal distributor after KBC subsidiary, Signet.

Perhaps after poaching people from local outlets, CCTV do not want to ask for coverage or frankly, they couldn't give a damn.

The only issue, is for you to get watched people have to know you are on air. Let's see how this pans out. Properly done, it could make for an independent station during an election year or Chinese mandarins interested in contracts may curtail such independence. The jury is out.

Airtel can't handle success? Ericsson system overload!

Not too many things have gone right for Airtel ever since its first incarnation as Celtel around 2004. Incidentally, this is the time Michael Joseph, former CEO Safaricom, says he realized his company was headed for big things.

In recent times, and especially since Safaricom adjusted its calling rates upwards, Airtel has been receiving subscribers in droves. The only problem, it doesn't seem prepared.

For some time the company's subscribers have been having problems loading airtime and customer service which has been outsourced, is crap.

CCK reported Airtel adding about 550,000 subscribers from July to September just behind the 590K Safaricom did over the same period.

In October the company added about 520,0000, in November just about 500,000 and in December about 408,000.

The problem that Airtel is experiencing can be directly attributed to Ericsson.

Basically, the MINSAT (Mobile Intelligent Network Service Administration Tool) is full and the company is having issues with its SDP (Service Delivery Platform) most likely with Times Ten Database.

Ericsson normally deployes their MINSAT with Sybase 10 database although I'm told the folks at Airtel are using Oracle and DB2 for business services (currently handled by IBM).

Ericsson is likely not getting the funds it needs from Airtel as the company continues to assess whether to invest more in  a market that has burnt holes into its budget.

These network problems are made all the more glaring by rival Nokia Siemens which has announced the launch of LiquidNet which is says will unleash frozen network capacity into a reservoir of resources.  "This enables your broadband network to instantly adapt to unpredictable changes in end-user demand. We can help you release huge chunks of your unused network resources – up to 80%, in fact, of your baseband radio network capacity."

If Airtel want to put up a fight for this market, they need to put their network into shape. And that long promised 3G seems to be taking forever to deploy despite getting the license before Orange. The latter has already rolled out.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Kioko Mang'eli still eats Kenya Bureau of Standards long after he was booted out of the MD's job courtesy of current MD Evah Oduor. The two apparently are not just as thick as thieves, they are thieves. Their company JEVIC, will continue to inspect and verify second hand motor vehicles prior to shipment from Japan, Singapore, UAE, UK and South Africa despite the fact that it had lost out in an earlier tender.

Quality Inspection Services of Japan had won the inspection tender scoring 96 per cent while Jevic in which Mang'eli, current MD Evah Oduor, and people close to the PM have an interest, came in a distant second with 85 per cent.

Mang'eli who was kicked out for opposing the entry of maize that was said to be associated with top figures in government, was said to be close to Oduor.

Despite the fact that the board approved QIS be given the Sh1.18billion contract at a full board meeting on October 31, 2011, Ms Oduor who had chaired the tender committee that ranked QIS first, cancelled the tender on November 1.

This was the third time the tender was being cancelled. 

QIS is not an innocent bystander though, the current PS of Industrialization, Karanja Kibicho, is said to have an interest in the company.

To smooth things over, and keep everyone happy, it would appear, Oduor and co. decided to give three companies the contract essentially divvying the loot.

M/S Auto of Japan is the third company. Star Tech has yet to establish if it is another Kenyan outfit masquerading as Japanese.

The fat cats have conveniently given the companies rights in all the major sources of vehicles imported to Kenya.

Japan Export Vehicle Inspection Centre (Jevic) and Quality Inspection Service of Japan(QISJ) have been competing for the lucrative tender. When Oduor backtracked against giving QISJ the tender she went ahead to give Jevic more time to continue undertaking the inspection even though their contract had expired.

Kibicho had openly opposed eligibility of Jevic's participation in the tendering process on grounds it contravened the procurement Act.
This had to do with unsolicited communication from Jevic to the managing director KEBS, the procurement department and the minister for Industrialisation which was in total contravention of section 38(1)(a) of the procurement Act. The Public Procurement Oversight Authority also recommended action be taken against the company for interfering with the procurement process of the first tender. But Oduor did not take any disciplinary action against Jevic and it went ahead to be allowed in the subsequent procurement processes saying the PS was interfering with the process which is against the procurement act.
Jevic has in the meantime enjoyed extensions to its expired contract.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Joel Tanui, the former Telkom Kenya man, now GM, TEAMS (East Africa Marine Systems) is confident. By 7AM Saturday, the cable will be up and running. A scheduled maintenance will see the cable down for 12 hours at the most, the GM says. Work begins Friday 6, 2012 at 10PM.

"We are doing some maintenance work at the docking station," Tanui said.

The docking station is where the 4500KM cable from Fujairah, Dubai, terminates in Mombasa and capacity is then availed to operators who have leased or purchased it.

Incidentally, the TEAMS docking station is in the same premises, separated by steel doors on a corridor, with that of the East Africa Submarine System (EASSy) cable ran by the Western Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC).

No word from the players as to whether they will seek to shift over.

Jonathan Somen of AccessKenya is however confident he can carry all his traffic on the capacity he leases on Seacom, the Aga Khan/Cyril Ramaphosa backed cable.

Safaricom on the other hand says it might be affected with some customers experiencing slow or degraded speeds.

TKL said they will assess the likely effect.