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semeni - Kenya's nifty group SMS service repackaged

Aside from the unending debate of the M-PESA success in Kenya, it is interesting to note that there are other SMS based services that have been maturing into being equally innovative and relevant to the peculiar people of Kenya. I have been thinking through semeni; the group SMS service developed by  mobile planet and perhaps in conjunction with 'our Safaricom'. My chama (investment group) has used the service for at least two years now and I think it is a very convenient and practical service. Readers comments on my previous post on M-PESA ownership pointed at convenience to the populace being the significant factor for M-PESA's success. I should say then that if convenience were the only factor for the phenomenal success, then semeni (or 184 as known within my chama) should be equally successful in a few more months or years from now.

The service allows users to broadcast an SMS text to multiple selected friends, family members, co-workers and so on within the Safaricom n…

M-PESA is not a Kenyan Innovation

Many Kenyans still believe that 'their' Safaricom owns the patents to the M-PESA innovation. Some Kenyans even claim that Safaricom hijacked their idea and developed it into M-PESA - a court case was once reported on this. The reality being that the system  was 'developed' by Sagentia on behalf of Vodafone, it goes without saying that the corresponding intellectual property (IP) does not belong to Safaricom. That is also not to forget that Kenya has enough software development capacity to build such a system on a robust platform.

Safaricom is paying patent fees to Vodafone just like any other network operator who will wish to use the money transfer platform. It might help for Michael Joseph to clarify if any benefits accrue to himself or others in Safaricom specifically for accepting to be the test platform for "Vodafone's innovation". Such a clarification should of course address the opportunity cost of a more direct contribution to Kenya's knowledg…

So how do I know an IT practitioner in Kenya

The other day Dr. Bitange Ndemo - who I really respect announced that ICDL training will be used as some kind of benchmark for determining whether one is computer literate. That seems to me a very useful move for the ICT industry. It definitely very useful for the Kenya chapter of ICDL. Skeptics will say Dr. Ndemo was 'enticed' to make the public pronouncement. Let us now watch to see how the growing computer training industry responds to the implied endorsement - no more questionable computer training certificates? Whatever the case, the trend should make life easier for those IT practitioners in the area of IT service support. It should be easier to tell a fellow employee to read their ICDL notes when they ask for support to prepare some powerpoint presentation.

The next thing Dr. Ndemo should scout for is the benchmark for one to be safely called an IT expert. Some of the ladies and gentlement we call IT practitioners have the perhaps outdated IMIS diploma, ACE etc. Others …

Kenya's Strategic Plan for Health Information Systems

Kenya has a brand new Strategic Plan for Health Information Systems (HIS) covering the period 2009 to 2014. The new strategic plan also brings along a HIS policy to guide its implementation. The two documents attempt to deliberately address the aspirations of the National Health Strategic Plan II , the Health Sector Monitoring and Evaluation Framework and the country's Vision 2030. The documents were prepared with the technical and financial support from the Health Metrics Network (HMN) and UK's Department for International Development (DfID). Click here to access the two documents on Google Docs



Notably, among government dependent services, the health sector has been at the fore front adopting Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for improved service delivery to Kenyans. The progressiveness on the part of the health sector may be appreciated as a result of good leadership within the government. The same might also be dismissed as a mere side effect of immense donor i…

Dining with your predator – the essence development dynamics

It has been said, quite often that there is by far more talk about national paperwork on everything development than actual execution of development agenda in Kenya. Such paperwork will be called national strategy, national policy, national plan of operations, national assessment, national report and everything else national that can be put on paper. Of course developing the paperwork requires consensus building, which in turn requires government officers, bi lateral partners, UN bodies, solution vendors among other stakeholders to deliberate and dine in exotic hotels.

The stakeholder meetings will be called workshops, seminars, conferences, trainings, and any other name that represents a group of privileged people who do not normally meet at their routine work places to say the same things over and over again. Needless to say, participants of such meetings also have to draw a handsome allowance to facilitate the temporary displacement from their normal work station. The stakeholders w…

Adopting OpenMRS: A kick start to Kenya's software industry?

Let me first apologies to the faithful readers who have advised to limit the length of posts. I am still learning the art of summary, so please allow the bad old ways for now.

Donor interest
Kenya's response to HIV and AIDS has over the last decade become a thriving industry in itself. The sustained donor interest and flow of funds to the sector has remained an area of curiosity to many onlookers. A growing school of thought exists; curious why the not-so-meagre funding should not go to fighting Malaria and other diseases with higher mortality rates than AIDS. The donor politics aside, there is a real interest among the so called development partners to finance implementation of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) Systems. Their intention, ostensibly so, is to assist in managing administration of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) among people living with HIV in Kenyan health facilities. The more observant ICT strategist or development minded entrepreneur will hear of a distinct and rare …

CYBER-LAWYERS REQUIRED FOR KENYA'S KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY

This week I have had several chats with some of my learned friends about the Communication (Amendment) Act 2008. I am convinced that there are still major gaps or areas of improvement if we are to have a conducive legal environment for the growth of a knowledge economy. Perhaps the biggest gap is the basic one of awareness among law enforcers, advocates, judges, prosecutors and the public in general.

Many of my learned friends are either themselves ignorant of the existence of the law or are simply skeptical that it is not a practical law. Various sections of the law seem simply Utopian to the some of the lawyers. Some lawyers merely dismiss it as a law doomed to automatically contradict other existing laws. With the lawyers themselves skeptical about our cyber-laws the public confidence on economic activity through the web and other electronic platforms is seriously undermined.

The communication amendment act having already been passed and signed, there are at least two more bills out…

TIME FOR KENYANS TO LET GO - OF THE CHERISHED WAN

With the anticipated landing of various undersea fiber optic cables at our coast, there is bound to be a radical transformation of the average corporate IT infrastructure. Many of the of larger regionally diversified organizations in Kenya have over the years invested heavily in Wide Area Network (WAN) equipment. The investments in hardware havealso gone along with expensive bandwidth provision contracts. This has largely been in pursuit of reliable data connectivity across their organization's branches.

Government parastatals form a bulk of such organizations in addition to banks, and several of the larger local companies. Also included among the soon-to-be affected are multinational companies, international NGOs and intergovernmental agencies who have elaborate equipment setups and contracts based on the ageing premise that data connectivity in the country is slow, expensive and unreliable.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the above organizations will very soon find themselves having…

THE "SECRET CYBER-LAW" OF KENYA - Part 1

One of the best achievements of Kenya's current (nineth) parliament was passing the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Act 2008 [download pdf]. Indeed to those watching the developments in the local IT landscape, the law's gazettement on 2nd January was one of the the best new year gifts for 2009. The country became the sixth African country after Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Mauritius to enact a law addressing business in the cyber-space. Enactments of these laws are deliberate efforts by the governments to create a conducive legal environment fostering growth of the local knowledge economy.

As unfortunate as it would be, the great story of a new beginning for the ICT sector went largely unnoticed. The new law curiously carries a section or two that traditional Kenyan media did not like. Members of the fourth estate had started waging war against the new act as early as 2007 before it was tabled to parliament. So distructive was the media's campaign against t…

A KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY FOR KENYA - LET SLEEPING DOGS LIE ..

Many of us Kenyans are yet to come to terms with our increasing addiction to online social networking (mostly facebook for now). It is even more interesting to see how many more local web pages within such social sites are popping up. More relevant events (online or otherwise), groups, blogs and community forums are being set up by the day for the most typical Kenyan contexts. Perhaps this is a little of what the Kenya ICT Board seems to be evangelizing - local content. With phenomena like Google Maps, FaceBook and a growing catalog of Kenyan blogs, we can certainly associate with the information age more closely than five years ago.

Gone are the times when local content was limited to struggling web portals run by internet service providers (ISPs) - the likes of Kenyaweb, and African online, etc. Let us leave the fate of the traditional ISPs in the advent of Mobile phone operators, Undersea cables and the National Optical Fiber Backbone Infrastructure (NOFBI)for another day. The story…